Berliner (doughnut)

Berliner Pfannkuchen
Berliner with plum jam filling
Alternative names Berliner, Pfannkuchen, Krapfen
Type Doughnut
Place of origin Germany and Central Europe
Main ingredients yeast dough, marmalade or jam, icing, powdered sugar or sugar
Cookbook: Berliner Pfannkuchen  Media: Berliner Pfannkuchen

A Berliner Pfannkuchen (referred to as Berliner for short) is a traditional German pastry similar to a doughnut with no central hole, made from sweet yeast dough fried in fat or oil, with a marmalade or jam filling and usually icing, powdered sugar or conventional sugar on top. They are sometimes made with chocolate, champagne, custard, mocha, or advocaat filling, or with no filling at all.


The yeast dough contains a good deal of eggs, milk and butter. For the classical Pfannkuchen made in Berlin the dough gets baled, deep-fried in lard, whereby the distinctive bright bulge occurs, and then filled with jam. The filling is related to the topping: for plum-butter, powdered sugar; for raspberry, strawberry and cherry jam, sugar; for all other fillings, sugar icing, sometimes flavoured with rum. Today the filling usually is injected with a large syringe or pastry bag after the dough is fried in one piece.

Today berliners can be purchased throughout the year, though they were traditionally eaten to celebrate on New Year's Eve (Silvester) as well as the carnival holidays (Rosenmontag and Fat Tuesday). A common German practical joke is to secretly fill some Berliners with mustard instead of jam and serve them together with regular Berliners without telling anyone.[1]


The terminology used to refer to this delicacy differs greatly in various areas of Germany. While called Berliner Ballen or simply Berliner in Northern and Western Germany as well as in Switzerland, the Berliners themselves and residents of Brandenburg, Western Pomerania, Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony know them as Pfannkuchen, which in the rest of Germany generally means pancakes; pancakes are known there as Eierkuchen ("egg cakes").

In parts of southern and central Germany (Bavaria), as well as in much of Austria, they are a variety of Krapfen (derived from Old High German kraffo and furthermore related to Gothic language krappa), sometimes called Fastnachtskrapfen or Faschingskrapfen to distinguish them from Bauernkrapfen. In Hesse they are referred to as Kräppel or Kreppel. Residents of the Palatinate call them also Kreppel or Fastnachtsküchelchen ("little carnival cakes"), hence the English term for a pastry called "Fasnacht"; further south, the Swabians use the equivalent term in their distinctive dialect: Fasnetskiachla. In South Tyrol, Triveneto and other parts of Northern Italy, the food is called kraffen or krapfen, while in the southern parts it can be referred as bomba or bombolone

In Slovenia, it is (Trojanski) krof; in Croatia krafni; in Bosnia, and Serbia krofne. In Poland they are known as pączki, in Ukraine as "pampushky". in the Czech Republic as kobliha. In Hungary, it is called bécsi fánk.[2] The pastry is called Berlinerbol in the Netherlands and Berljnse bol in Belgium, hillomunkki or (glazed) berliininmunkki in Finland, berlinerbolle in Norway, Berlínarbollur in Iceland šiška in Slovakia, and gogoși in Romania. In Denmark it is called "Berliner". In Turkey they're known as Alman Pastası (German Pie). All of these are similar preparations.

Regional variations

In English-speaking countries, berliners are a type of doughnut usually filled with jam, jelly, custard, or whipped cream. In South Australia, however, the Kitchener bun is a Berliner cut on the side for the filling of jam and cream.

In Anglo-America, the most common term for the jam- or jelly-filled pastry is "jelly doughnut". The name is somewhat misleading, since the jam or jelly used is specially made with less pectin, so that it does not "set" like jams and jellies manufactured for table use but has a consistency comparable to Bavarian cream. The cream or custard-filled varieties usually also feature chocolate icing and are sometimes called Bavarian cream or Boston cream doughnuts (the latter name from its resemblance to Boston cream pie). The Boston cream doughnut has been designated the official state doughnut of Massachusetts.[3]

In Ontario and the prairie western provinces of Canada, as well as parts of the Midwest and West in the US, such a round jelly- or custard-filled doughnut is commonly called a "bismark" or "bismarck" (after Otto von Bismarck), while a filled bar doughnut is called a "long john", and usually contains pastry cream, custard, or whipped cream, but can also contain a jelly filling. Other Canadian terms include "jambuster" in Manitoba[4], and "Burlington bun" in Nova Scotia.

In Portugal, Berliners are slightly bigger than their German counterparts. They are known as bolas de Berlim (lit. Berlin ball), and the filling is always an egg-yolk based yellow cream called creme pasteleiro (lit. confectioner's cream). The filling is inserted after a half length cut and is always visible. Regular sugar is used to sprinkle it. They can be found in almost every pastry shop in the country. Such versions are also found in Latin American countries with German descended populations, such as in Mexico (berlinesas), Chile (Berlín), Uruguay, and Argentina (bola de fraile or suspiro de monja or berlinesa), where it is filled not only with custard (called "Crema pastelera"), but also with jam (especially red ones), dulce de leche, or manjar blanco. In Brazil, berliners are called sonhos (dreams) and traditionally filled with yellow cream (called simply creme). Some modern variants are filled with doce de leite (a type of milk jam), goiabada, or a mix of chocolate and doce de leite.

In Israel, a version of the pastry called sufganiyah (Hebrew: סופגנייה) is traditionally consumed during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Traditional sufganiyot are usually filled with jam and covered with powdered sugar. Although, many other modern variants exist as well.[5]

In Finland, berliininmunkki (lit. Berlin's doughnut) is a commonly consumed pastry, although unlike a traditional Berliner, this variant has pink caramel colored frosting on top as opposed to regular or powdered sugar.

John F. Kennedy urban legend

John F. Kennedy's words "Ich bin ein Berliner" are standard German for "I am a Berliner". Mentioned in Len Deighton's 1983 novel Berlin Game, an urban legend has it that due to his use of the indefinite article ein, Berliner is translated as "jelly doughnut", and that the population of Berlin was amused by the supposed mistake. This is wrong; when leaving out ein, the meaning only changes slightly (compare I am Berlin and I am a Berliner). The normal convention when stating a nationality or, for instance, saying one is from Berlin, would be to leave out the indefinite article ein. Throughout the 1980s, the legend was spread even by reputable media like The New York Times, The Guardian, BBC and NBC.

However, Kennedy used the indefinite article here correctly to emphasize his relation to Berlin.[6][7] Additionally, the word Berliner is not used in Berlin to refer to the Berliner Pfannkuchen. These are simply called Pfannkuchen there[8] and therefore no one from Berlin would mistake Berliner for a pastry.

See also

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  1. Berlin: Full of history, lifestyle and home-style cuisine at
  2. Meyers, June. Authentic Hungarian Heirloon Recipes Cookbook
  3. "Donut", Massachusetts Secretary of State
  4. The History of the Jelly Doughnut at Leite's Culinaria
  5. The 8 Best Hanukkah Sufganiyot in Israel at
  6. Daum, Andreas W. (2007). Kennedy in Berlin. Cambridge University Press. pp. 148–149. ISBN 3-506-71991-2.
  7. Canoo Engineering AG. "Gebrauch des unbestimmten Artikels (German, "Use of the indefinite article")". Retrieved 2010-07-05.
  8. "Berliner/Krapfen « atlas-alltagssprache". (in German). Retrieved 2017-02-23.
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