Here’s How to Make a Great America Funnel Cake at Home
I don’t know about you, but when I am stuck at home and really missing Great America, some of the things that I daydream about most are the jaw-droppingly delicious funnel cakes we have at the park. Last season, we officially opened our new funnel cake store, French Quarter Funnel Cakes and Churros, and ever since then, I’ve had a serious funnel cake addiction. Those sweet, crispy fried dough swirls; the endless classic topping options; that mountain of soft serve, dusting of powdered sugar and mile-high whipped cream. It’s the stuff amusement park dreams are made of.
Naturally, when our team was brainstorming things that we could share with our guests that would bring the fun of Great America to homes all around the Bay Area, one of the items at the top of the list was an adaptation our funnel cake recipe for our stay-at-home kitchen situation.
With the help of Erick Ponce, Great America’s executive chef, we’ve concocted a copycat Great America funnel cake recipe that you can make at home. We started with our in-park recipe (which calls for things like five pounds of unsalted butter and ten pounds of sugar—not kidding!) and scaled them down to make about two large funnel cakes. We’ve also made sure that any uncommon ingredients have been replaced with kitchen staples in the hopes that as many people as possible can make this with things that are already in their pantry.
If you’re in the mood for a Bananas Foster funnel cake, read on—or scroll to the bottom for the detailed recipe and instructions.
I’m no professional chef, but I have been passing some of this shelter in place time by binge-watching various cooking and baking competition shows, so I was definitely excited to try something new. The first step was to assemble the ingredients I’d need. Thankfully, the recipe had already been tweaked by Chef Erick to only use ingredients that most home cooks already have at home. That means no added trips to the grocery store, and that I already had everything I needed to get started!
Once I had my Bananas Foster sauce ingredients ready, things really got cooking. The sauce was surprisingly fast and easy to whip up. You’ll need some butter, brown sugar, vanilla extract, bananas, spiced rum (or “whatever rum you have in your cabinet will work,” Chef Erick says) and some heavy cream. All it took was a small saucepan, a whisk and about five minutes to completely fill the kitchen with a heavenly sweet banana smell! Just melt the butter, and then add the rum so it cooks off while you finish everything off. Then add the sugar, stir to dissolve, and let it simmer for a moment. Throw in the vanilla, cream and sliced bananas—then let it simmer on the back burner while you switch your focus to the funnel cake. Scroll down for the full recipe, and watch Chef Erick make the sauce before you get started.
Delicious sauce in less than five minutes? Check!
Next up was the oh-so-easy funnel cake batter. Again, we’ve come up with the perfect copycat substitution so you can make this treat without an added trip out of the house. All you’ll need is pancake mix!
I used Bisquick mix for my batter, which has all the necessary dry ingredients already combined for our budding funnel cake chefs. The mix I used called for milk and eggs, so I added those and stirred everything in a large bowl until smooth. To make the final funnel cake just a bit sweeter, I added a few pinches of sugar and vanilla extract, but that’s totally optional.
The only thing that’s not optional is making sure that whatever pancake mix you use includes at least one egg. Chef Erick says that some mixes don’t call for an egg, so you’ll need to mix one in to get the perfect batter.
Once the batter was finished, I poured it back into my clean measuring cup so I had an easy way to pour the batter into the hot oil. Pro tip: Chef Erick says that an empty plastic syrup bottle with a squeeze top is the best hack for making funnel cakes at home! Put your batter into the bottle, screw the lid back on and presto: a home cook funnel cake batter pourer.
Next up was the big moment—time to fry the funnel cake! I decided to make mine in a Dutch oven; it has high sides and a thick bottom, which was the perfect vessel to heat about three or four inches of oil to a high temperature. You’ll want to use a neutral-tasting oil with a high smoke point. Something like canola oil or generic vegetable oil works great. Chef Erick says you want to want to heat your oil to 375°F before you start frying. If you don’t have a baking thermometer, you can drop a small spoonful of batter into the oil. If it rises to the surface quickly, it’s ready to go.
Here’s where the culinary art part begins. When your oil is up to temperature, you get to quickly and steadily drizzle the batter into the oil. The speed and pattern with which you drizzle the batter determines how dense your funnel cake will be.
Retrospective tip time! Your funnel cake is going to expand to be as large as the vessel you cook it in. If you cook it in an 11-inch-wide Dutch oven, it’s going to be 11 inches wide when it’s cooked. I’m speaking from experience! Be prepared to commit to a large funnel cake if you cook it in a wide pot. It’s a good problem to have, if you ask me.
Chef Erick affectionately calls the fried drizzles the “noodles” of the funnel cake. He says the best approach is to first pour the noodles in a circle. Then make a crisscross pattern from side to side, then diagonally, and finally all around the cake to ensure that there’s a nice thick mesh of fried dough in the final product.
The perfect amount of time to cook on each side is about 2-3 minutes. Just lift a corner of the funnel cake up with a slotted spoon to check if it’s the perfect shade of golden brown. Then give it a flip, let the other side cook and take it out to drain on a paper towel. You can watch Chef Erick make the funnel cake in his home kitchen before you get started.
Once it’s rested for a few minutes, dust it with powdered sugar, slather it in your warm Bananas Foster sauce, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and top with a giant tower of whipped cream.
Voila! You’ve done it! Now call your family (as if they’re not already drawn into the kitchen by this incredible smell), grab some forks and dig in.
California’s Great America Funnel Cake with Bananas Foster Sauce
Makes about 2 large funnel cakes and two servings of sauce, plus a little extra in case you’re craving extra sweet toppings! The recipe takes about 30 minutes from start to finish. Safety note: be sure to keep children away from stovetop and hot oil.
Bananas Foster Sauce
Make the sauce first so it has time to simmer while you make your funnel cake.
- 0.25 cup unsalted butter
- 0.75 cup dark brown sugar
- 0.5 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp spiced rum (or whatever rum you have on-hand)
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 sliced bananas
- Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat.
- Once melted, add spiced rum and stir.
- Add brown sugar to mixture and stir until dissolved.
- Heat until mixture begins to simmer around edge of pot.
- Add heavy whipping cream to mixture and stir to combine.
- Add sliced bananas to mixture and stir.
- Reduce heat and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, while you make the funnel cake.
- 2 cups prepared pancake mix (made according to mix instructions)
- If your mix does not include a fresh egg, add one to the batter
- Oil for deep frying (enough to cover funnel cake, about 3-4” deep)
- Powdered sugar, for serving
- Vanilla ice cream, for serving
- Whipped cream, for serving
- In a bowl, prepare the pancake mix according to the mix instructions. If your mix does not include a fresh egg, mix one into the batter. Whisk until smooth.
- Pour mixture into a pitcher or squeeze bottle.
- In a thick-bottom pot, heat oil to 375°F. To test oil without a thermometer, drop a small spoonful of batter in oil. If it rises to surface quickly, oil is ready.
- Hold the pitcher or squeeze bottle with the funnel cake mixture 3-4 inches above the oil. Wear an oven mitt for safety.
- Pour about 1 cup of funnel cake mixture in a spiral and crisscross motion.
- With a slotted spoon, carefully fry each side about 2 minutes until golden brown. Be careful not to splash hot oil.
- Remove funnel cake and drain excess oil on paper towels.
- Place warm funnel cake on a plate.
- Pour Bananas Foster sauce on funnel cake as desired.
- Dust funnel cake with powdered sugar.
- Serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.