The modern, ring-shaped donut, more commonly written as doughnut, is attributed to a 1847 invention by an American ship captain, named Hansen Gregory. The donut, with a hole in the middle, is based on the traditional Dutch dessert, known as oliekoek, which translates into "oily cake."
Gregory is said to have modified the fried-cake recipe by punching a hole in the center to eliminate the raw dough that result from frying a whole ball at once. Prior to Gregory's innovation, "doughnuts" referred to something similar to the oliekoek, a sweet ball of dough fried in fat. Washington Irving's 1809 publication of "A History of New York" is the first written reference to the confection.