Walking down the Ocean City boardwalk, you’re bound to come across the sweet aroma of funnel cakes drawing you in as you spot employees pouring the batter into frying oil through a funnel, and watching as the batter transforms into thin cake swirls, crispy on the outside and doughy on the inside. For many Ocean City first-time tourists as well as frequenters, funnel cakes are one of those must-try foods of the boardwalk, right up there with Thrasher’s fries. You can go classic with powdered sugar on top or fruity with strawberry topping or maybe you will go for vanilla custard over your cake? Whatever your taste buds desire, the possibilities on the boardwalk are endless.
Powdered sugar is the traditional topping but did you know in the medieval times when they used yeast or sourdough batter, they would actually pour sugar syrup on the cakes and then sprinkle a little salt on top? That sweet and sour contrast actually sounds pretty interesting and kind of makes you wonder why no one here does it… or do they? Scavenger hunt anyone?
Fast-forwarding to the nineteenth century, these cakes became a treat people typically enjoyed only during the winter holidays but they would soon became a popular treat enjoyed anytime of the year.
For those Ocean City visitors traveling from Pennsylvania, you’ll be glad to know your Pennsylvanian roots are a major part of our boardwalk! Yes, funnel cakes grew in popularity during the 1950s with the introduction of festivals in Pennsylvania celebrating Dutch culture. You could often find deep fried funnel cakes throughout the festivals for only 25 cents! Can you imagine the line we would see on the boardwalk if they could still be sold for that price? Probably from North division all the way to Somerset. Well, okay maybe not, since there are so many places to choose from, but then again we do love our funnel cakes!
Here’s a proposal: next time you’re visiting Ocean City and get a craving for a funnel cake, why don’t you ask a boardwalk vendor if he/she knows the history of their funnel cakes. Do they go even further back than medieval times? Let’s find out! And on that note: I don’t know about you, but all this talk of funnel cake has aroused a craving for the sweet and crispy cakes!