Bola de Berlim

Portugal’s famous donut got its start in Germany.

Ich bin ein Berliner

There’s an oft-repeated story that President John F. Kennedy, when giving a speech in Berlin in 1963, said “Ich bin ein Berliner,” which translates to “I am a Berliner,” showing his solidarity with the people Germany in general and Berlin specifically during the time shortly after the construction of the Berlin wall which separated the city into East and West Berlin. Decades after the speech, there was a rumor that Kennedy actually said “I am a donut,” in German venacular, referring to the pastry called a “Berliner.”

JFK in Berlin 1963 (image:

A Berliner is a jelly filled donut, which had been known in Germany as far back as 500 years. According to legend, the name Berliner was coined when a baker for the Prussian Army began frying donuts for the troops. They called the treat a Berliner after the baker’s home city.

However, in the Berlin of the 1960’s, a jelly donut was known as a Pfannkuchen (literally “Pan Cake”), In all likelihood, the 120,000 people in attendance for JFK’s speech recognized that he was saying he is a Berliner and not a jelly donut.

Bola de Berlim

In Portugal, the Berliner is known as “Bola de Berlim” (Berlin Ball). However, rather than being filled with jelly, a Bola de Berlim is filled with an egg custard and cut halfway through to expose the filling. They are then coated with granulated or confectioners sugar.

Bolas de Berlim at Zé Natário in Viana do Castelo, Portugal (photo: Brent Petersen)

While Bolas de Berlim are available in most bakeries in Portugal, they are especially good in Viana do Castelo. Manuel Natário has set times when they are available (11:30 and 4:30) and people line up to get them. Zé Natário also has excellent Bola de Berlim.

Ich bin ein Bola de Berlimer!

About the Author

Brent Petersen is the Editor-in-Chief of Destination Eat Drink. He currently resides in Setubal, Portugal. Brent has written the novel “Truffle Hunt” (Eckhartz Press) and the short story collection “That Bird.” He’s also written dozens of foodie travel guides to cities around the world on Destination Eat Drink, including in-depth eating and drinking guides in Portugal to Lisbon, PortoSintraÉvoraBraga, Loulé, Almada, Monsaraz, and Batalha. Brent’s podcast, also called Destination Eat Drink, is available on all major podcasting platforms.

Author: Brent