Rosettes: funnel cakes in fancy dress

Rosettes2

Would a funnel cake by any other name taste as sweet? It certainly would if it were a rosette. Rosettes are what funnel cakes grow up to be after the’ve been to finishing school.

But how? and why?

Like pancakes, fruitcakes, and flatbread, there’s no one single origin or one single country to which rosettes or funnel cakes can be linked. Frying thin, sweet batter on decorative irons appears in history in Sweden, Norway, and Finland, but also Turkey, Malaysia, and Iran. Versions even appear in Mexican culture long before any of these treats reached American shores.

As Alton Brown would say, “I’m no nutritional anthropologist,” but can’t you see an enterprising housewife pouring some leftover batter into a simmering pot of oil to cook it quickly before the fire went out? Like hushpuppies, she probably fed the leftovers to the household animals, or to the children to keep them quiet before bedtime.

Once she and the family got addicted to the sweet-fried goodness, I can see her searching for a way to put her stamp, her identity into this concoction. Add in a twist of metal to make a special design, and our lady soon becomes known for her unique take on this common, everyday food.

At least, that’s the way I see it in my mind’s eye. How about you?

Rosettes may seem intimidating or complicated, but they’re very easy to make. And once you get the hang of dipping and frying, you can turn them out by the dozens. Let’s check it out.

To make rosettes, you’ll need a rosette iron. The iron consists of a handle and removable decorative molds. For this model, the molds screw on and off so that you can change them as often as you like. More on this later.

For mixing the batter, you’ll want a bowl that will fit the iron right down to the very bottom. You’ll be able to get more rosettes this way with much less waste.

In this bowl, whisk:

2 large eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons sugar

1 cup milk

½ teaspoon vanilla

One of the keys to light and crisp rosettes? Sifting! While I do fluff up my flour before measuring, I don’t often sift it. In this case, though, you want your ingredients to stay light so they’ll incorporate easily. Less mixing = more tender, so do take the extra time to sift in 1 cup flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Whisk well until no lumps remain. Cover and set aside in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, but no more than 60 minutes.

When you’re ready to fry, having your stage set will be a tremendous help.

On a foil or parchment-lined baking sheet, set up your batter bowl, your irons, and a pair of tongs or a wooden chopstick to help flip over the cooking rosettes.

Beside this tray, set up a heavy, deep pot of oil and heat it to 365°F. Be sure to leave plenty of extra space, as the oil will rise during the cooking process.

Here’s a hint: If you covered your bowl with plastic wrap or a shower cap, be sure to remove that from the tray. Hot iron + cold plastic = one big mess.

On a separate lined tray, place a few large gridded racks for draining and cooling the rosettes. Mine is on a table outside of the photo, but you’ll see it later.

Choose your design, screw it onto the handle firmly, and set it in the hot oil for 1 minute.

Hold the hot iron over the oil to allow the excess oil to drain off.

Quickly move the hot iron to the batter bowl. Submerge the iron into the batter so that it comes half to 3/4 of the way up the iron.

Take special care to see that the batter doesn’t flow over the top of the iron. Hold the iron in the batter for a 10 count.

Bring the batter-laden iron back to the oil and submerge it once again. The oil will roil and bubble.

Don’t be surprised if your first few rosettes are no-settes. It takes a little practice to get the hang of the right dip time, fry time, etc. Just like pancakes and waffles, you can snack on the rejects as you make more.

Once you have it down pat and everything is clicking along, you’ll notice your rosettes will fry for a bit and then begin to separate from the iron. Eventually the rosette will slip off of the iron and float freely in the oil.

Be sure to flip them after one side is golden brown to allow the second side to brown up.

A word to the wise. If you do decide to change irons during your frying, be sure to protect your hands. The iron is rocket hot!

After frying, transfer each rosette to the draining rack. Check out the two rosettes at the bottom of the photo. The rosette on the left is perfect, but there are a couple of things wrong with the rosette on the right. Take a look and see if you can figure it out.

