Funnel Cake. The words alone rush memories from long ago days of visiting carnivals or a lone stand near the crashing waves of the ocean. A little further south, taste buds start to tingle and the mouth begins to water. Somewhere in all of our pasts, funnel cake has been a gateway snack to the much broader realm of fried, sugary, or pastry cuisines. This massive tangle of fried dough can be combined with any number of toppings, from the plain powdered sugar, to chocolate sauce, syrupy-clad fruit, or melting ice cream. On my recent trip to Walt Disney World, I sampled three versions of funnel cakes found throughout the parks and resorts.
My three tasting stops were in World Showcase near The American Adventure, along the BoardWalk at Tasty Sensations, and at Sleepy Hollow Refreshments in Liberty Square. For consistency purpose, as much as for personal preference, I stuck with the traditional form of funnel cake at each location, funnel cake topped only with powdered sugar. It should be noted that a range of additional toppings are available, but change from menu to menu.
Each location offered up its own unique set of challenges. Funnel cake is a very messy snack, and I doused more than one shirt and pair of pants in powdered sugar for this article, but there is a noticeable lack of seating present near The American Adventure stand. In fact, I ended up near Japan’s Torii gate before I could dig in. Meanwhile, BoardWalk’s Tasty Sensation created other problems as it took several visits before I found the stand open for business. Yet, the most challenging circumstances of all came in the corner of Liberty Square, when I found a funnel cake was very much unpalatable at Sleepy Hollow Refreshments.
While Sleepy Hollow Refreshments has quite a bit of seating, with great views, and is always an accessible option for a snack, the taste of their funnel cake was wanting. The actual dough had been fried for too long and had become crunchy instead of the expected chewy. Also, my portion had clearly not been freshly made as it was almost cold when I received it and had a mountain of unmelted powdered sugar piled atop the funnel cake. I am hopeful that this was just a batch that I had received that day, and will certainly give Sleepy Hollow another try. Part of the location’s problem is, in fact, the amount of space in the preparation area of Sleepy Hollow Refreshments. With such a large space, the funnel cakes can be made well in advance. However, it is in this dish’s very nature to be served straight from the fryer, bubbling hot.
The other two locations, at BoardWalk and along the World Showcase Promenade, are very small stalls that barely have enough room for the Cast Members to move around in, but this is a blessing for the funnel cakes they serve. Hot and fresh, both of these funnel cakes were top notch. They were freshly fried, which allowed for some the powdered sugar to melt on contact, creating an intoxicating glaze throughout the stings of dough. The freshness of the preparation also allowed the pieces to give a little easier when being tugged away from one another.
Just like the carnivals and seashores of our collective yesterdays, funnel cakes are right at home in the Vacation Kingdom. They are a rare sugary treat that create an explosive mess as strands are pulled apart, but the mess is half the fun of eating the tangled dough. For my tastes, there is nothing quite as relaxing and smile-inducing as grabbing a heaping plate of funnel cake and staring out across the World Showcase Lagoon.