Funnel cake is the quintessential fair food – it’s fried, sweet, and doughy, plus it’s a great vehicle for a pile of delicious toppings. It’s made from batter poured through a funnel into a pot of hot oil, creating a circular zigzag of fried dough. This treat is iconically connected to fairs and carnivals, but needn’t only be enjoyed there. Funnel cake is easy to make at home! Let us teach you how.
PITCHER: Where would the funnel cake be without a funnel? It’s responsible for the swirls of fried dough! Regular kitchen funnels can be used, as well as piping bags and squeeze bottles. But for mass production and the easiest fried dough experience, a special funnel cake pitcher with a funnel attached is the best way to make funnel cakes.
Using a funnel cake pitcher, the batter is easily managed, without drips and dribbles. A nice reservoir of batter allows for several cakes to be made before needing to refill the pitcher. For these reasons, we’ve deemed the funnel cake pitcher an essential tool for successful funnel cakes.
FUNNEL CAKE RING: Another specialized tool you’ll enjoy using is the funnel cake ring. This takes the funnel cake from amateur to professional! The ring keeps the batter from floating freely in the oil, forming a beautiful circle of zigzagged dough, instead of a wild blob of swirls. Look at the picture below – the cake on the left, with its lovely circular shape, was made with a funnel cake ring. The cake on the right was made free form, without a ring.
If you’re making a funnel cakes at home, the pitcher and the ring will become your best friends! This kit is a great option for home use, as it includes both of these items, plus a little pouch of funnel cake mix. If you’re making funnel cakes on a larger scale, this pitcher and this ring are fantastic.
When it comes time to fry the funnel cakes, you’ll need a few tools that may be lying around your kitchen already. First, if you have a home deep fryer, use it!! It’s a great way to keep your results consistent and reliable. If you fry foods often, consider investing in our favorite deep fryer.
Not looking to add another appliance to your kitchen? A heavy-bottomed stock pot is a great option, too. We love using cast iron (either seasoned or enameled) because the heavy sides hold a lot of heat, maintaining the heat of the oil, even when food is added to the pot. You’ll want a pot that is at least 8″ in diameter with sides at least 4″ high to protect from oil splatters.
You’ll also need a thermometer to keep tabs on the temperature of your oil. A leave-in thermometer works best, as the temperature fluctuates when the batter is added. We love an option that will clip onto the side of the pot. But you can also use an instant-read thermometer in a pinch. Just take care to keep the plastic away from the radiant heat of the oil.
Last, you’ll want some long handled tongs for removing the funnel cake and the ring. We also found a small mesh strainer helpful for keeping the oil clean when frying multiple batches.
The popular funnel cake is best described as a fried, sweet pancake. It is easiest to emulate the sweet, rich flavor of carnival funnel cakes by using a funnel cake mix. We have found this mix to be easy to use, reliable in results, and delicious! Want to make a mix from scratch? This recipe has great reviews.
Next, you’ll need oil for frying your cakes. Stay far away from olive oil, coconut oil, and other oils with a low-smoke point. They can’t withstand the high heat needed to fry the dough. Carnival booths often use peanut oil or canola oil. Grapeseed oil can be used as well.
First, mix up the batter. The consistency will feel similar to thick waffle batter. You’ll want to mix until smooth, whisking away any lumps. Then, pour the batter into the funnel. The batter can be prepared 2-3 hours in advance, then stored in the fridge, which is helpful when making large amounts of cakes.
Now, heat your oil over medium-high heat. Place your thermometer in the pot and bring the temperature of the oil up to 375-400 degrees F. Using tongs, place the funnel cake ring in the pot.
Now, pour the funnel cake. Start by pouring 3-4 circles on the inside edge of the funnel cake ring. Then, pour back and forth and up and down 4-6 times across the center. This will fill in the holes and hold the cake together.
The cake will puff up and brown in about 30-60 seconds. Using tongs, carefully pick up the cake and turn it over to the other side. Cook for another 60-90 seconds, or until golden brown.
Carefully remove the cake, using the tongs. Hold over the pot for a few seconds, allowing excess oil to drip into the pan. Place cake on plate and cool slightly before topping and serving.
If any small pieces of cake are left in the oil, use a small mesh strainer to remove them. This will keep the oil clean and fresh, batch after batch.
The classic topping is a dusting of powdered sugar. (We love this shaker). But there are many more delicious options:
- cinnamon sugar
- whipped cream
- fresh fruit
- fruit sauce
- caramel sauce
- chocolate sauce
- pie filling
- shaved chocolate