Fun parties, crazy costumes and children with broad smiles on their faces – how I just love carnival time. I recall my own childhood well. In colourful fancy dress, proud and happy after our annual school’s carnival ski race, standing around together biting into a carnival doughnut – those were the days.
At our house, carnival doughnuts are made every year, but why is the sweet doughnut filled with jam so popular at carnival time?
From “globuli” to “chraphen” – the origins of the “krapfen“ doughnut
Carnival doughnuts or Berliner, as they’re known in Germany were not invented yesterday and despite this or rather because of this – their origin is controversial. Up until now it’s not be conclusively proved when, where and by whom doughnuts were first made.
The discovery of small, doughnut-like cakes in an ancient Egyptian tomb plus pictures from the times of the Pharaoh Ramses III (around 1200 before Christ) suggest, that even the ancient Egyptians prepared fried cakes swimming in fat. Today’s doughnuts probably go back as far as the Romans: the doughnut-like cakes, which they called “globuli” (latin for small balls), were brought by Roman colonialists over the Alps to the Donau limes and to Vindobona (today’s Vienna) and served under the name of “Chraphen“ and thus this delicacy was already known in Vienna in the 9th century under the Middle High German name of Krapfo. The first “krapfen makers” were documented as far back as 1486.
Another legend says, that the sweet doughnuts were invented in the 17th century by a Viennese Court cook, by the name of Cäcilie Krapf, who during the Viennese Congress created her “Cilli balls“ – yeast dough balls filled with jam.
How the carnival doughnut came to carnival time
That’s easily explained: due to the lack of good food, back in the middle ages monks and priests recommended simple folk to eat the more nutritious doughnut instead of bread during the time leading up Lent, so that poorer people and children didn’t get weak or ill during the long fasting period. This custom was taken on by non-fasters too and has been upheld until today and makes the “Viennese Carnival Doughnut“ the most famous doughnut in the Austrian kitchen.
Photo credits: TVB Eben, Daniel Sobiezki