Fair foods like candy apples, cotton candy, and shaved ice all seem like magical unicorns–materializing out of thin air and only found in special places, like the 20-year-old, threadbare tent at the county fair. Funnel cake ranks as one of these fine dishes, but unlike cotton candy, you don’t need any special equipment to make it. In fact, you can whip up a perfect replica at home with a box of pancake mix.
How to make funnel cake with pancake mix
All you have to do is heat roughly half an inch of frying oil over medium heat in an eight- or 10-inch skillet. Scoop one cup of complete pancake mix (the just-add-water variety) into a large bowl with a scant 1/2 cup of water and whisk thoroughly. The mixture should be slightly thicker than regularly prepared pancake batter, about the consistency of vanilla cake batter. If you drag the whisk through the batter it should leave lines behind that take over 10 seconds to fade.
Pour the batter into a piping bag, or a zip-top storage bag if you prefer. You could also do this with a kitchen funnel, but you won’t have as much control. If you’re using a storage bag, seal the top and snip off a corner to make a ½-inch hold. This is where you’ll squeeze out the mixture. Once the frying oil has reached a temperature in between 350°F and 375°F, you can drizzle in half of the batter. The key is to move quickly and somewhat erratically, so you end up with the quintessential squiggly funnel cake.
Fry over medium to medium-low heat for two or three minutes per side, keeping the temperature in between 350°F and 375°F. I used a metal fish spatula to lift the funnel cake, and a wooden chopstick to help me control the descent on its other side as I flipped it. The funnel cake should brown deeply, but some of the thicker blobs will still be spongy. Once you’re satisfied with the color and crispiness, transfer it a wire rack to cool and blot with a paper towel.
Don’t worry about shaping your funnel cake into a perfect circle; the oil and pan will take care of that. Try not to break the batter’s stream, or you could end up with a funnel cake that doesn’t stick together in one disc. If you like a funnel cake with thinner lines and a crispier texture, cut a smaller hole in your bag. Likewise, for a funnel cake with thicker lines and a softer texture, cut a larger hole.
You’ll immediately be transported to nights at the county fair as soon as you smell the cakes frying, but it’s the powdered sugar that delivers the authentic fair-night flavor. Dust powdered sugar over the tops of your funnel cakes with reckless disregard for the phrase “too much.” To get the right pasty texture, pile on the sugar while the cakes are still hot.
Pancake Mix Funnel Cake
What you’ll need:
- 1 cup complete pancake mix
- Scant ½ cup cold water (90 to 100 mL)
- Neutral oil for frying
- Powdered sugar for finishing
- Pour 1/2 an inch of frying oil into an eight- to 10-inch skillet. Heat over medium heat until the oil reaches a temperature between 350°F (175C) and 375°F (190).
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the pancake mix and water together thoroughly. Add the batter to a piping bag with a ½-inch hole (or a plastic storage bag and snip one of the bottom corners) and squeeze the batter into the hot oil. Try to guide the batter around the pan and keep a steady stream of batter flowing. Use half of the batter for one funnel cake.
- Fry for two to three minutes per side, or until well-browned. Remove the funnel cake with a slotted fish spatula and blot dry on a paper towel before moving it over to a wire cooling rack. Dust with powdered sugar and serve while hot.