The Pennsylvania Dutch are the likely architects of the American-style funnel cake—a lightly sweetened, airy, and crisp fried confection that’s dusted with confectioner’s sugar. At state fairs, funnel cakes are enormous, paper plate-sized affairs that are made by pouring batter from a funnel in a winding circular pattern over hot oil.
Funnel cakes are a fun treat, often sold at outdoor festivals, amusement parks, and carnivals. The sweet, deep-fried aroma draws in the crowds and everyone has fun diving in to pinch off a bite. It is also fun and easy to make this sharable treat at home. People often wonder if funnel cake is made from pancake batter or if you can use pancake mix for the funnel cake batter.
In fact, it is possible to make a perfect funnel cake batter using a pancake mix you probably already have in your pantry.
All you need is prepared buttermilk pancake mix, a bit of sugar, vanilla, and water.
Whisk it up until it can be easily drizzled through a funnel, pastry bag, or zip-top bag. Fry it up in hot oil and then serve warm. It can be topped with powdered sugar, whipped cream, ice cream, or even ice cream sundae toppings.
Keys to Success
To achieve the perfect funnel cake, there are three important factors to consider: timing, batter thickness, and funnel spout size. A batter that is too thin will spread too much and won’t hold its shape, while a too-thick batter will be difficult to pour out in a timely manner and may result in an overdone cake.
For best results, a funnel with a 1/4-inch opening is recommended, but a squeeze bottle with the same size opening can be used for more control.
Making funnel cakes at home allows you to customize the size and toppings, such as creating a funnel cake ice cream sundae.
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- 1 cup buttermilk pancake mix
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Approximately 1/2 cup of water
- Confectioners’ Sugar, for dusting
Steps to Make It
- Gather the ingredients.
- Fill a 10-inch (or larger) heavy skillet halfway with the vegetable oil. Over medium heat, bring the oil to 350 F.
- Combine the pancake mix, sugar, and vanilla extract in a medium bowl. Whisk in the water, a few tablespoons at a time, until desired consistency is achieved. It should be similar to a cake batter, not too runny but not too thick.
- Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch-wide tip. Or use a plastic zip-top bag with a small portion of the corner snipped off.
- Working quickly, squeeze all of the batters in a circular motion into the hot oil, forming a large disk.
- Cook for about 1 minute, then flip and cook the other side for an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute or until golden brown. Lift and remove from the oil using a large slotted spoon or spatula.
- Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain off excess oil.
- Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and serve warm.
Funnel Cake Tips
- To prevent burning or undercooking, check the temperature of the oil with a candy thermometer.
- A funnel is not necessary; a pastry bag or a zip-top plastic bag with a 1/4-inch opening will work just as well.
- A squeeze bottle with the nozzle snipped to make a 1/4-inch opening is also a good option.
- Use tongs or two spatulas to carefully flip the funnel cake and avoid hot oil splatter.
- Consider using a heavy Dutch oven to cook the funnel cake.
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How To Store Leftovers
- Funnel cakes are best enjoyed warm, right after cooking. They don’t keep well.
- You can refrigerate funnel cake batter for up to 24 hours.
Funnel Cake Variations
- Instead of confectioners’ sugar, drizzle your funnel cake with maple syrup or a fruit-flavored syrup.
- A dusting of cocoa powder along with the confectioners’ sugar also works well for a chocolate twist.
- You can top funnel cakes with scoops of ice cream or whipped cream and a drizzle of your favorite hot fudge sauce or caramel sauce.
- Make a strawberry shortcake funnel cake with a generous dollop of whipped cream and macerated strawberries.
Why Is My Funnel Cake Falling Apart?
If your funnel cake is falling apart, there are several possible reasons:
- Batter too thin: If your batter is too thin, it won’t hold its shape and will fall apart when you try to remove it from the oil. To fix this, try adding more pancake mix to thicken the batter.
- Batter too thick: On the other hand, if your batter is too thick, it may not cook all the way through and will fall apart when you try to remove it from the oil. To fix this, try adding a bit more water to thin out the batter.
- Oil temperature too low: If the oil is not hot enough, the funnel cake will absorb too much oil and become soggy, which can cause it to fall apart. Make sure the oil is heated to the proper temperature before frying the funnel cake.
- Overcrowding in the fryer: If you fry too many funnel cakes at once, they may stick together and fall apart when you try to remove them from the oil. Fry the funnel cakes one at a time, or leave enough space between them in the fryer to prevent them from sticking together.
- Improper flipping technique: If you flip the funnel cake too early or too aggressively, it may fall apart. Use tongs or two spatulas to gently flip the funnel cake, and wait until it’s fully cooked on one side before flipping it over.
Why Is It Called Funnel Cake?
It is believed that funnel cakes got their name because the batter is poured through a funnel or a similar kitchen tool, such as a squeeze bottle, into hot oil. The batter flows out of the narrow opening of the funnel in a spiral or lattice pattern, creating a cake that resembles a funnel in shape.
The name “funnel cake” has been used since the early 1900s and is now a popular treat at fairs, carnivals, and other outdoor events.
What Is the Difference Between Cake Mix and Pancake Mix?
Cake mix and pancake mix are two different types of pre-made mixes that are used for baking. The main differences between the two are their ingredients and their intended use.
Cake mix typically contains flour, sugar, baking powder, and flavorings, as well as other ingredients like vegetable oil and eggs. It is designed to be used as a base for making cake batter, which is then baked in an oven to produce a cake with a fluffy, crumbly texture.
Pancake mix, on the other hand, typically contains flour, baking powder, and salt, as well as other ingredients like sugar, powdered eggs, and powdered milk. It is designed to be mixed with water or milk to make pancake batter, which is then cooked on a griddle or frying pan to produce pancakes with a fluffy, slightly chewy texture.