This Shabbat, Shabbat Chanukah , my wife has decided to make Sufganiyot for dessert. Do we need to make a bracha on them?
No do not make a bracha if they are eaten for dessert. Since they are not crunchy nor are they are filled with jam afterwards and they are fried, do not make any bracha on the during the seudah. The Gemara in Brachot 41b writes: If they brought figs and grapes before them during a meal, what blessings need to be recited? Rav Huna said: They require a blessing before eating them, and do not require a blessing after eating them, as Grace after Meals exempts them. And so too, Rav Naḥman said: They require a blessing before eating them, and do not require a blessing after eating them. And Rav Sheshet said: They require a blessing both before eating them and after eating them, even if he ate them during the meal, as you have nothing which requires a blessing before eating it and does not require a blessing after eating it, because it is exempted by Grace after Meals, except a sweetened and spiced pastry (Pat Haba Bkisnin), that comes as dessert… Summarizing, Rav Pappa said that the halakha is: Food items that come due to the meal, which are eaten together with the bread as part of the meal, during the meal, neither require a blessing before eating them nor after eating them, as they are considered secondary to the bread. And food items like fruit, that do not come due to the meal, as part of the meal, but may be brought during the meal, require a blessing before eating them and do not require a blessing after eating them. If they come after the meal, they require a blessing both before eating them and after eating them. The Gemara relates that the students asked Ben Zoma: Why did the Sages say that food items that come due to the meal during the meal, neither require a blessing before eating them nor after eating them? He said to them: Because bread exempts them… As the Gemara mentioned bread that comes as dessert, The Gemara says that food eaten during a meal is exempted by the bracha of Hamotzi, except for foods which are not part of the meal, those you need to make a bracha on. So fruits and sweets which are not considered as main courses and dessert are not included in the meal bracha of Hamotzi. The other type of food which one is required to make bracha on is Pat Haba Bkisnin. The Shulchan Aruch quotes three differing opinions of what Pat Haba Bkisnin are in Orach Chaim 168:7: Pat Haba Bkisnin, some interpret it as bread that is made with a sort of pockets (kisim) that one fills with honey or sugar and nuts and walnuts and spices. Some say that it is a dough that has honey, oil, milk, or spices kneaded in and then baked, as long as the taste of the mixture of fruit juice or spices is noticeable in the dough. [Rema: and some say that this is unequivocal bread unless there is a lot of spices of honey like the sweet pastry that is called Lekach in which the honey and spices are the main part, and this is our custom.] Some interpret that it is bread, whether spiced or not, which is made into dry cakes and one cracks them, and they are called bishkonish. The halacha is according to all of them, such that for all of these items we apply the rules that we have enumerated for Pat Haba Bkisnin. In the next Seif the Shulchan Aruch rules that if you eat Pat Haba Bkisnin in a meal then Hamotzi will not exempt it. The Magen Avraham says it applies to all Pat Haba Bkisnin but the Biur Halacha argues based on the Noda Beyhuda and the Gra”z that since it is a Machloket what Pat Haba Bkisnin is if it only fulfills one opinion then do not a make a bracha. However if it fulfills all three, or even if it just filled you may make a bracha. The issue with Sufganiyot is whether they are considered Pat Haba Bkisnin or something else. Tosfot Daf 39b quotes a Mishna in Challah that there are four different types of doughs which can be bread. If the dough is a thick dough and is baked it is Hamotzi. If it is a pourable batter and boiled (or fried) it is Mezonot. (Techilat Racah Sofo Sufganin). If it is a fried or boiled dough Rabbeinu Tam holds you say Hamotzi and others hold we say Mezonot. (Fried or boiled dough is called Sufganin hence h name Sufganiyot.) The Shulchan Aruch in Se’if 13 rules like the second opinion but say one can be stringent for Rabbeinu Tam. Sufganiyot have a thick dough and are fried so you come to the Machloket between Rabbeinu Tam and the other opinion. The second one holds we say Mezonot and even if we eat a lot of them we don’t say Hamotzi. Sufganiyot present a problem during a Seudah as to which bracha to make. They require no bracha however if they are Pat Haba Bkisnin then they might need a bracha. Therefore because of doubt don’t make any bracha, or don’t eat them during a seudah.