The carnival season hasn’t sat in yet but it doesn’t matter for the Germans because they have already started to advertise and sell the Krapfens or Berliners (depends on where you live) with the catchy slogan:
Six in the city! Meaning if you buy six from the doughnut varieties then one is free! Nowadays this delicacy can be purchased throughout the year, though in the past they were traditionally eaten to celebrate New Year’s Eve (Silvester) as well as the carnival holidays (specially Rosenmontag and Fat Tuesday).
Berliner or Krapfen?
The terminology used to refer to the German doughnut differs in various areas of Germany. However the pastry is similar to a doughnut with no central hole and it is 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, and are usually filled with jam, jelly, custard or whipped cream or with no filling at all. Around carnival time a common German practical joke is allowed namely secretly to fill some Berliners with mustard instead of jam and serve them together with regular Berliners without telling anyone.
While called Berliner (Ballen) 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; but pancakes are known there as Eierkuchen (“egg cakes”).
In parts of southern and central Germany (Bavaria), as well as in much of Austria, this kind of sweet dough called Krapfen sometimes called Fastnachtskrapfen (carnival doughnut). Residents of the Palatinate call them Fastnachtsküchelchen (“little carnival cakes”), hence the English term for a pastry called “Fasnacht. In South Tyrol and the Triveneto part of Italy, the food is called kraffen or krapfen, while in the southern parts it can be referred as bomba or bombolone.
How are they prepared?
The yeast dough contains a good deal of eggs, milk and butter. The classical Pfannkuchen made in Berlin consists of two halves filled, stuck together and deep-fried in lard, whereby the distinctive bright bulge occurs. 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.
Be aware of the starch!
Perchta is a minor German goddess commands that certain meals be consumed and offered to her on carnival days. The meals should consist of zemmede, herring and gruel, and the KRAPFEN..if people don’t satisfy her appetite she kills and eat a man! According to a pagan legend one year she was not satisfied with the meal which was given to her therefore she caught a man who had eaten 5 krapfens before being chosen and when Perchta wanted to cut him two, her sword slithered on his body because his body was “stuffed” with too much fat. So he could escape his death!