Culture | Audio

History of the Berliner Bol

Published: March 23 2021

Written by: Laura May Bailey

A history of the famous 'Berliner Bol'.


  In 1485, Kuchenmeisterei was one of the first cookbooks to be printed by the revolutionary Gutenberg printing press. One of the recipes included inside was Gefüllte Krapfen, or the very first record of the jam filled doughnut which has now evolved into Berliner doughnuts. Instead of the iconic round shape with a jam centre, this fifteenth century recipe was comprised of two deep fried pieces of dough with jam sandwiched between them.


  Today, we’re used to fillings of jam or custard, but originally it was more common to have a savoury centre such as meat or mushrooms. This was because of the high cost of sugar being imported. As a result of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and increased sugar production in Caribbean plantations, the price of sugar fell and jam and jelly took precedence.

April Fools

   One savoury filling is still used today; be careful on April Fools Day as Berliners can be filled with mustard as a prank!

   According to some German stories, these filled doughnuts have been called Berliners since the early nineteenth-century due to the efforts of a Prussian baker. He was reportedly declared unfit for military service but stayed with the troops as a baker, frying the doughnuts as he had no access to an oven. Soldiers began referring to the fried dough as Berliners after the baker’s home city of Berlin.

'Ich bin ein Berliner'

Perhaps the most famous urban legend surrounding Berliners is the speech of U.S. President John F. Kennedy who spoke the phrase ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ at the Berlin Wall, seemingly calling himself a doughnut rather than a resident of the capital. Despite the appeal of such a humorous slip-up, the people of Berlin do refer to themselves as Berliners and tend to call the doughnuts Pfannkuchen.