Pennsylvania Dutch Funny Cakes Recipe and History

Pennsylvania Dutch Funny Cakes Recipe and History

Pennsylvania Dutch Funny Cakes have roots in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, tracing back to the 18th and 19th centuries. German immigrants brought with them a rich culinary heritage, blending Old World recipes with locally available ingredients. These cakes, uniquely known for their inverted layering, became a staple in the community. The term “Funny Cake” likely derives from the curious way the chocolate layer rises to the top during baking, creating a distinct pattern that has intrigued bakers for generations.

Key Characteristics

Pennsylvania Dutch Funny Cakes are characterized by their unique layering. A gooey chocolate bottom contrasts with a moist vanilla cake top. This juxtaposition results in a rich flavor profile combining the best of both worlds. Typically baked in pie crusts, these cakes are easy for beginners to prepare. Ingredients commonly include cocoa, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. Their charmingly rustic appearance makes them equally suitable for casual family gatherings and special occasions.

Ingredients and Preparation

Typical Ingredients

Pennsylvania Dutch Funny Cakes need several key ingredients to achieve their signature taste and texture. You’ll require the following:

  • Pie Crusts: Pre-made or homemade, these form the base.
  • Cocoa Powder: Typically unsweetened for a rich chocolate flavor.
  • Granulated Sugar: Divided for various layers.
  • Eggs: Provide structure and moisture.
  • Butter: Adds richness, use unsalted if possible.
  • Vanilla Extract: For aromatic sweetness.
  • All-Purpose Flour: Essential for the cake’s body.
  • Baking Powder: Helps the cake rise.
  • Milk: Adds moisture to the batter.
  1. Prepare the Pie Crusts: Place pie crusts in pie dishes, ensuring they fit well. Set aside.
  2. Create the Chocolate Layer: In a medium saucepan, combine cocoa powder, granulated sugar (½ cup), butter (¼ cup), and water (¾ cup). Cook over medium heat, stirring until you achieve a smooth consistency.
  3. Pour Chocolate into Crusts: Evenly split the chocolate mixture between the prepared pie crusts, forming the bottom layer.
  4. Mix Dry Ingredients: In a large bowl, whisk together flour (1½ cups), baking powder (1½ teaspoons), and salt (½ teaspoon).
  5. Blend Wet Ingredients: In a separate bowl, beat eggs (2), granulated sugar (1 cup), vanilla extract (1 teaspoon), and milk (¾ cup) until well blended. Gradually add melted butter (¼ cup), continuing to mix.
  6. Combine Wet and Dry Ingredients: Slowly fold the dry ingredient mixture into the wet one, creating a smooth batter.
  7. Layer the Batter: Carefully pour the batter over the chocolate layer in each pie crust, ensuring even distribution.
  8. Bake the Cakes: Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Place the pies in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. Cool and Serve: Allow the cakes to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing. The chocolate layer should have risen to the top, creating the characteristic look and taste.

By following these steps and using these specific ingredients, you’ll bake authentic Pennsylvania Dutch Funny Cakes that delight on any occasion.

Serving and Enjoying Funny Cakes

Traditional Serving Methods

Traditionally, you serve Pennsylvania Dutch Funny Cakes at room temperature to let the flavors meld. They complement well with a hot beverage like coffee or tea. For gatherings, slice the cake into small pieces to allow guests to experience the gooey chocolate bottom and the moist vanilla cake top in every bite. You can also lightly dust the cake with powdered sugar before serving to add a touch of sweetness and an appealing visual element.

Modern Twists on the Classic

In modern servings, you can experiment with serving Pennsylvania Dutch Funny Cakes in diverse ways. Try adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a delightful contrast of temperatures and textures. Top the cake with whipped cream and fresh berries to introduce new flavors and colors, enhancing its appeal. Alternatively, drizzle caramel or chocolate sauce over the slices for an extra layer of richness. Vegan and gluten-free adaptations allow you to cater to dietary preferences without compromising the cake’s traditional charm.

The Cultural Significance of Funny Cakes

Funny Cakes in Pennsylvania Dutch Celebrations

Funny Cakes hold a special place in Pennsylvania Dutch celebrations, often making appearances at various family gatherings and community events. Since the 18th century, these cakes have been a staple in festive occasions such as weddings, birthdays, and holiday celebrations, embodying the community’s strong familial connections and culinary traditions. The cake’s distinct layered structure symbolizes the blend of old-world heritage with new-world creativity. Families typically pass down Funny Cake recipes through generations, preserving culinary history and nurturing intergenerational bonds.

Influence on Regional Desserts

Pennsylvania Dutch Funny Cakes have significantly influenced regional dessert creations, inspiring variations in neighboring Pennsylvania and across the Mid-Atlantic states. Local bakeries and home chefs often incorporate the cake’s signature gooey chocolate and moist vanilla layers into modern desserts like cupcakes, tarts, and even ice cream sundaes. The distinctive texture and flavor combinations of Funny Cakes have set a foundation for innovation in regional desserts. For instance, some bakers experiment with adding local ingredients like farm-fresh berries or regional nuts to traditional Funny Cake recipes.


Embracing the rich heritage of Pennsylvania Dutch Funny Cakes means more than just indulging in a delightful dessert. You’re partaking in a tradition that has been lovingly preserved and passed down through generations. Whether you stick to the classic recipe or experiment with modern twists, these cakes offer a taste of history and a connection to the past. Next time you crave something sweet, consider whipping up a batch of Funny Cakes and share a piece of this cherished culinary legacy with your loved ones.

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