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What Is Funfetti Cake ? Taking A Look At Nostalgia

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All our lives we’ve heard of funfetti, and maybe even had it once or twice. We all know what it looks like, that whitish cake with sprinkles all over. But did we ever really stop to wonder just what is funfetti cake ? What’s it made of ? Can you make it from scratch ? Is funfetti the same as birthday cake ? 

In an attempt to recapture a bit of childhood nostalgia, we’re going to cover the basics of funfetti cake, starting with what this cake is. 

funfetti cake

What is funfetti cake ?

Funfetti is a type of white cake with rainbow sprinkles in the batter and on the frosting, originally developed by Pillsbury in 1989. It was sold as a box mix, including the cake batter, icing, and sprinkles, and marketed as the perfect birthday cake for children. 

Nowadays funfetti cake is any white cake with sprinkles, but especially if the sprinkles are found within the batter. The icing or frosting is expected to be a very heavy vanilla flavor. 

As funfetti has been around for a few decades, it’s now also found in cupcakes, donuts, ice cream, and cookies. 

Why is funfetti so good ?

Funfetti by itself is not particularly good, in that the recipe is a simple one and does not require much skill. The taste is simple, yet manages to capture the hearts of many. One of the reasons funfetti is so good is because it’s the perfect mix between a sweet vanilla flavor and buttery goodness, resulting in a sweet, simple cake with a very colorful twist. 

For children, this type of cake is a favorite and you’ll find that many adults would go for a funfetti cake any time, despite sometimes having better, more refined options. There’s something very sweet, innocent, and childish about funfetti that everyone seems to love.

Funfetti is pretty much the go-to birthday cake

Because Pillsbury marketed their funfetti cake as the perfect birthday cake in ’89, it slowly became the birthday cake. Nowadays the line between funfetti and birthday cake is very thin and blurry, with many people considering them the same thing (us included). 

And we think this association of funfetti and birthdays and happy times, funfetti is a particularly popular cake mix, to the point where it’s a flavor of its own. 

funfetti birthday

Read also: What Are Sprinkles Made Of ?

Is funfetti cake white or yellow ?

Funfetti cake is traditionally white, as in the cake batter does not use the egg yolks, only the whites This creates an especially light an airy cake, much like angel food cake. However this can result in a very dry cake, if not enough fat is added into the cake via butter, vegetable oil, or shortening.  

One way to get around this potential for dry cake is to moisten the cake with a simple syrup after it’s cooled down. And to make it very funfetti-like, be sure to add some vanilla extract.

Does this mean a yellow cake won’t be funfetti ? Not at all, the recipe will still taste good, but it may taste more rich and this may change the overall effect of the cake. 

In any cake batter you’re going to add some butter, but in a yellow cake you also have the richness form the egg yolks. In a white cake such as funfetti, you get more butter, since you need to supplement the ‘missing’ yolks. If you were to not add any fat at all, your cake would, indeed, come out dry.

As for why funfetti is a white cake and not yellow, we think it ahs to do with the colors showing up properly in the cake. In a white cake, the individual colors of the rainbow sprinkles show up perfectly. In a yellow cake, the colors will have a tint to them, such as blue turning green, and red turning orange, purple turning an odd brown, and so on. 

Can you just add sprinkles to a white cake batter ?

Yes, you can simply fold in some sprinkles into some white cake batter, but you must be careful to get the kind that does not bleed color. Some sprinkles bleed their color profusely when baked, which leads to a weird, muddled color or a cake that is way too splotchy. 

So far it seems the best sprinkles ate jimmies, the thin, long kind. But make sure to get the glazed or shiny ones. Those have a protective outer coating that prevents the color form bleeding too much, If you get the chalky type the colors may run.

Don’t overdo it with the sprinkles, because too many of them can weight down your batter. And when you do add them, be sure top toss them with some flour first to make sure they don’t sink to the bottom of the cake. 

What does funfetti cake taste like ?

Funfetti cake tastes like imitation vanilla, otherwise known as vanillin. This is a simplified, synthetic version of vanilla and it’s 98% of what you find on supermarket shelves. It’s the clear kind, without any added caramel coloring or fake black specks that are supposed to simulate true vanilla.

Since the heavy vanilla flavor is a key element in funfetti, people consider overly sweet vanilla cake to be the main flavor of funfetti. Of course, homemade funfetti may come out better, but it’s simply not the same. A cake mix is never the height of culinary refinement, but it soothes the soul, especially for those of us who are prone to nostalgia. 

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