Ever beg your parents for funnel cakes as a kid at the state fair come late summer and after hours of listening to you, they’d buy you a funnel cake and let you scarf down the entire thing and then you made them listen to you moan about your tummyache from all that fried dough bouncing around in your belly while riding the ferris wheel? Neither did we. Anyways, there’s no worry of any of that happening with this recipe for mini funnel cakes. A mere two or three bites each, they’re just the right size…for having several.–Renee Schettler Rossi

A mini funnel cake dusted with confectioners' sugar.

Mini Funnel Cakes

5 / 4 votes
These mini funnel cakes are as simple and easy to make as pancakes but a heck of a lot more novel. And chances are you have everything you need at home. Here’s how to make them.
David Leite
CourseDessert
CuisineAmerican
Servings15 to 20 cakes
Calories68 kcal
Prep Time45 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time1 hour

Equipment

  • Plastic squeeze bottle* (optional), 4-inch metal pastry ring* (optional)

Ingredients 

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups milk, preferably whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest, preferably organic
  • 1 large egg
  • Peanut oil or vegetable oil, for frying
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for sprinkling

Instructions 

  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  • In a medium bowl, mix the milk, vanilla, zest, and egg until combined. 

    ☞ TESTER TIP: Want to get some of the prep done ahead of time? Tuck the flour mixture in a covered bowl or resealable plastic bag. And cover and refrigerate the milk mixture for several hours or up to overnight and stir before using.

  • Just before you fry the funnel cakes, gently stir the milk mixture into the flour mixture to create a thick batter. Slowly pour the batter into a plastic squeeze bottle or a glass measuring cup with a pour spout.
  • Line a baking sheet with paper towels or a brown paper bag that you’ve cut open. Pour enough oil into a large, shallow skillet to reach a depth of 1/2 inch and heat the oil until it registers 350°F (176°C) on an instant-read thermometer.
  • If you’re using a metal pastry ring,* place it in the pan of oil. Squeeze the batter from the squeeze bottle or pour it from the measuring cup or dribble it from the tip of a spoon into the ring, moving the bottle back and forth and connecting pieces of dough in a zigzag pattern. If you’re not using a metal pastry ring,* that’s cool, just squeeze the batter from the squeeze bottle or pour it from the measuring cup or dribble it from the tip of a spoon into the oil—being careful not to hold the spoon too far above the hot oil or it may splash. Then zigzag the batter back and forth across itself a lot so that the funnel cake is self-contained in a circle.
  • Cook the mini funnel cakes, a couple at a time, for about 45 seconds. Using tongs, flip the funnel cake over and, if using the metal ring, remove it. Cook the funnel cake until light or golden brown and no longer doughy inside, about 45 more seconds. Transfer the funnel cake to the paper towels or paper bag to drain and repeat with the remaining batter. 
  • Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar while still warm and serve straightaway.

Notes

*How to make these funnel cakes without the metal pastry ring

The author of this recipe indicates that you need a squeeze bottle and a pastry ring to make these mini funnel cakes. Let’s carefully examine this assertion. These items may be useful though they’re not essential. Trust us. We tried them without the extra expenditure and, as you’ll see from our alternate instructions in the recipe, everything still came together quite nicely.
The Southern Tailgating Cookbook

Adapted From

The Southern Tailgating Cookbook

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Nutrition

Serving: 1 cakeCalories: 68 kcalCarbohydrates: 13 gProtein: 2 gFat: 1 gSaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 1 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 13 mgSodium: 53 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 3 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2013 Taylor Mathis. Photo © 2013 Taylor Mathis. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

What is there to say about the funnel cake? It’s awesome. This recipe turned out 18 of the best mini funnel cakes I’ve had in a long time. I grew up on the Jersey shore, and these were a staple of boardwalk food there. These really brought me back to another time and place.

As suggested in the recipe, the ingredients can all be prepared ahead of time and brought to a tailgate party or camping. No overnight refrigeration of the batter is needed if you’re making them immediately. Using the ring keeps everything nice and neat with no loose ends. The 45 seconds specified is a good starting point, but just use your judgment. You’ll see a slight browning on the outer edges of the funnel cake, and this is when you want to turn the cakes as the timing will vary somewhat depending on the amount of batter you put in. My cooking times varied slightly from 45 seconds to 1 1/2 minutes, depending on the amount of batter used.

The funnel cakes should be served immediately, as they tend to become soggy after a while. I froze the extras and defrosted them for a few minutes then popped them in the toaster for a bit and drizzled them with maple syrup. The pastry ring also turns out a funnel cake that’s the perfect size for a quick snack. I also free-formed a couple big funnel cakes, just like the ones on the boardwalk, and they were just as good. I tripled the recipe to have more batter because my son and his friends tend to devour them and they can even make them themselves.

I made this recipe to make up for all of the $6 funnel cakes that I passed up all summer long. The batter is similar to a pancake or crêpe batter and comes together simply with ingredients that anyone is sure to have on hand.

My squeeze bottle had a very fine tip, so the mini funnel cakes came out quite crisp. I like mine a bit more doughy, so I’d probably make the tip larger. A thermometer is critical here, as 350°F is the perfect temperature for frying. I didn’t have metal rings to shape the funnel cakes and, in my cavalier way, I believed I could free-form them. My handiwork left much to be desired, so I used a few sacrificial metal Mason jar bands, and they worked perfectly.

Although we tried our best, we couldn’t eat all of the cakes. I normally don’t save batter with baking powder, but there was so much I didn’t want to waste it. I refrigerated the batter and used it for crepes the next morning and they came out quite well.

This mini funnel cakes recipe was fun to make. I absolutely loved the size—each was just a couple bites and you didn’t have to feel guilty for eating one of those monster-size funnel cakes you can buy at the fair. These were much better, too—fresh and crisp and with a slight lemon aroma from the lemon zest. Delicious! Everybody loved them!

I used the advance advice in the recipe as we were gone the whole morning and wanted something on the table for our afternoon Kaffeetrinken (how very German). I prepped the mini funnel cakes the night before and then I mixed the batter after coming home, heated the oil, and voilà. In a snap we had delicious, fresh funnel cakes on the table.

The idea with the squeeze bottle is great. A little patience is needed to get the thick batter into it, but squeezing the batter into the hot oil works like a dream. I didn’t use the metal pastry ring (I don’t have one) but it worked just fine without it, just squeezing the dough into the oil in a tight spiral pattern. The cooking time for me was a bit more than 45 seconds on each side and as long as 75 to 90 seconds. This recipe was very fun to make and is definitely a keeper!

The locust horde (read: kiddos) left nothing in their wake. We always, always buy funnel cakes at the State Fair of Texas, so they were excited to get to make this treat at home.

Assembling the ingredients took all of 5 minutes. I’d liken the batter to that of pancake batter. We put the batter into a pancake pourer with a spout and we got a little happy with the batter at first and put too much in the ring, but we eventually found a swirly with a quick zig and a zag worked well to make the lacy confections. I only recently started frying, as I was intimidated by it, but with a frying thermometer, the guesswork is taken out of the equation. Eat the mini funnel cakes quickly after frying because nothing fried is good cold.




About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.


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9 Comments

  1. There is nothing more fun in the dead of an Alaskan winter than to call an impromptu Funnel Cake Jamboree! Much like our Pancake Jamborees, but actually easier. I use a bit of cornstarch in place of some flour and seltzer (if I have it) in place of some of the milk. Basically, crepe batter. The gang all crowds in the kitchen, cold beer is poured and whoever yells Shotgun! gets the first one.