In 1938, the first-ever National Donut Day was celebrated in Chicago, and the history of The Salvation Army’s Donut Lassies was officially immortalized. The Donut Lassies were sent to France in 1917 where they established field bases near the front lines. These huts served as locations where soldiers could stock up on essential goods and snag a treat or two provided by the lassies. When it became apparent that baking was going to be difficult to continue during war time, two volunteers – Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance – began frying donuts in soldiers’ helmets. Their work brought a light of hope and happiness to the battlefield – a much-needed boost for soldiers who had been there for ages.
The “Donut Lassies” are now often credited with popularizing the donut in the United States when the troops (commonly known as “doughboys”) came back from fighting in Europe. Over a hundred years later, The Salvation Army is still serving on the front lines, now through a wide range of social services for the most vulnerable Americans.
Read the press release to see how we are celebrating National Donut Day this year.
Want to try your hand at making the donuts that started it all?
Below, you’ll find our century-old recipe so you can bake and share these sweet treats with whomever needs them most.
SALVATION ARMY WWI DONUT INGREDIENTS
Yield: 2 dozen donuts
- 1 large egg
- 2.5 cups flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 2.5 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/8 tablespoon salt
- 7/8 cup milk
- 1/2 tub lard (because it is no longer 1917, we actually recommend using healthier options like vegetable or coconut oil)
- Combine all ingredients (except for oil) to make dough.
- Thoroughly knead dough, roll smooth, and cut into rings that are less than 1/4 inch thick. (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.)
- Drop the rings into the oil, making sure the oil is hot enough to brown the donuts gradually. Turn the donuts slowly several times.
- When browned, remove donuts and allow excess oil to drip off.
- Dust with powdered sugar. Let cool and enjoy.