Funny, I didn’t know you could make those at home…

Ahhh, college, and for the days when one’s diet could consist of large quantities of beer and Cheez Doodles. While writing my thesis at Bates, I lived on three foods: Diet Dr. Pepper, Cracker Jack, and Pillsbury slice and bake chocolate chip cookie dough, straight from the tube, unbaked. Even now, opening those packages is akin to the cannon under a potential avalanche. Once they’re open, it’s all going down, baby. No wonder Weight Watchers calls them “trigger foods.”

During my years in Lewiston, I worked at a local ski area in their restaurant’s kitchen. The food there was better than I knew—we even made our onion rings from scratch. I remember peeling and slicing 150 pounds of onions at a time, then breading them all and placing them in enormous plastic bins. But the thing I remember most was the policy they had for the cooks: we were given free reign to eat whatever we wanted. My Achilles’ heel was the Drake’s display, sporting its rows of FunnyBones. While working there over break one year, I ate almost nothing but, since Commons was closed.

I originally started the quest to recreate snack cakes at PJ’s suggestion way back in 2003, when the Autumn edition of The Baking Sheet

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contained reproductions such as ”Bring Dings”, “Swoon Pies” and “Blinkies”. That was before the advent of the Twinkie-shaped pan, and I was demented enough to reproduce the shape by molding foil around cardboard paper towel tubes.

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This homage to Drakes’ FunnyBones was a little easier: all I needed to do was cut rectangular cakes, fill them with peanut butter filling, and coat them with chocolate. Aside from the challenge not to lick up all the drips (I came close to the famous Lucille Ball in the chocolate factory mess with this one), with some care and a giant spatula, it’s not that hard to come up with 27 homemade treats that are mighty tasty for lunchboxes or just for fun. I call them Peanut Butter Parcels. Shall we get started?

First, we’ll make Chocolate Snack Cake. It can be the base for lots of take-to-school treats; it’s sturdy without being dry, sliceable yet tender. Good for cream-filled cupcakes, whether they wear a white squiggle on top or are turned upside down, coated with marshmallow frosting, and rolled in pink coconut.

First, get the pan ready. Grease a 9” x 13” pan, and line it with parchment paper. I learned my lesson from the brownies, and got the alligator clips out to fasten the paper to the pan, so it doesn’t flop over.

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The cake goes together pretty easily. Cream the butter and add the sugar,

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mixing until well combined and fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until incorporated between each one, scraping the bowl at least once.

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Add the vanilla. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda together,

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and add half of it to the butter mixture. Mix,

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add the buttermilk,

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mix, then add the remaining flour mixture. Mix, again scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure everything is evenly mixed. Here’s what the batter looks like when everything is in.

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Spread the batter in the prepared pan.

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I find an offset spatula to be indispensable in these situations. The bend in the blade is enormously helpful to get a smooth, even top,

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and to spread the batter to the corners without digging a trench in the top.

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Bake the cake for 23 to 25 minutes. When the cake is done (it will pull just slightly from the edge of the pan, and spring back when lightly touched in the center), remove it from the oven and let it cool completely in the pan.

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Now for the filling. Measure the peanut butter (smooth recommended here) into the mixing bowl.

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I find there’s no substitute for the scale when measuring something sticky like peanut butter or vegetable shortening. Did you know a cup of peanut butter weighs 9 1/2 ounces? I later discovered that made a little too much filling; you’ll see that the recipe calls for 3/4 cup, which is a better fit.
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I use as strainer to take the lumps out of the confectioners’ sugar. Plop it on top of the bowl, zero out the scale, and pour the sugar into the strainer until you have 8 ounces.
Stir the sugar through the strainer.

Add a teaspoon of vanilla, and start the mixer on its slowest speed, to combine the ingredients. Things will look rather lumpy.

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Add the milk 2 tablespoons at a time.

Each time I do so, the mix gets smoother.

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The idea is to have a smooth, very spreadable filling that won’t tear the cake when you spread it. It should be soft, but still hold its shape, like this.

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Now we can assemble the cake. Use the parchment to take the cake out of the pan.

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Place the cooled cake on a rack, and split it horizontally to form two layers.

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Carefully lift the top layer onto another piece of parchment. A large spatula is really helpful here.

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Spread the peanut butter filling on the bottom layer,

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and replace the top layer, cut side down. I had to stop in mid-motion to take this picture, and the top cracked a bit. But we’ll soldier on nonetheless.

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Put the cake in the freezer for half an hour; this will help it firm up and be easier to slice.
Now for the slightly fussy part: cutting and coating with chocolate.

