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Funnel Cake and the Festival

Funnel cake and the Kutztown Folk Festival. Legend, myth, controversy, tradition, or all of the above! Yes, you certainly can’t mention the Kutztown Folk Festival without mentioning funnel cake. What is funnel cake? Where did it originate? What does it have to do with the Festival? A Festival funnel cake controversy?

What is funnel cake? Funnel cake was originally a breakfast or mid morning treat that the Pennsylvania German settlers brought with them from Europe. It begins as a waffle like batter consisting of eggs, flour, baking powder, salt, and milk. It is poured through a 2 cup funnel that has a drain opening of approximately one half inch. The pourer will gracefully maneuver the funnel in a figure eight like motion as it is poured into the heated lard or oil. The narrow lines of the cake allow it to float to the top of the oil, while the artistic figure eights hold it together. It is cooked for 1 to 2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Any good Dutchman will tell you that the only real topping for a funnel cake is powdered sugar.

Now we can’t claim that the funnel cake was created here, however, it is strongly supported that it was introduced to the general public for the very first time at the inaugural Festival back in 1950. One of the Festival’s founding fathers, Dr. Alfred Shoemaker had close ties with many of the Kutztown area farming families that were instrumental in presenting the first, and ensuing Festivals. Dr. Shoemaker asked the Miller family to demonstrate some traditional Pa Dutch foods, funnel cakes included.

Over the years, with some controversy, numerous Festival participants and visitors have questioned exactly where and by whom this first funnel cake was poured. Bring in Lester Miller, 3rd generation of family member participants. A couple of years ago while taking a break from his hoe-down calling duties at the hoe down stage, Lester clarified things. That first year in 1950, Lester’s grandmother, Emma Miller, poured the first festival funnel cake for one of the area’s local grange halls. Shortly thereafter Emma and her daughter, Viola, began pouring funnel cakes at their family run stand during the Festival. When questioned as to how Lester knew this, he was quick to state,” because my mother Viola told me”!

Over the years since 1950 the funnel cake has certainly traveled the world in many different shapes and names. However, Festival visitors can be rest assured that they will be sampling the best funnel cake made right here in it’s home, the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Kutztown!