Mmm, Doughnuts

The Salvation Army Doughnut Recipie

Not even hearts and minds are enough to win the war for lost souls. Here’s a recipe for filling their bellies, from the Salvation Army’s website (

  • 7 1/2 Cups Sugar
  • 3/4 Cup Lard
  • 9 Eggs
  • 3 Large Cans Evaporated Milk
  • 3 Large Cans Water
  • 18 Cups Flour
  • 18 Teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 7 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
  • 9 Teaspoons Nutmeg

Cream sugar and lard together beat eggs into mixture. Add evaporated milk and water. Add water to creamed mixture. Mix flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in large sieve and sift into other mixture. Add enough flour to make a stiff dough. Roll and cut. Five pounds of lard are required to fry the doughnuts.

Yields: Approximately 250 Doughnuts

Whether you’re fighting a war for freedom or for souls, there’s nothing like a fresh doughnut, as the Salvation Army knew well when it sent its own special soldiers–called “Sallies”–to minister to the troopsduring World War I.

Today, most people know the Salvation Army as a vaguely Christian group of Christmas-time do-gooders and old-clothes-recyclers. In fact, the Army is, as it always has been, on a militant evangelical mission.

The difference between the Salvation Army and, say, the Christian Coalition, may well come down to a matter of marketing. The Army always knew how to build buzz, but when World War I broke out, the Salvationists came up with a master plan for great press: Instead of preaching atwar-weary fighting men to get close to God, why not first fill their bellies with warm doughnuts?

The idea, writes Diane Winston in her splendid history, Red Hot and Righteous: The Urban Religion of the Salvation Army, originated with Margaret Sheldon andHelen Purviance, two Sallies near the front in France. Soon, Salvationists were cooking up 9,000 doughnuts a day.

Reporters loved the deep-fried dough as much as the troops, and spread the story of the good-hearted Salvationist Sallies. Media coverage ofthe doughnut initiative helped transform the Salvation Army from a fiery group of zealots to a moderate mainstay of American charity, at least in the public perception.

More importantly for most of us today, it pushed the doughnut into prominence. So the next time you bite into a Boston Crème, savor the sweetness but don’t forget to thank the Salvation Army and their Lord.

Jeff Sharlet is a founding editor of Killing the Buddha, coauthor with Peter Manseau of Killing the Buddha: A Heretic's Bible (2004) and co-editor of Believer, Beware (2009). Sharlet is also the author of Sweet Heaven When I Die, (2011), C Street, (2010), and the New York Times bestseller The Family (2008).