Cut the filled cake in thirds lengthwise,

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and in nine rows of 1 1/2-inch wide bars. Pull the cut pieces apart just a bit, leaving a quarter-inch between them.

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Melt 2 cups of chocolate chips or chunks with 2 tablespoons of vegetable shortening. The shortening is what allows the chocolate to dry to a firm coating without having to be tempered.

Pour the melted chocolate coating in a ribbon over the rows of cakes, letting it fall down between them.

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Use a small offset spatula to coat the tops evenly, which will have the added effect of pushing some of the chocolate down over the sides.

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How exact you want to be about getting every bit of the sides coated after this is up to you. It doesn’t take too much to run the spatula around the sides, to seal everything in, but they’ll taste just as good if you don’t.

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Fair warning here: if you’re not a member of the “mud pie” kitchen club, and can’t stand to get things dirty, this ain’t the job for you. I’ll let this photo seal make the case. I can assure you, before it was all over, it was a lot worse looking than this!

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You may need to make another half batch of coating, if you’re determined to get every edge of every cake completely sealed up.

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Refrigerate the cakes to help the chocolate set up, then trim any rough edges at the base, wrap and store in the refrigerator or freezer.

True Drakes devotees may wish to use more chocolate to coat the bottoms; you can harvest the stuff that dripped down through the rack and remelt it; no biggie if there are a few crumbs. Spread a rectangle shape on some parchment, then just plop the cake on top. Chill again, and you’re all set.

There you have it. Your very own, fresher than ever, incredibly delicious Peanut Butter Parcels. Oh boy, I’m in trouble. Could be another avalanche of snacking if I’m not careful!

Buy vs. bake

Buy: 10 pack, $3.79 plus shipping, .38 each, at http://www.drakesfunnybones.com/

Bake at home: .24 cents each (plus you get to lick your fingers!)

Susan Reid
About

Susan Reid grew up in New Jersey, graduated from Bates College and the Culinary Institute of America, and is presently enjoying her fourth career after stints in advertising, running restaurants, and teaching at the New England Culinary Institute. She joined King Arthur in 2002 to ...

comments

  1. Lish

    These look awesome! Funny bones are still the only snack cake I crave! Now my kids can try them too. My husband just said that we will now have to amp up our exercise routines to compensate for all the snacking that will be happening between these and the choco bliss recipe we are waiting for! Thank you so much for recreating memories!

    Yeah, Alicia, it was a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it!;-)

    Reply
  2. Liz Brooks

    These sound delish!

    Trust me, they are. I used our Burgundy Chunks for the topping, and it was all that, I can assure you. They even last quite a while on the counter (I still have some from a week ago that my husband didn’t find yet…Susan

    Reply
  3. BigSis

    Wow! What a lot of work and chocolaty mess! I bet they were delicious though. It reminds me of being in college and having a Ding Dong and a Dr Pepper first thing every morning before my 8 am class. Breakfast of champions, huh?

    Yeah, our bodies were a heck of a lot more resilient then, I think. The cake wasn’t really that hard; you just have to be prepared for the consequences of melted chocolate and gravity. And if you’re willing to let the chocolate drip where it may and not worry about getting all sides coated, it’s a great treat. Susan

    Reply
  4. TracyT

    I am an employee-owner at KAF and got to be part of the planning – behind the scenes – for the snack cake smackdown! I cannot tell you the joy I felt when I heard that Susan was doing FunnyBones. I had to stop in the test kitchen and express how overwhelmed with excitement I was! The day the peanut butter parcels showed up in our employee kitchen was a good day at KAF! The call “Homemade FunnyBones in the kitchen!” went down the hall and suddenly the room was filled. We started out nice – people just taking half a snack cake, leaving some for our co-workers, but then – when you stand guard over the second half, that kind of defeats the purpose. So, so, so good!

    Reply
  5. Daria

    Trigger food, for sure! These are my husband’s favorites!! Yum!

    Do you think that these can be frozen after making, so the batch will a. last longer and b. not just disappear in 5 minutes after the chocolate cools?

    They sure could. The chocolate sets up nicely, so you can wrap them individually and pop them into lunchboxes as you need them. Susan

    Reply
  6. Lesley

    We can’t do the peanut filling, but these look like sooo much fun. Can you recommend a vanilla filling? I thought maybe fluff, but I thought it wouldn’t spread.
    Hi Leslie,
    Check out the filling from yesterday’s Twinkie blog. It should fit the bill to a “T” ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  7. Elizabeth in NJ

    Do you bake w/ alligator clips in place?? They are a great idea, but I thought they would melt. Thanks!

