With the Hamburger being to Hamburg as the Berliner is to Berlin, it’s little wonder that those infamous words spoken by John F. Kennedy during his 1963 speech – “Ich bin ein Berliner” – has gone down in local folklore as having caused quite a few giggles in the crowd; many would have it that he mistakenly said, “I am a donut.”
Ah yes, the humble Berliner Pfannkuchen. This most traditional of German pastries is a wondrously sweet treat made from a fried sweet yeast dough filled with anything from marmalade, custard, chocolate, or mustard should you be playing a practical joke during Carnival. With the unfortunate proliferation of American chain Dunkin’ Donuts taking over the city, we have come up with a list of where to get a traditional Berliner from the people who know how to make them best.
There is much debate over the origin of the donut; American Naval Captain Hanson Gregory made a claim in 1847 to have invented the first ring-shaped donut, while excavations suggest that the Greeks and Romans would often fry up strips of pastry before coating them in honey. Their appearance in Germany was apparently the result of the introduction of Arab “fritters” (much alike the ancient honey-covered dough) that spread into Europe during the C15th.
It was in Germany, however, that with a lack of access to sugar came the invention of putting a filling in the donut (albeit savoury at this time). Luckily for us, sugar is now harder to avoid than to find, allowing for a plethora of sweet fillings for our delectable Berliners. And with classic fillings such as jam or chocolate, sometimes sticking to simple tradition is best.
Dough. Filling. Topping. Simple. How creative can you be with something that requires only three elements? Flip tradition on its head, that’s how. With veganism now taking over the world and the challenges that arise from removing every kind of animal product from a recipe, this has led to a surge in inventive and creative ingredient selection. For a donut that brings all of this together, head no further than the one and only Brammibal’s Donuts.
Finding themselves selling out of donuts every week from their market stall, Brammibal’s decided to make their scrumptious donuts a permanent offering and in 2016 opened up Europe’s first all Vegan donut shop. They really have creative baking down; alongside their 6 classic flavours, rotating on a monthly basis is a collection of weird flavour combinations that are surprisingly delicious (and addictive). To ensure that you don’t miss out you can view and pre-order each month’s selection online. Avocado coconut-filled donut take your fancy? How about peppermint choc, or maple smoked coconut? With a Willy Wonka-like inventive take on the humble donut, the flavour possibilities are endless, and you’re sure to find something to take your fancy!
The battle for the title of “Oldest Baker in Berlin” is still a contest hard-fought between the aging bäckerei’s on the streets of Berlin. One such competitor is Bäckerei Siebert. A family-run bakery since Gustav Siebert opened the doors in 1906, his great-grandson, Lars Siebert, is still to be found elbow deep in flour and dough. Still baking in a strictly traditional manner their craft bakery churns out hundreds of sweet and savoury treats every day, leading for them to be named as the best bakers in Germany in 2013 and 2017 by magazine Der Feinschmecker.
Competing with Bäckerei Siebert for title of oldest bakery in Berlin, keep your eyes peeled (or rather, your nose) to sniff out Bäckerei & Konditorei. Relatively hidden, feel as if you have stepped back in time in this historic bakery, whose shelves are laden with a whole variety of sweet treats including – of course – one of the most authentic Berliners in town.
All good things come in small packages… although not when it comes to the XL Berliners on sale at Bäckerei Ladewig. Founded in 1969, the bakery is still run by the same family using traditional baking methods and recipes. What isn’t traditional, is the size. If you have a mega sweet tooth then you must try and tackle one of their 500g Berliners.
With roots that date back to around 1898, this fast paced bakery is ideal for those who want to grab-and-go, so make sure you know what you want before going in! They have their own unique take on the Berliner, using sprinkles instead of the sugary toppings, as well as a pudding-chocolate inside instead of the traditional jelly.