Funnel cake is something I was introduced to on my first trip to Disney back in 2004. We were stood close to the Cinderella Castle in the middle of Magic Kingdom waiting for the character parade when hunger struck. I had no idea what it was except it looked like a cross between a doughnut and a pancake and it was covered in sugar – other people seemed to be enjoying it so I took the plunge and gave it a go. For my Dollars I was presented with a dinner plate sized spiders-web of sweet deep fried dough that was crispy on the outside but soft on the inside, warm, sugary, and absolutely lovely. I was hooked, and have enjoyed many funnel cake lunches when in Florida since then.
Funnel cake, Disney style, taken at Magic Kingdom in 2012.
But you can’t get it here in the UK, not at theme parks or fairgrounds or seaside resorts (we’re all about the fresh doughnut). This is a massive shame, maybe I should buy one of those catering vans and tour around introducing it to everyone?! Okay, maybe not, so it’ll have to be home made. I’ve had this page on A Beautiful Mess bookmarked for some time, promising myself that I’d give it a go one day. But I’ve always been a bit worried about deep frying food in my own kitchen, mainly thanks to rather violent demonstrations by the Fire Brigade in my Primary School playground when I was a kid. Do they still make big fire balls from old chip pans in schools these days?! Anyway, now I’m 34 and supposedly a sensible adult, I decided it was about time I got a damp tea towel ready and gave it a go.
I shan’t repeat the recipe here, you can head over to A Beautiful Mess yourself for that (a fabulous blog well worth following), but just to give you an idea…
The batter is made from plain flour, cornflour, baking powder, soft brown sugar, eggs, water and vanilla extract. I used my handy measuring spoons so I didn’t have to translate cups into grams – the Americans work in volume rather than weight. You can get cup-measures in Lakeland (mine were a gift a couple of Christmases ago), or use Google and turn the cups into English money (remember, if you choose to translate the measurements make sure you search for the specific ingredient, as a cup of plain flour will weigh a different amount to a cup of cornflour and a cup of sugar).
Once made I used the tip from A Beautiful Mess and put the batter into a squeezy bottle. I got given these for Christmas (for the purposes of making funnel cake – I love my family, they know me so well). I cut the hole in the top quite small to start with but ended up making it larger twice more, ending with quite a large hole which gave me quite thick strands of the batter. It may have been a little too big in the end, but that just meant it took a few more seconds for the last cakes to cook.
I used about an inch of sunflower oil (I found this was plenty to cook the whole batch) in my heaviest pan, and added my sugar thermometer to make sure it hovered around 375 degrees Fahrenheit for cooking. My pan had tall sides so the oil didn’t splash outside the pan when I squeezed in the batter, and when flipping over the funnel cakes I had my hot hands on for protection. The oil didn’t reach smoking point so my damp tea towel stayed on the side out of the way. Safety first!!
I made some small funnel cakes first, serving three or four at a time in a pile. I also made a couple of larger dinner plate sized ones too, mainly because LincsGeek wanted to recreate the Disney style ones. After cooking each batch I allowed them to sit on kitchen paper for a few seconds to drain and dry before serving them covered in icing sugar (loads of it!). You could potentially add sliced banana and chocolate sauce or other sweet fillings, but my preference is definitely to sprinkle with icing sugar and dive in while they are still warm.
If you have never tried funnel cake you should definitely give them a go. They are quick and simple, use store cupboard ingredients, and are a really nice alternative to pancakes. It’s the perfect activity with a tasty outcome for a Saturday afternoon keeping out of the rain.