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You Can Have Funnel Cake Without Going to Fair

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If you're like us, you go to the state fair for the funnel cake—not the amusement rides. But for when the fair's not in town, Samantha Seneviratne is showing us how to make the fried treat at home.

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She told me that I would grow out of it. But I never believed her. Between the ages of 8 and 16, I was certain that the thrill of being shaken and spun while strapped into a rickety and seemingly unsafe amusement park ride could never ever grow old. I was particularly fond of a one contraption at my local park. It was made up of two large, rubber sheets set up about a foot from each other. The objective of this “ride” was to simply fling yourself from one bouncy sheet to the other for as long as you could handle. For me, that could have been an eternity.

I can still remember the look of disgust on my mother’s face when I asked her to give it a try. That didn’t sound fun to her. And she told me that one day it wouldn’t sound fun to me either. Nonsense!

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And those free-falling days weren’t just about the adrenaline. From slushies to hot dogs, I was a fair food fanatic. After a good dose of whiplash, I craved deep-fried fare: fat funnel cakes soaking through paper plates that could hardly hold their heft; mounds of powdered sugar that made us cough a little as we ate; faint sounds screaming in the background while we indulged.

Sugar, grease, and sunshine. Those were the days. 

I’m sad to report that as I age, the thought of paying an admission fee in order get jostled aggressively no longer appeals to me. My stomach is not as ironclad as it once was. But there is one aspect of a good-old amusement park that I would happily stomach now: the food. And thankfully, I don’t have to go further than my own kitchen to get it.

Funnel Cake

Makes 6

1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Vegetable oil, for frying
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the milk, butter, vanilla, and egg. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the flour mixture and whisk in the milk mixture, a little bit at a time, until the two are completely combined.

Prepare a pastry bag with a large round tip (I used an Ateco #806). Set the bag in a tall glass with the tip folded upwards. This will keep the batter in the bag while you fill it. Add about 1 cup of the batter to the bag at a time.

Attach a candy thermometer to a heavy-bottomed medium pot. Add about 2 inches of oil and heat it to 375° F. Cover a baking sheet with a few layers of paper towels and set aside.

Once the oil reaches the correct temperature, hold the bag over the oil and let the batter come out in a steady stream, swirling the bag to create a rough circle, overlapping as necessary. Immediately fold the tip of the bag up to stop the flow of the batter and set it back into the tall glass.

Fry the cake until puffed and golden brown on one side, about 1 minute. Using a fish spatula, flip the cake and cook until the other side is golden, another 45 seconds to 1 minute.

Transfer the cake to the prepared sheet to drain, then repeat with the remaining batter.

Transfer the cooked cakes to a serving plate and dust liberally with confectioners’ sugar. Serve hot.

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Samantha Seneviratne, the voice behind Love, Cake and the author of the book The New Sugar and Spice

Tags: funnel cake, fried food, fair food, fair, state fair, fried, fried dough, dessert, snack