For a food that’s so inextricably linked to American culture, the doughnut actually has a pretty murky past. Though the fried pastry is said to have roots in France and Russia, according to Smithsonian, the doughnut—at least as we’ve come to know it—hails from New York by way of Amsterdam. Later, in the mid-1800s, a woman from New England packed her son a snack for a sea voyage, adding cinnamon, lemon rind, and nuts to a ball of fried dough. The term “doughnut” was officially born.
But, oh, how times have changed. In 2016, every slight mutation of the doughnut is meticulously catalogued online, with bakers trying desperately to outshine one another for the most Instagrammable, viral snapshot. The craze can perhaps be traced back to Dominique Ansel, whose doughnut-croissant hybrid, the Cronut, first turned pastry chefs into tinkering social-media maniacs three years ago this month.
There’s something about the simplicity of the doughnut that the Internet just loves to turn on its head, juxtaposing its old-fashioned Americana against new, 21st-century extravagance. We’re not even half-way through the year, and already doughnuts garnished with tequila, platinum, bone-marrow, and 24-karat gold have come to feel like the norm.
Perhaps there was always something about the doughnut that gave way to wild innovation—it’s complex ancestry, or the simple fact that it remains a dessert masquerading as a breakfast item. For better or for worse, 2016 is shaping up to be a benchmark year for decadent, over-the-top fried dough. Though tomorrow a new, unthinkable amalgamation will surely make its way to the 'gram, here are the most ridiculous doughnuts seen online so far this year.