The Twisted History of Funnel Cake

 

Written by: Maureen Devenny

Put a pin anywhere on a map of the world, and chances are good that wherever your pin lands has a local fried dough delicacy. From doughnuts (New York City) to churros (Spain) to zeppoles (Italy) and beyond, fried dough is popular all over the world.
If your pin were to land on the Jersey shore, that fried dough delicacy would, of course, be funnel cake. The thing that sets funnel cake apart from its fried dough brothers and sisters is its characteristic shape. The individual strands of dough clump together to form a nest of nooks and crannies that catch dusty powdered sugar, which is the other hallmark of funnel cake.

Recipes for funnel cake can be traced back to Europe as early as the 1390s. Funnel cake came to United States when Germans settled in Pennsylvania in the 1700s (they later became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch). They made funnel cake by pouring batter into a bowl with a hole in the bottom, and then holding that bowl over a pot of hot oil. The cakes were finished when they were golden brown, and then sprinkled with powdered sugar and salt (hey that sounds pretty good–we’re going to put a dash of salt on our next funnel cake and report back!).

Funnel cake really got put on the map when it was served at the Kutztown Folk Festival in 1950, a huge celebration of Pennsylvania Dutch culture. The funnel cakes sold like, well, hot cakes, and started to be served at more festivals with street food.

However it got to the shore, funnel cake is tailor-made for sharing on a bench as seagulls squawk overhead. And we know when we get a plate of steaming, crispy, powdered-sugary funnel cake, it’s “history”!
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