The Funnel Cake King

A Look at the Treat from the Other Side of the Counter

Frank Wilmer and the tools of his trade.

Funnel cakes supposedly originated as a mid-morning Pennsylvania German snack made by farmers' wives. The name comes from the funnel used to pour batter into the frying pan. Frank Wilmer has adapted the recipe, using an efficient pitcher. Jeremy Berlin hide caption

itoggle caption Jeremy Berlin
Wilmer, nearing retirement, is handing down the family business to his 25-year-old son, Cody.

Wilmer, nearing retirement, is handing down the family business to his 25-year-old son, Cody. Jeremy Berlin hide caption

itoggle caption Jeremy Berlin

In some parts of the country, it wouldn't be summer without that fried dough treat, funnel cake. Found at county fairs, beach boardwalks and amusement parks, a funnel cake is like a lacey, bumpy pancake, deep fried to a golden brown and sprinkled with confectioners' sugar.

And for one man, who's known in some circles as the Funnel Cake King, they've helped make the American Dream come true. As he nears a prosperous retirement in the Florida Keys, Frank Wilmer, a.k.a. Apple Frankie, talks with NPR's Vikki Valentine about his career in the funnel cake business.

Make Your Own Funnel Cakes:

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Yield: about 8 cakes


3 large eggs

2 1/4 cups milk

1/2 teaspoon pure lemon or vanilla extract

4 cups flour

1 cup light brown sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Oil for frying

powdered sugar, cinnamon for dusting

Pour oil to about 1 inch deep in a frying pan (an electric frying pan makes it easier to control the oil temperature) and heat to 375 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, milk and extract. Whisk well. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together. Fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture. Stir until smooth, batter should be somewhat thick, not runny.

Hold your finger over the funnel opening, fill with 3/4 cup of the filling. Place the funnel over the oil, about 8 inches away, and carefully remove your finger. Scribble and criss-cross the filling into the hot oil. Fry until golden on both sides, about 30 seconds. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels. For a traditional funnel cake, dust with powdered sugar. Frank Wilmer suggests experimenting with toppings, such as: cinnamon sugar, spiced apple filling, strawberry filling, chocolate sauce, ice cream, whipped cream.

Repeat the process until all of the batter is used.

Recipe adapted from



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