    The clips can go into the oven. They’re made of spring steel, so unless your oven gets to blast furnace temperatures, there’s nothing to worry about! Susan

    Reply
  8. Cathy

    Oh, these look awesome. I will definitely make these. These remind me a little of a recipe in a Death By Chocolate cookbook I have. Dense hazelnut chocolate cake, cut into triangles, with a raspberry ganache filling, covered in dark chocolate. I made them once for a dinner party. They were time-consuming to make, but worth it.

    Reply
  9. Becky

    When moving cake layers, I found that a flexible thin plastic cutting sheet (like the cookie mat) was perfect for supporting layers without too much trauma to the cake itself. Use the big spatula to lift the cake then slide the mat underneath/in between. They’re also good for catching dribbles and crumbs under cakes, then you just dump the crumbs and wash off in the sink.

    Great idea, Becky – thanks for sharing- PJH

    Reply
  10. Hoa

    Instead of adding two tablespoons of vegetable shortening, could you add two tablespoons of peanut butter in the chocolate coating? Also, can natural peanut butter be used in the filling? Thanks in advance for responding.

    Hoa, We have not tried these substitutions. Peanut butter is about 50% fat. So, 2 Tablespoons of PB will only give you half the fat of 2 Tablespoons of shortening. A natural peanut butter uses different ingredients to hold the oils in emulsion. This may or may not effect the final texture of the filling. Experiment, have fun! Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  11. Jennifer

    Okay, Thanks for ruining even the idea of a diet. *grin* I can not let my son see these. he’ll want them for his lunch. Though on second thought if he wants them, he’ll have to make them. And he does need practice in the kitchen. He only has 5 years before college.

    Reply
  12. Lindsay

    OMG…this looks amazing. I’m fairly new to baking in general, so I have a question: can you put the PB frosting directly on top of the cake instead of splitting it in half, and then pour the chocolate over or would the melted chocolate make the frosting runny?

    I’ve never heard of funny bones either…is this an east coast snack cake? I’m a good ol’ midwestern gal and I’ve never heard of these wonders in my life!

    I think that if you let the chocolate cool to where it’s barely lukewarm, but not thickened, you could do that – should work just fine.

    Drake’s Cakes are Hostess’ chief competitor out here in the East. Their Web site is – uh, “challenging” to look at, but if you want to see what they offer – here it is. PJH

    Reply
  13. Mary Birnbaum

    I used to love peanut butter (sigh) but now am allergic. There are other nut butters out there, and I am daringly going to try to make a hazelnut butter and put that in the filling. If it is not rich enough, I would prefer to use butter, rather than vegetable shortening. Isn’t that stuff the notorious transfatty acid? There are a lot of nut and seed butters that might work, if anyone encounters peanut allergies in their snack community.
    Hi Mary,
    In the test kitchen, we use Trans-fat free Crisco. I love your idea of trying other nut butters for the filling. You GO girl! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  14. Tom Mix

    I want to try these but I see plenty of opportunities for failure re ultimate presentation. Horizontal slicing ( I cannot do it without one end being 1/32″ wide and the other 2-1/2″) Then spreading of frosting is tricky too. Nevertheless, I’m game and I will report back!

    It’s a challenge, Tom – but as you said, you’re game. Try this: Put the cake on a countertop. Lay your knife on the same countertop, with the serrated blade facing the cake. If by chance the blade is about halfway up the cake, slice the cake while leaving the handle of the knife ON THE COUNTERTOP; just kind of push and saw it along without picking it up. Another thing you can do is cut the cake in quarters instead of in halves – that might be easier, too. As for spreading frosting: no prob, it’s soft. For filling: Wet your hands and have at it. Really. Forget the spatula, use your wet fingers. The water will just be absorbed into the cake and make it even moister. Report back! PJH

    Reply
  15. Mary F.

    These sound like a great lunchbox treat; I love the idea of freezing them. I think I’ll try these as cupcakes, so I don’t have to cut up a cake. Chocolate and P.B. are my favorite combo!

    Reply
  16. flipflopmom

    OH MY WORD!! I just bought a $25 GC for my sons Golf Coach/German Teacher….. and NOW I don’t want to hand it over to him… ha ha ha ha!! He’ll never know.. right??? Kidding.. actually I usually take a fall saturday and head over to Norwich to buy products for the Holiday Seasons…. I’m going to have to keep this recipe in mind for Christmas gifts!! Thank you!!

