Some smells can take you back to a specific memory in an instant, making you feel wrapped up in the bliss of times gone by long ago. Funnel cakes are one of those smells, at least for me.
Every time I go to a fair I’m tempted to buy up the entire supply of funnel cakes to bring home with me so that I never have to go another day without their magical aroma. There’s something so sinfully simple about fried dough dusted with sugar that brings out the child in me.
I’ve actually bought large portions of funnel cake to go before, and I’ve also made my own in large batches. I had a pretty significant learning curve to figure out how to reheat funnel cake without it turning into a sloppy, soggy mess, but I’m ready to share my secrets to success with you.
Crisp or Soft Funnel Cake
The first thing you need to decide is whether you prefer your funnel cakes soft or crispy. I’ll be honest, reheating funnel cake is never going to be as perfectly delicious as when they are first fresh out of the fryer, but we can get close.
Here’s a quick cheat sheet: use a microwave for soft funnel cake and an oven for crispy cakes. They’re delicious both ways, but I’ve learned a few advanced tricks over the years to increase the odds of a great texture.
If you enjoy your funnel cakes soft and on the chewy side, the microwave is the perfect option for you. To keep them from getting soggy or dry, place a paper towel on a microwave safe plate, add your funnel cake, and then cover with the other end of the paper towel.
Turn on high for about 20 seconds, then flip your cake over and heat for another 10 – 15 seconds.
If you prefer a crispier funnel cake, your oven is going to be a better tool.
You have two options.
If you have a few funnel cakes to heat up, your best bet is to warm up your oven to 350F, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay out your funnel cakes. To keep them from drying out, cover the tray with aluminum foil. Bake the from 10 minutes, removing the foil at minute 8.
If you’ve only got one cake and you’re in a desperate hurry to enjoy it, warm your oven to 450F and put your funnel cake in there for maximum of 3 minutes directly on the middle rack. Keep your eye on the prize and if it starts to look like it’s turning from delicious golden brown to more ominous dark brown, take it out before it gets to black.
If you’re not completely happy with the result from either of the two reheating methods above, a true funnel cake aficionado will combine the forces of both.
Make sure your oven is preheated to 450F. Wrap your funnel cake in paper-towel and put it in the microwave for 30 seconds. Place it in the middle rack of your oven for 1 minute. This should give you the perfect combination of soft warm inside and slightly crispy, caramelized outside.
If you don’t mind the idea of a little more oil, you can re-fry your funnel cakes. You won’t need much oil because your cakes have already soaked up oil once.
Warm-up about a tablespoon of peanut oil, coconut oil or another neutral-flavored oil in a frying pan over medium heat. You don’t want the temperature too high because you need to warm the whole cake without burning it.
Put your funnel cake in for 1 minute and then flip it for only 30 seconds. You don’t want the top to be in the pan for too long because the sugar will burn. Flip it back over and, if it’s not warm enough for you yet, you can leave it right side up for another minute. This should give you a nice, crispy outside while still leaving you with a satisfyingly soft center.
Cook Your Own Funnel Cake from Scratch
There is something special about buying funnel cakes out of a mobile kitchen parked in a fairground or outside a football stadium, but sometimes you just don’t want to leave your house to get one of these treats. The great news is that they’re surprisingly simple to make at home.
As you can probably guess, thanks to the name, funnel cakes are made by pouring batter through a funnel and into hot oil. You swirl your funnel around to get a unique, one of a kind creation with every single cake.
The batter is pretty simple, similar to a fritter or pancake batter, and you can use any oil that you’d like, but something with a neutral flavor is ideal. Peanut oil is a common choice, as is simple vegetable oil. Personally, I like the added flavor of coconut oil for my funnel cakes. After it’s fried, have some powdered sugar or other toppings ready to garnish.
- Oil as needed for frying
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- Powdered sugar for dusting and/or additional toppings
Start by warming the oil in your deep fryer to 375F.
In a large bowl, get your wet ingredients ready by whisking your eggs together and then adding your milk, water and vanilla. Continue to whisk until everything is well combined.
In a separate bowl, prepare your dry ingredients. Thoroughly blend your sugar, baking powder and salt into your flour. When it’s well mixed, start to slowly add it to your liquids and continue to mix or whisk until your batter is completely smooth.
Prepare a draining station by placing a cooling rack overtop of a baking sheet and get your funnel ready, the fun is about to start!
Hold your finger over the bottom of the funnel’s spout and use your other hand to ladle some of the batter into the funnel. You want to use everything in the funnel for a single cake, so fill it according to how big you want your cake to be. Your first funnel cake might be a little trial and error, but it’s a technique that you’ll have mastered by your second pour.
Hold the funnel a safe distance away from the hot oil, several inches at least, and then move your finger away from the spout. As the batter streams into the hot oil, move the funnel in a continuous spiral pattern until all the batter is poured out. Use a spatula to encourage every last drop into the fryer.
