Grandma Mary’s Doughnut Balls


When I met my future mother-in-law in 1951, she introduced me to her very popular Doughnut Balls.  She told me that when her four kids were little, she would get up early in the morning and make these treats before her husband went off to work so he could have some fresh and warm for breakfast and the kids could eat some later when they woke up.  Actually, the recipe is easy and quick enough to do just that.  I never made them for her son for breakfast because he preferred bacon and eggs, but I did make them many times for my own four children and my mother loved them for lunch with a cup of hot coffee.

Here’s a 1950s picture of my mother-in-law, later known as Grandma Mary, at her familiar place in the kitchen, getting a meal ready for her family.

Grandma Mary 58

For our first Halloween together as a married couple in 1953 before there were any children, I decided to make special treats for the “beggars” as we called them in those days.  When I was a child out begging one Halloween, word had come along the street that someone was handing out hot doughnuts.  We raced up to the house only to find they had run out, but I always thought that sounded like an ideal Halloween treat.  So, using a wedding gift electric deep fryer, I set up an operation near the door, mixing up batches of Grandma Mary’s recipe and offering piping hot, sugary Doughnut Balls to some very surprised trick or treaters.  I had also made a huge batch of hot chocolate and passed out small paper cups of this to wash down the doughnuts.

I was very pleased with my Halloween treat idea but by the next year, I had a six-month-old baby and after that there were more children and less time, so I never duplicated that 1953 Halloween.  However, we still enjoy having these Doughnut Balls for breakfast and I think of Grandma Mary every time I make them.


  • Servings: 2-3 doz. doughnut balls, depending on size
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  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tblsp. melted Crisco shortening
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • Crisco for deep frying
  • 1-2 cups of confectioners’ sugar for coating

In a medium bowl whisk together the sugar, milk, egg and melted shortening.  In a separate small bowl mix together the flour, salt and baking powder.  Combine dry and wet ingredients, stirring just until dry ingredients are incorporated.

Heat Crisco shortening to 365 degrees F in a large pan with a fryer basket*.  Drop batter by teaspoonful into hot shortening – 4 to 5 doughnuts at a time.  Fry for 3-4 minutes.  Doughnut balls will flip over and become golden brown on both sides.

*If you don’t have a basket, lift and turn doughnuts with a slotted spoon.


Drain doughnuts on a paper towel.


Continue frying remaining doughnuts, placing the drained doughnuts in a brown paper sack along with about a cup of confectioners’ sugar and shaking until doughnuts are coated. 


I’ve never had time to count how many doughnut balls this recipe makes since it requires fast work for a few minutes, frying, draining and coating – and anyone who is in the kitchen grabs a warm doughnut as soon as it’s finished.  These are best when eaten while still warm.



Update: It’s a long time since 1953 and a different world.  I wouldn’t recommend having children eat anything homemade by people they don’t know.  But Doughnut Balls and hot chocolate would be nice for a family Halloween party!

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Lillian Applegate Westfelt was a mother of 4, grandmother of 6, and great-grandmother of 3. She was an 86-year-old widow living in a nice little bungalow with her oldest daughter and a beagle-dachsund named Addie. She passed away in November, 2018.

2 thoughts on “Grandma Mary’s Doughnut Balls”

  1. I love ur pic!! Its such a good trinket of yesteryear!! Im gonna make my kiddos ur doughnuts!! they will love them.. oh by the way, have u read ur book yet?? God Bless! Amy Phillips

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