    Reply
  17. FRAN S

    I MADE THE CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER AND FUDGE CAKE LAST WEEK FOR MY SONS BIRTHDAY. I THOUGHT IT CLOSELY RESEMBLED A FUNNYBONE IN FLAVOR. HOW WOULD IT BE TO MAKE THIS RECIPE IN CUPCAKE PANS, SLPIT THEM, FILL THEM AND GLAZE THEM? You’ll have to modify the baking time but otherwise it should work fine. Let us know how it turns out! Molly @ KAF

    Reply
  18. Lisa

    These look amazing! I’ve always been a sucker for Funny Bones, but now I’ll get to make them at home, knowing all of the ingredients going into it! By the way, I was at the Natural Products Expo East show in Boston this weekend and the nice guys at the KAF booth gave me a FREE box of your new cake flour! I mentioned I read the blog and they were happy to give me this sample. Thanks guys!!! Can’t wait to use it. :)

    Reply
  19. Wendy

    Tom,

    Try using fishing line to cut the cake. Just have it long enough to reach across the length/width of the cake, hold an end in each hand and run (keeping horizontal), through the cake. A good friend of mine shared that secret with me, and it works great!

    Reply
  20. Leo

    Hi There…back in the ’70′s I had a job for a short while(tough night shift) in the Drakes R&D bakery working on the Funny Bones…Ha, you’re homage is great!!
    I’m gonna do something like that, just hope I don’t get a nightmare of reliving life with peanut butter and choco cake at my ankles.
    -Leo

    Leo, I’m envious… sort of. Or maybe not. I’d guess you got pretty tired of Funny Bones pretty fast, eh? :) PJH

    Reply
  21. Katy

    For Tom – what about baking the cake in a jelly roll pan instead, then just cutting it down the center for two halves that can be stacked? The cake might bake a little more quickly than in a 9×13, but it’d be easier than torting!

    Reply
  22. Megan C.

    Thank you for all the photos! I’m such a visual person, so while I could probably read the recipe and have these treats come out okay, the photos mean I won’t second guess myself if I did something right. (Like the peanut butter filling consistency).

    Reply
  23. Kristi

    Omg, I’m glad I found this, not that there is no more funny bone being made by my number one company! My question is can I get the exact amount use for the cake n filling n chocolate and what temp to cook the cake at.can you Email me the info? I want to make these tomorrow jan 20 , my mom is coming to c me after 5 years of my husband n I being in California with the marine corps, we r now in Pennsylvania Pittsburg on recruting , she is only 4 hour difference now! Super excited to do this. I alo seen a comment on twinky? Can I get that r to? Ty bunches!

    I just sent the recipes to you, happy baking!-Jon

    Reply
  24. ST

    Well, I asked my step father in law what he wanted for his birthday and he mentioned he wished he could have Funny Bones again. So very glad I found this recipe! However, I am in Kristi’s boat, may I also request the list of ingredients and baking time/temps as well?

    Thank you so much for sharing these recipes! I hope I do this tasty treat justice for my father in law, plus – I can’t wait to see what this elusive treat tastes like!

    Here’s the recipe for Peanut Butter Parcels – enjoy! PJH

    Reply
  25. Angela

    Do you happen to have any ideas on how to make a similar filling with caramel or butterscotch? We have peanut/treenut allergies in home so no nut butters are allowed. Thanks!
    I think MJ’s caramel frosting is a good choice; you could salt or not, as you choose. Susan

    Reply
  26. Lea

    Oh, my goodness! I’ve been searching for this for so long, especially since they removed them from supermarkets! This recipe looks to be very delicious, and I must try it. Thank you very much for posting this recipe!!! :)

    Reply
  27. Andrea

    OMG, these sound SICK! Funny Bones were my favorite. But even when you still could get these recently, they weren’t the same as 30 years ago, before they substituted many of the ingredients with junk. I can’t imagine them homemade with organic, real ingredients. BTW,do you happen to have a recipe for Twinkies? Thank you so much!

    Reply
  28. April R.

    OK, so mine didn’t look anywhere near as pretty as yours…but OH MY GOD do they taste AMAZING!!! Made these for my dad’s 55th birthday today and I cannot WAIT for him to try them!!! Thanks so much! He LOVED Funny Bones! :)

    Reply
  29. Donna S.

    Oh I am so happy to find this, I have a special person who is passing away that has been asking for funny bones. That was out favorite when we were kids as of right now he maybe has 2 weeks (cancer). I want to run to the store and make these for him hopefully he can have a little bite. One question can you use that bakers wax to mix in the chocolate instead of oil to set it? I have so many chocolate covered fruit etc that call for the wax. Please let me know asap. Thanks so much for sharing this is going to put a smile on his face!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel

      Donna, we’re so sorry about your friend, but glad you found us; I’m guessing the wax would work fine, since you’re simply making a chocolate coating, as you do for fruit. Best of luck – you sound like a good friend, and I’m sure he appreciates your care and love. PJH

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