Leave your cake for 2 minutes and then carefully use a stainless-steel flipper or tongs to flip the funnel cake over. It will stay floating on the surface, so it needs to be flipped to cook on both sides. Let it fry for another 2 minutes and then very carefully remove it. Let any excess oil drain on the prepared cooling rack while you repeat the process with your remaining batter.
Dust all your funnel cakes with the powdered sugar and eat them while they’re still warm.
Make Funnel Cake Without a Funnel
Not all kitchens are equipped with a funnel but that does not mean you should be denied funnel cakes. There are several alternatives you can use to get the same results.
See what you have on hand and try one of the following options:
- Use a decorating bag to pipe your batter into the hot oil
- If you don’t have those, pour your batter into a large Ziploc bag, seal it carefully and then cut one of the bottom corners off to make a spout
- If you’ve got a reliably steady hand, you can pour your batter out of a large measuring cup with a spout
- Find an old squeeze bottle that was originally used for ketchup or mustard and, after making sure it is very clean, fill it with your batter and use that to squeeze into your hot oil
Make Funnel Cake Without a Deep Fryer
Everyone should have access to warm funnel cakes when the need arises, and not having a deep fryer is no reason to deny yourself the pleasure. Any deep pan, saucepan, Dutch oven or even a wok can get the job done for you.
You just need to be sure it’s deep enough that you can heat up at least an inch or two of oil and still have at least 2 inches left so that your oil doesn’t threaten to bubble over the side.
It’s a good idea to have an oil thermometer that you can put in the pan to make sure your oil is hot enough. You’re aiming for 375F. If you don’t have a thermometer, there’s a handy trick you can use to test your oil and all you need is a wooden spoon. Even a wooden chopstick will do.
Warm up your oil while you get your batter ready. When you’re ready to test it, take a wooden spoon and dip it into the oil. The oil will start to boil around the spoon if it’s hot enough.
If it’s too hot the boil with be really rough and violent and then you should cool your oil down a bit before adding your batter.
When your oil is ready, go ahead and funnel your batter into the pan just like described above. You’ll want to be careful flipping your funnel cake because it doesn’t have as much space to float on the surface of the oil in a pan like it does in a deep fryer. Just be sure to get your flipper well underneath it and flip it gently so you don’t spray yourself and your kitchen with hot oil.
Best Toppings for Funnel Cake
How you top your funnel cake is limited only by your own creativity. Powdered sugar is classic and delicious, but there are so many options for you to choose from.
Here are a few ideas to get your wheels turning:
- Warmed peanut butter and marshmallow fluff
- Cinnamon, nutmeg and powdered ginger, especially with a hot toddy in the winter
- Ice cream of any flavor except, perhaps, bubble-gum, which would taste rather odd with a funnel cake
- Syrup – but not just pancake syrup, try a berry syrup or golden maple syrup
- Ice cream syrups, like chocolate or caramel sauce
- Finely chopped dried fruits or candied ginger
- Chips of candy canes
- Cream cheese icing
- Ground or shredded coconut
- Slivered almonds, crumbled walnuts or crushed pistachios
- For a surprise savory take, toast some sesame seeds
How To Store Funnel Cake
If you’ve got leftovers, the best way to store them is in an airtight container at room temperature. If you’ve got enough to layer, you can place a sheet of parchment paper or paper towel between them to absorb any leftover grease and keep them from sticking to each other.
They’ll last on your counter like this for 3 – 4 days. If you prefer to put them in your fridge you can, but make sure they’re really sealed from outside air as they’ll dry out more quickly in your fridge.
If you don’t think you’ll eat them within the next few days, you can also freeze funnel cakes. It’s best to freeze them individually in freezer safe Ziploc bags or plastic wrap to keep them from sticking to each other and making it easy to thaw them one at a time, as needed.
When you’re ready to eat them, you can warm them up using any of the methods above, but it may take a bit of extra time to warm from frozen. Be especially careful in the microwave that they don’t get soggy. The oven or frying pan is probably a safer bet.
Can you fry funnel cakes in olive oil?
You can fry funnel cakes in olive oil, but most people would use a more neutrally flavored choice, like grapeseed oil, soy or canola oil. Peanut oil and coconut oil are also popular choices because they lend a complementary flavor to this sweet treat. If you’re going to go ahead with the olive oil, just be prepared for a slightly more savory undertone.
Are funnel cakes vegan?
Most funnel cake recipes use egg and milk so, no, as a general rule they’re not vegan. If you’d like to make your own at home, you can forgo the animal products and still create a pretty close batter.
Try the following recipe for 4 vegan funnel cakes:
- 3 cups your preferred nut or soy milk
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Powdered sugar, for garnish
Cook them using the same directions as in the recipe above and enjoy!
Can I make funnel cakes in an air fryer?
You can definitely make funnel cakes in an air fryer to cut back on the amount of oil you use. Preheat your machine to 375°F and give it a light spray with your cooking oil.
Your basket should accommodate about 2 funnel cakes at a time. To cook them all the way through and achieve the perfect golden brown exterior it will take about 5 minutes.
Serve them warm and dusted with powdered sugar or your funnel cake toppings of choice.