CABIN FEVER: Funnel Cakes!

Even my oldest son, at age 7, knew how much I love to capture the details! Photo: J. Vollmer

Recently at the grocery store, I asked my oldest son what kind of snacks he might want, and his answer was “funnel cakes like at the ball park.”

Sigh. I was expecting an answer like “tortilla chips” or “Nutter Butter cookies” or something more normal like that.

But in typical overachiever fashion, I said, “Okay!”   I then whipped out my handy-dandy iPhone and surfed for a basic recipe so I could gauge what ingredients I might need to pick up while at the store. Looked like all I needed was some vegetable oil (since I had just enough to fry up the cakes.)

So here we go. In this case, I wasn’t looking for anything for mass production or anything super complicated in terms of batter preparation. This recipe seemed to fit the bill:

Easy Family-Portioned Funnel Cake Recipe on Cooks.com

Let’s start with the “hardware”, as Alton Brown would say: my trusting cast-iron skillet and a bottle of Crisco oil. Pardon the schmutz in the skillet, it’s burnt kalbi marinade from when the grill ran out of propane in the middle of cooking and I had to break out the skillet. Like I said, trusting!

Pardon the schmutz from the last thing I cooked in the pan. Photo: J. Vollmer

People have differing opinions about the "best" cooking oil for frying up foods. For sweet stuff, I prefer canola oil. Photo: J. Vollmer

Instead of a traditional funnel, I figured I’d have some fun with a decorator piping bag fitted with my wide tube metal tip:

This is a Wilton "Featherweight" piping bag fitted with a wide tip. Photo: J. Vollmer

Then I put together the batter, which was so easy, you guys don’t even need step-by-step photos. Just combine everything and mix well, like a pancake batter:

Add enough liquid to bring this to a smooth, pourable pancake batter consistency. Photo: J. Vollmer

While you were making the batter, you should have filled the skillet about halfway with oil and began to heat it at medium heat (at least, that’s what I do with my electric range). Use a test droplet of batter in the oil to gauge readiness — when the droplet of batter bubbles in an animated fashion, you’re ready. This should be about 370F or so, but I can’t find my candy thermometer to check absolutely, sorry.

Filling the piping bag is pretty tricky. You can also use a quart-or-larger sized zip-top bag with a corner cut out to do this. I used a cup and propped the piping bag in it, then filled the bag and QUICKLY moved it to the batter.

Put the piping bag in a cup to support it while filling with batter. Work quickly, the batter will immediately start flowing through the bottom! Photo: J. Vollmer

By squeezing the bag, I could control the flow a bit, better than with a funnel.

Photo: J. Vollmer

Just swirl the bag over the oil in a nest-type of pattern. Photo: J. Vollmer

I didn’t use enough oil today…the funnel cake stuck to the bottom at first, and I used my cooking chopsticks (yes, I use cooking chopsticks thanks to my Tiger Mom’s influence) to nudge it off the bottom of the pan and let it float to the top.

Had to nudge the funnel cake from the bottom of the pan. That shouldn't happen. Try to use at least 1.5" of oil in your pan. Photo: J. Vollmer

Unfortunately, when I flipped the first funnel cake over after about 90 seconds, the golden-brown-deliciousness was marred by flakes of burnt kalbi-marinade. Oops.

Oops, some schmutz made it onto the funnel cake...that'll be face-down on the plate. Photo: J. Vollmer

So we’ll just pretend those flecks aren’t there from here on out:

Yum! Photo: J. Vollmer

Remove the funnel cake to a brown-paper bag or papertowels (I prefer the brown paper):

Brown paper bags are excellent for sopping up excess oil. Photo: J. Vollmer

Dust with powdered sugar or Hershey’s syrup, and you’re all set:

Add some powdered sugar or Hershey's syrup and you're all set! Photo: J. Vollmer

Did I mention my oldest son has been the photographer for this blog post so far? Even he knows I like showing off the details!  Here’s one of J. enjoying his snack:

My oldest son enjoying a funnel cake snack! Photo: Patricia Vollmer

So in conclusion, making funnel cakes is pretty easy, and you know what ingredients are going into the batter. I personally don’t care for frying foods in the house, but this time it didn’t seem to horrible. Monitor the frying closely and if you don’t overcook the cakes, it won’t be an oily mess — unlike what you probably get at the ball park or state fair.

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Patricia Vollmer is the proud mother of two emerging geek sons, ages 12 & 14. She serves part time as a meteorologist with the Air Force Reserve and is currently assigned to the U.S. Air Force Academy. Patricia blogs about her family's nomadic military life at Ground Control to Major Mom. Home is always where the Air Force sends her family, which for now is in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Hobbies include running, despite no one chasing her, sharing her love for Disney and Star Wars, and exploring the world with her boys. Ask her why the sky is blue at your own risk.