Fun with Fair Food

by Elizabeth Dengler, The Huckleberry Home

Funnel Cakes are my all-time favorite fair food and from what I can gather it’s a popular fair food across the US. The funnel cake as we know it, originated in the US with the Pennsylvania Dutch. It’s funny to think of all the memories I have around funnel cakes, but they were always a big deal, probably because the only time we ever ate them was at the fair. On one occasion my nana, who was from NJ, was interviewed on our local news station while eating a funnel cake, only in the interview she referred to them as “flannel cakes” and my sister and I thought it was the funniest thing we’d ever heard. Then, my nana started laughing, which got my mom laughing, which got my sister and me rolling, all while the cameras were shooting. One time at the TVA&I Fair my dad splurged and got my sister and me a funnel cake that was topped with a square of ice cream, strawberry sauce, and whipped cream. No matter my age, no matter who I’m at the fair with, I always buy a funnel cake. I go for the traditional powdered sugar topping, it’s my favorite. I was happy to share it with my little kiddos and pass on the tradition of funnel cakes at the fair. So, what is this funnel cake loving lady to do when the fair isn’t around this year? Well, I took a stab at making them at home. Turns out they’re fun to make and rather easy. Also, if you don’t tell your family you’re making them, they will all walk into the house and ask why it smells like the fair. Seriously, they all did. It was hilarious and then I announced “I’m making funnel cakes!” The kids were beside themselves excited! And while they aren’t my husband’s favorite, our electrician friend Mike happened to stop by and he was very happy to be treated to a funnel cake.

I hope you enjoy this recipe. And I hope you will share with me your favorite fair food memories or recipes, you can send them to

Funnel Cakes
1 1/2 C all purpose flour
1 t baking powder
Dash of salt
2 T sugar
1 large egg
1 1/4 C whole milk
1 t vanilla
32 oz canola, vegetable, or your favorite frying oil
Plenty of powdered sugar for dusting
Alternate toppings: strawberries, ice cream and chocolate syrup with whipped cream

Heat your oil in a deep, round, heavy pan. Set up your thermometer and heat the oil over medium high heat to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl whisk together all your dry ingredients, set aside. In a 2 cup pyrex measuring cup or small bowl, measure out and whisk the wet ingredients together. Add your wet ingredients to your dry and mix well.

Using a one cup measuring cup, scoop your batter into a funnel over your heated oil. Make circular patterns with your funnel. Overlap the batter so the cake will hold its shape. After about 2 minutes turn your cake using a pair of tongs and fry for another 2 minutes. You are going for a golden outside and a cooked inside. If your oil is too hot your cakes will brown very quickly and be crunchy. Keeping your oil consistently between 325 and 350 degrees works well to keep the overly browned and too crunchy away.

Remove your cake from the oil with tongs allowing the excess oil to drip off before transferring to paper towels. Allow cakes to cool a bit before dousing in powdered sugar. Using a sifter to apply the powdered sugar will be your best option for application. Or, forgo the sugar and turn your funnel cake into an ice cream sundae. Really, the sky’s the limit with options for cake toppings.

This recipe makes 4 huge funnel cakes. If you’d like smaller cakes, use a half cup of batter for each cake to yield 8 cakes.

A couple tips: the PA Dutch versions do not contain sugar or vanilla, you are more than welcome to omit them; you don’t want the batter too thick nor too runny, just thinned enough to pass through your funnel; you can use a plastic bag with an end cut off as an alternative to a funnel or use a picnic condiment bottle and squeeze out the batter.