Recently, we did a little survey to see what type of doughnuts you preferred: cake, yeast, or "other"--cream filled or special versions, like a cruller or fritter. Turns out that while there's a lot of love for all types of fried dough out there, moreover Cakespy readers vote, resoundingly, for the cake doughnut (of course, is that a big surprise here?).
First documented usage?
The first known printed use of donut was in a 1929 Los Angeles Times article, wherein a writer bemoans the decline of spelling, and that he "can't swallow the 'wel-dun donut' nor the ever so 'gud bred'." The interchangeability of the two spellings becomes evident in several "National Donut Week" articles in The New York Times during the 1939 World's Fair; out of four articles during this time, two articles use the "donut" spelling. Dunkin' Donuts, which was founded in 1948 under the name Open Kettle (Quincy, Massachusetts), is the oldest surviving company to use the donut variation, but the now closed Mayflower Donut Corporation seems to have been the first to have used the spelling in their company name, having done so prior to World War II.
- The Intellect: Kenneth G. Wilson, in The Columbia Guide to Standard American English, says: "Doughnut is the conventional spelling, donut a variant used in advertising or signs and as eye dialect."
- The Electronic Intellect: Spell check says "donuts" is correct; then again, it also says "doughnuts" should be dough-nuts. Source: Cakespy mini sleuthing.
- Random Dude on the street: "Donuts" sounds lighter and less greasy to me.
Other Observations: Some things we noticed
- Price: Interestingly enough, there does seem to be a connection between the price of the fried dough ring and what it's called. Not in all cases of course (Krispy Kreme, which purveys doughnuts, comes to mind as an exception), but enough times that we kind of noticed it.
- Supermarket Bakeries: In a tour of five Seattle area grocery stores and their bakery sections, four referred to their fried dough treats as Donuts.