This recipe came together after reading about a fabulous road trip written by Sarah over at Thyme, one of the more recent sites I’ve been visiting. Whilst being drawn into the Missouri countryside through Sarah’s writing I came across a picture of a gorgeous-looking cake dusted in sugar; a cake I’ve not really seen or heard of before.
After some light Googling I learned this funnel cake was somewhat of a staple at county fairs, made famous by the Pennsylvania Dutch and the Amish. It’s basically a lightly sweetened batter that’s funnelled and squiggled into a round mould sitting in hot oil. Kind of like a doughnut, really, just a different shape and sans the yeast. Once it’s flipped and cooked on the other side it’s drained and liberally dusted with powdered sugar. It’s hot, soft, a little crispy, sweet and damn delicious.
Similar ‘cakes’ also exist in other cultures. There’s the syrup-soaked jalebi in India (love these things), Iran’s zulbia and Austria’s sugar-dusted strauben. I thought I’d step away from the traditional American funnel cake and introduce some aromatics like cardamom and orange zest. Why stop there? A bag of orange blossom pashmak had been sitting in the pantry for a while so this was a good reason to put it to some use before it dissolved away.
Somehow I’ve taken an American carnival classic and given it a Persian outfit. Apologies to the purists. As much as I love the simplicity of your good ol’ funnel cake, imagination got the better of me. For those that want to just try the traditional version, omit the orange and cardamom from the batter, make the cake using a side plate-sized mould and dust it with icing sugar.
Combine all ingredients in a spice or coffee grinder (make sure it’s cleaned well) and pulse until well incorporated. Set aside.
Place the flour, baking powder, salt and caster sugar in a large mixing bowl. Use a whisk to mix the dry ingredients together.
Pour in the milk, beaten eggs, vanilla paste, orange zest and cardamom and using the whisk, beat the mixture to a smooth consistency.
Place the canola oil into a wok or deep skillet and heat to 180°C over a medium flame.
Place a 10 cm non-stick springform tin (without the base) into the oil. Drop 2 tablespoons of the batter into a plastic funnel with a 1 cm nozzle (place your finger under the nozzle as you do this) and, when the oil is at temperature, spiral the batter into the round tin to form a lacy pattern. Allow to cook for about 30 seconds until the bottom is golden before carefully flipping it over to cook for about 20 seconds on the other side.
Carefully remove the funnel cake and place on a tray lined with absorbant paper as you make more.
To serve, place the funnel cakes onto plates, sprinkle over the orange & cardamom sugar and top with threads of pashmak.