Why Canadians just can’t say no to donuts

It’s no secret that Canadians are crazy about their donuts (or doughnuts, if you prefer). We all love a good apple fritter, Boston cream or maple dip. But how did the humble donut come to be Canada’s unofficial national sugary snack?

The donut-craving Canadian is more than just a stereotype: we have more donut shops per capita than any other country in the world and one in particular has become such an iconic brand that it served up “Double Double” in the Canadian Oxford Dictionary.

Why Canadians just can’t say no to donuts

[Photo Credit: iStock.com/whitestorm]

Where did the donut come from?

Tim Horton’s starting serving up their famous deep-fried treats in the 1960s, but the popular chain can’t take credit for inventing the donut. The Dutch brought the first ‘oily cakes’ (or olykoeks, as they were known) to America in the early 1800s. These fried dough cakes were similar to today's donuts except they were plain and missing that hole in the middle.

American Hanson Gregory is credited with the evolution of the donut in 1847. Frustrated with fried doughy desserts that were never cooked all the way through, Gregory is said to have punched a hole in the middle before frying and the modern ring dough-nut was born.

How did the donut get its own day?

Today, donut lovers on both sides of the 49th parallel celebrate National Donut Day on the first Friday in June. The tradition was started in 1938 by The Salvation Army in the U.S. as a way to pay tribute to the ‘Donut Lassies’ – a group of hardworking volunteers who risked their lives to prepare and serve the desserts to soldiers on the front lines during World War I. During the global COVID-19 pandemic, donuts continue to be a popular token of appreciation for the many frontline workers serving their communities.

Want to try your hand at making the original Donut Lassie treat? Here’s the recipe:

The Salvation Army Donut Lassie Recipe

Yield: 4 dozen donuts

  • 2 large eggs
  • 5 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 tablespoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 tub lard (or vegetable shortening)


  1. Combine all ingredients (except for lard) to make dough.
  2. Thoroughly knead dough, roll smooth, and cut into rings that are less than 1/4 inch thick.
    Note: When finding items to cut out donut circles, be creative! Salvation Army Donut Lassies used whatever they could find, from baking powder cans to coffee percolator tubes.
  3. Heat the lard (or shortening) to 375 degrees and gently drop in donut rings. Turn the donuts slowly several times until golden brown.
  4. Remove donuts and allow excess fat to drip off.
  5. Dust with powdered sugar. Let cool and enjoy.

Click here to watch a video on how to make the Donut Lassie recipe.
Recipe courtesy of The Salvation Army

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