Funnel Cake Adventures
**Originally written for
It all started with a tweet from @AceWeekly. (Translation:
It all started with a Twitter message from the editor of Ace Weekly. See legend
below for other Twitter-speak used in this article). Then came more tweets
about #Funnelcakes and #Funnelcakedisappointments, etc. Apparently, at the first
festival of the season in Lexington, there were no Funnel Cakes and Ace Weekly
was not happy. Many other LexTweepers tweeted in about possible #Funnelcake.
That was about two weeks ago. In the course of all of the
Funnel Cake tweeting, I started tweeting in and looking for Funnel Cakes to
appease Ace Weekly’s palette along with the others.
The MayFest in Lexington came and went, but alas, no Funnel
Cakes. The next weekend was Gardenside’s Fair. Turned out there were Funnel
Cakes there, but Ace Weekly couldn’t make it. Plans were laid to hit the annual
St. Elizabeth Ann-Seton Country Fair at the big church a block from my house.
That’s when I thought “Hmm, another opportunity to do a photo essay on something
everyone else overlooks.” So, I tweeted in that I would be there with camera in
hand to get Ace weekly’s first Funnel Cake bite of the season and would write
about it and about Funnel Cakes in general.
As everyone that attends a fair or a carnival knows, there
is always food sold in those little stands—and that is half the fun of going
(the other half being the rides). The gyros, the sausages, the blooming onions,
the corn dogs, the cotton candy and yes, the Funnel Cakes, among a growing list
of absolutely unhealthy but joyfully yummy goodies.
Some examples of Funnel Cake Stands.
But funnel cakes and pork rinds?
Other kinds of food stands at a fair
Most people get their Funnel Cakes without thinking a bit
about where they came from and why they are so-called “fair fare.” But, I set
out to get the inside scoop on things.
According to my research, the actual Funnel Cake that we
know and love was created by the Pennsylvania Dutch in western Pennsylvania and
eastern Ohio. Called Drecter Kuche (yes, that is German because
the Pennsylvania Dutch are actually the “Pennsylvania Deutsch”). The
vintage recipe from the “Pennsylvania Dutch Cooking” cookbook is as follows:
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups milk
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 to 4 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
Beat eggs and add sugar and
milk. Sift half the flour, salt and baking powder together and add to milk and
egg mixture. Beat the batter smooth and add only as much more flour as needed.
Batter should be thin enough to run thru a funnel. Drop from funnel into deep,
hot fat (375f). Spirals and endless intricate shapes can be made by swirling and
criss-crossing while controlling the funnel spout with a finger. Serve hot with
molasses, tart jelly, jam or sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Start out by adding the dough to the
oil in a round former. Move from former. Let cook.
When nice and golden brown, put on a
Add sugar and other toppings, such as
cinnamon or chocolate syrup
During the late-1800s and into the early 20th
century, the Pennsylvania Dutch folk would have these for special harvest
celebrations. They were a treat and not a normal part of everyday fare. But,
as tourism increased, the Drecter Kuche were served in cafes and
restaurants in the area and many tourists, mainly in the Midwest, carried this
concept back with them.
But the history of “fried dough” foods actually goes way
back into European history. In Finland they enjoy tippaleipä which looks
very similar to Funnel Cakes. The history of tippaleipä goes back to the
1700s. German recipes for Drecter Kuche go back to 1879.
Tippaleipä from Finland
But these treats are typically unleavened (don’t use
yeast). But attendance at fairs and carnivals can also bring out the leavened
fried breads such as “elephant ears” in the US and “beaver tails” in Canada.
Other similar snacks would include “Fry Bread” as found on the Navajo Indian
Reservation in Arizona, zeppole in Italian areas and sopapillas as found in New
Mexico and Texas. At fairs in Arizona you can get Navajo Tacos, fried bread
covered with refried bean and taco fixings, etc.
Sumoflam with a friend in Dayton, Washington
getting ready to enjoy a HUGE Elephant Ear
Back to the present and the subject at hand. May 30th
came along and it was time to meet Ace Weekly and others at St. Elizabeth
Ann-Seton. I had already done some early scouting and photos of the Funnel Cake
stand on the premises.
The Funnel Cake Stand at St. Elizabeth
I met Susan Chafin and her husband. They are from New Port
Richey, Florida and have run “fair fare” stands for over 30 years. Ironically,
in all of these years they had never once been interviewed or asked about their
Funnel Cake business. This was a first!!
L-Susan Chafin, stand owner R-Susan
and some of her team
In the past they had operated pizza stands, taco stands,
BBQ stands and others. They have been doing Funnel Cakes since the 1970s and
currently operate three stands out of their Florida base and enjoy the travel
and the fun. Their children operate the other two. The Chafins travel with the
fairs from May to October and pull their stand with them. They stay in a travel
trailer during their travels.
I asked Susan how many Funnel Cakes they sell a year and
she had no idea. I asked her if the number could be in the tens of thousands
and she doubted that. But, she did agree that they sell thousands of them a
Getting an order ready; patrons lined up for
the goods; ready to go and eat; chowing down
Accompanying Susan and her husband were three other
individuals. Two were from Florida and one was from Somerset, KY. They put in
the hours, getting in at about 10:30 AM for a 12:00 noon start. Since they make
the Funnel Cakes as they are ordered, they do need to premix their dough and
have plenty on hand. By evening time they are pumping out hot Funnel Cakes by
the dozens, working in a human conveyance system. Susan’s husband drops the
dough through the funnel and into the oil and cooks them. Susan grabs the
finished product and stacks it near the sales windows where the others put on
the toppings…mainly powdered sugar, but also honey an even chocolate sauce.
They also serve fountain drinks to wash it down with.
Susan Chafin stacks funnel cakes for the
crowd; a happy patron with a chocolate sauce covered funnel cake
As soon as the four days at the St. Elizabeth Ann-Seton
fair were done, the Chafins would take a couple of days off and then were off to
Murray, KY for their next fair.
Our fearless Ace Weekly editor with her
first funnel cake of the season. #funnelcakesatisfaction
Ace Weekly contributor Keegan Frank getting
ready for his funnel cake
The editor of Ace Weekly showed up with a couple of
other Ace weekly readers/contributors for the official “first bite of the
season” ceremony. Needless to say, all were happy to have fresh, warm, sugary
Funnel Cakes….even me.
David “Sumoflam” Kravetz gets ready for his first funnel cake of the season
A TWITTER PRIMER
Tweet – a message sent through twitter
Tweeps – Twitter people…people who send tweets
#word – Hashmark word. Hashmarks are used to create
groupings that are easily searched in Twitter. So, #Funnel Cake could be
searched and all of the recent tweets can be seen.
@name – the @ mark is used to precede the user name in
twitter. So @AceWeekly would be Ace Weekly’s user name. My user name is @sumoflam.
Follow – Adding a user is termed following in Twitter.
So, if one were to add me as a friend in Twitter, they would follow @sumoflam.
For those wanting to know more, check out the Twitter Fan
Wiki on the internet at
All photos and commentary expressed are copyright of Sumoflam Productions and David Kravetz. All rights reserved.