No Need to Wait for the Fair

Homemade funnel cake with powdered sugar
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Part of the fun of going to the annual fair is that it's an excuse to indulge – just this once! – in sticky, sweet, definitively indulgent fried treats such as funnel cakes. If you didn't make it to the fair this year, or just don't want to wait that long, you can certainly make your own at home. This easy funnel cake recipe requires no special skills or equipment, and even the iconic funnel is optional.

Total Time: 30 minutes | Prep Time: 10 minutes | Serves: 4 to 6 cakes

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups milk, or 1 cup milk and 1 cup cold water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 1/4 to 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 to 4 cups oil, for frying
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Directions:

  1. In a Dutch oven or deep skillet, heat 1 1/2 to 2 inches of oil over a moderate burner. Depending on the size of your pan, this might take up to 4 cups of oil. 
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. In a separate bowl, measure out 3 1/4 cups of the flour and whisk in the remaining dry ingredients except for the powdered sugar. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry, and then add enough extra flour to make a pourable, moderately thick batter. 
  3. Test the temperature of the oil. Ideally, it should reach 360F to 375F before you start cooking your funnel cakes. If you don't have a thermometer, drop in a small cube of white bread. It should be golden-brown in 40 to 60 seconds. 
  4. Place your finger over the tip of a funnel, and scoop 1/2 to 2/3 cup of batter into it. Hold the funnel over the hot oil, and drizzle the batter into the fat in a long, swirling spiral or curlicues. Fry for 2 to 3 minutes, and then turn and cook for another 2 minutes until the cake is golden brown on all sides. Remove it to a plate lined with paper towels to cool and drain. 
  5. Repeat with the remaining batter. Once all the funnel cakes are fried, sift powdered sugar generously over the top and serve warm. 

Tip

  • The funnel cakes will be slightly denser and richer if made with all milk, lighter and airier if made with half milk and half water. They're good either way. 
  • If the traditional finger-over-the-funnel technique doesn't appeal to you, there are alternatives. One is to pour the batter into a zipper-seal bag and cut off a corner for pouring purposes, or alternatively use a squeeze bottle with a 1/4-inch opening. The simplest might be to just use a measuring cup with a pouring spout, and pour the batter from that in a thin stream. 
  • Powdered confectioner's sugar is the traditional topping, but you can use fresh fruit, maple syrup or fruit syrup if you prefer. 
  • As always, when you're working with hot fat, be sure kids and pets are out of the kitchen and properly supervised. If you do have to go play referee, slide the pan from your burner first. Unattended pans of hot oil are very bad news.