Got it? First, and most obvious, it’s a tad overcooked. Rosettes should be a light golden brown all over.

The second problem, which isn’t as obvious, is that the rosette is wrong side up on the draining rack. If you don’t place the hollow side down, extra oil will collect in the channels and turn your rosettes from light to leaden.

As much as I love the delicate snowflake look of the rosettes, some days you just aren’t going to have a rosette iron on hand. Check out this cool new product, the Pancake Pen. You just fill it with your batter, then squirt it into the hot oil and Bazinga! Funnel cakes!!!

The recipe for the batter is basically the same, but with a little baking powder as well. Check out the tips section of the recipe for specifics.

As the name implies, the Pancake Pen also makes great pancakes, either rounds or fancy designs. I’ve tried to cut down on the gadgets I’ve been buying, but this one is definitely a keeper. Pancakes, cupcake batter, even sauces will be a breeze (squeeze) with this.

To finish off your fried fantasy, top with plenty of confectioners’ sugar or non-melting sugar. For funnel cakes, there’s no such thing as too much sugar on top.

The delicacy of the rosettes calls for a more modest amount of topping, to enhance the curves and swirls of the patterns rather than cover them. I think our collective ancestral creative housewife would be thrilled to see her traditions carried on and universally enjoyed.

Please make, rate, and review our recipe for Simple Rosettes.

Print just the recipe.

MaryJane Robbins
About

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...

comments

  1. Akagriff

    I have a Rosetta iron that my mom gave me. The box states that it was manufactured in the 1890s. Ive never seen Rosetta’s made so I’ve been intimidated to use it. I’m going to try this out this weekend.
    WOW! That’s a piece of kitchen history you have. I’m so glad you’re going to try it out. Let us know how it goes. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  2. Sherri S

    Thank you for reminding me of a tradition from my husbands family. Since we are all having dinner together this Sunday, I will get out the rosette irons and teach the kids how this is done. (Kids are now 23 & 25)!
    His parents always made a plate of rosettes for their friends at Christmas time.
    How great that you are bringing back the family tradition. “kids” are never too old to learn something special about their family and create new memories. Have a wonderful time! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  3. mikest

    My mom found her mom’s rosette irons last year and started making them again. Not from the 1890s, but depression era from some iron place that used to be in Illinois. They were really good. I wonder if you can melt some chocolate chips and drizzle some in the channels after they’ve drained… Chocolate surprise… Hmmm….
    Bet you could soften some Nutella and pipe it in. OH yeah!!! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  4. mumpy

    have to comment on the ‘snack on the rejects’ remark….years ago i was baking cookies for a gift? bake sale? classroom? and putting the rejects, as i thought of them, on a separate plate – you know, the flowers that look more like an amoeba, or reindeer that look like mutant lizards….my hub came into the kitchen and asked why there were two plates….my then-9-yr-old daughter explained that “those are the perfect cookies and these are the… um… FAMILY cookies”….ever since, baked goods have been divided into ‘perfect’ and ‘family’ categories….which is actually rather reasonable since NOTHING seems to be ‘rejected’ around here!
    That’s awesome! Just like family, we like the ones with the little flaws :) ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  5. sarahgrace

    This post makes me want to give rosettes another go! What is the best way to store them and how long will they keep before going soggy?
    Hi there,
    These really are one of those “make it and serve it” treats, but you could put the leftovers in a plastic bag for an overnight storage. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  6. knitwitter

    My mother’s family make a version of these they call “Izenkezlies” (I’-zen-keez-lees). I figure it’s an Anglicized version of German for “iron-cakes”. When my great-grandmother’s iron began to wear out, my dad used it as a pattern and made new irons for my grandmother, mom, and aunt – but only my mom’s has a heart in the middle!
    Oh, that is so sweet! Thanks for making me smile today. :) ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  7. jcanfiel

    Thanks for bringing back some good memories. My Nana always made rosettes – just when she felt like it I guess. I don’t remember having them necessarily for special occasions, but every once and awhile they would appear. Yummy and pretty! I’ll have to see if my mom kept her irons or not – might be something to try in the future.
    Definitely give your mom a call. Even if you can’t find the irons, you can find the memories. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  8. sguerin

    What’s the best oil to use? these sound delightfully fun to make.

    I used regular bottom shelf vegetable oil, for the ones in the catalog photos. They came out nice and crisp. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  9. faddiss

    I found an iron set at an estate sale and want to use it for Xmas cookies but now I realize they won’t keep hmmm. Just have to eat them up I guess.

    Reply
  10. jrjoyce1000

    Thirty years ago, a co-worker would bring in a huge plate of these beautiful treats. Now I’m looking for a quality cast iron set of my own. Most sets made in the USA are cast aluminum with folks complaining of difficulty removing the cookie from the iron. King Arthur offers a set. Has it been tested for good results? Thanks for helping me locate a rosette set.

    Sure we’ve tested it – and this set was used in the blog! If you have questions during the process, don’t hesitate to call the Baker’s Hotline direct at 802-649-3717. Happy Frying! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  11. mlicata

    Thank you for having this recipe!!
    Now, with the sifting flour thingy…
    is the flour gently spooned into the 1 cup measure, and then sifted, or do you sift first, and then measure 1 cup of the ‘sifted flour’. This always confuses me, and I need help on this.
    Let me know, thank you!!
    Excellent question, and one that can definitely be confusing.
    Sifting before measuring used to be done to get the little bits and pieces of bran, chaff, critters, etc. out of the flour. Nowadays our flours are tripled sifted at the mills, so that step isn’t needed any longer. HOWEVER some modern recipes will still have you sift the flour first as part of the method to lighten up your cup of flour.

    In general, you want to fluff the flour, sprinkle it into the cup, then level it off. If the recipe directions call for sifting ingredients together after measuring, or state 1 cup of flour, sifted then you should measure the cup of flour as usual but sift it before using it in the recipe. Basically, if the word sifted comes AFTER the word flour, you measure first then sift, and vice versa.

    Hope this helps!! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  12. debcarle

    My mother-in-law taught me to make Rosettes 30 years ago. She now has Macular Degeneration in her eyes and can’t see much except shadows, so I make them for her at Thanksgiving or Christmas. She just loves it!

    Rosettes are tedious and time consuming, but once you get your oil and irons the right temperatures, they are fun to make. I usually have three irons going at the same time.

    We have always used a powdered sugar icing. The secret to this is after the rosettes have cooled, dip your rosettes in the icing, stack them on your cookie sheet (channel side up), put them in the oven overnight on a really low temperature and they are nice and crisp the next morning. If you don’t crisp them up in the oven, they are soggy from the icing and that’s not good!! After crisping them up, I usually store them in a plastic container like Tuperware or Lock & Lock.

    They are great for giving at Christmas. Not many people know what they are, let alone ever tasted them. But they just melt in your mouth!

    I also have different shapes and sizes for different holidays & seasons.
    Thanks for sharing your secret to keeping these crisp. I’ll definitely be giving it a try. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  13. tiv

    Hello! Here in Finland we traditionally bake funnel cakes for 1st of May celebrations. Winter is over and we celebrate spring – and also Labour Day.
    Mostly we bake our funnel cakes in a mold. The mold is for instance a used and washed can (top and bottom removed). The mold is placed in the hot oil. The batter is then squirted inside the mold and the funnel cake will be a “ball” or a nest.
    Icing sugar all around and enjoy!
    Rosettes we also have, but I found them too difficult and even more messy to do.. :)
    Best regards and thank you for your great recipies!

    Reply
  14. pammyowl

    Absolutely you can store them! I grew up surrounded by Norwegians, am one myself, and every Christmas,both of my Grandmas had them stored, for holiday parties, and meals. We do as debcarle says, leave in the oven over night, but we found simply keeping the in cardboard boxes worked for us. You know, like a flatish shirt or gift box . Yum, I’m going to dig out my iron and make some! I’ll bet I haven’t made them in twenty years!
    Thanks for sharing about the boxes Pam. I hadn’t thought about those for a long time, but they are perfect for one layer storage. Great idea! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  15. mflack20789

    I have always made them following Debcarle instructions. This way they actually drip most of the oil and be come crisp. They will store for 3-4 weeks. I tint my icing and add a drop or two of vanilla and almond extract and they come out so pretty and taste wonderful. I have a friend who would put dry coconut in a food processor and chop the dry coconut up in to fairly small piece but not to powder and after she dips the rosettes in the icing she then dip the edges in the dry coconut. Then allows them to dry in a 200° oven. So pretty and good.

    Reply
  16. Caddylac

    I received a set of irons for a wedding gift some 40 years ago from my grade one teacher and have used them every Christmas as well as many times throughout the year. The set came with irons for canape shells shaped like the suits in playing cards, another smaller size assortment joined in a large circle with shapes like a fish, heart, diamond, square, triangle etc. along with single irons for a butterfly and flower. There’s also one to make tart shells and they come out about the same size as a regular tart made in a pan. What I like to do is make three different batters and colour 2 of them with food colouring. They look so pretty on a plate. Once I get to where I can’t get enough batter on the iron I put all three colours in one bowl, swirl with a chopstick and I have multi-coloured rosettes that the grandkids think are magic. When I’m done, my table top is full.
    The recipe book that came with them has oodles of recipes for savoury and sweet fillings along with different batters. Once filled they only stay chrisp for a few hours but they are guaranteed not to hang around very long once guests try them.
    How wonderful. I especially love the idea of the multi-colored ones. Putting this on my list for Christmas baking, thanks for sharing. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  17. KimberlyD

    What great and yummy memories this brings me. My mother (who died in 2002) use to make rosettes every year at our family reunion. She would use an electric roaster full of oil and make them, than sprinkle the powder sugar on them! Thank you for this blog! I don’t know what happened to her irons, she lost them a long time ago some how.

    Kimberly, bet you wish you had the irons now, so you could re-create your mom’s rosettes. Glad we could bring back some happy memories for you – PJH

    Reply
  18. Mimi

    Years ago, I used to make a savory version by eliminating the sugar in the batter and adding a little salt. Then I dipped them in toasted sesqme seeds; but I don’t remember exactly how I did it.

    Search for lost recipes at this website: http://www.hungrybrowser.com – it’s a great resource! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  19. suellen

    You mentioned that Rosettes should be used by the next day. I’ve been making them for over 35 years (made about 200 of them for my grandson’s bar mitzvah party and there wasn’t a single one left!). But I have stored them in cookie tins and they’ve tasted great after a week or longer. Just dust them with more powdered sugar before serving.

    Reply
  20. SVF

    We traditionally made these with lemon extract in place of the vanilla. Try it!

    That sounds yummy – will definitely try the lemon next time I make these (which, unfortunately for my foodie self but fortunately for my waistline, isn’t all the time!) :) PJH

    Reply
  21. Cheryl Masters

    I have been lookimg every where I can to find the rosette tool along with the different shapes and the book. Can you please help me? I would certainly appreciate any assistance.

    Thank you so much.
    Cheryl Masters

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      Hi Cheryl,
      Amazon.com has a wonderful array of rosette irons. Ebay is my favorite place to look for vintage and unusual irons. ~ MJ

  22. Sheila Dawn

    Have been working on them all morning. On a break now – looked this up – so fun. I also have the STAR— and the BUTTERFLY–IRONS.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel

      Too long in the oil at too low a temperature is often the issue with chewy rosettes. Make sure you have an accurate thermometer to test the temperature of the oil, OK? PJH

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