This cinnamon funnel cake churro hybrid is a delicious dessert to make at home when you’re missing the state fair—or Disneyland, for that matter. And it’s served with creamy dulce de leche to sweeten the deal.

I started researching for this recipe with the idea of doing some Latinx twists on North American summer classics. Thinking of a summer limited by social distancing, it seemed to me that putting a spin on American nostalgia could give a breath of fresh air to tried and true treats that you may not be able to go out and eat this year.

Part of my summer experiences as an immigrant in this country have been linked to the northeast beaches, and with those come the boardwalks. Boardwalk food is a mesmerizing metaphor for American excess, and a celebration of deep fried portable foods. Being able to move around while eating is a must here; after all, you’re most likely swimming, drinking, walking, going into kitschy souvenir shops, or taking your kids on rides—you need some delicious, greasy, handheld fuel.

The leap from funnel cake to churros is not a huge one, and as I quickly found out, there is a popular version served at Disney theme parks too. Fair enough, but to give it a bit of a personal touch, I included an easy hack to make dulce de leche at home, and eat with the cakes (instead of the thinner caramel sauce you get at the park).

Dulce de leche is one of the most beloved confections across all of Latin America. In Colombia we call it arequipe, and it has other names in other countries (cajeta, manjar, fanguito, doce de leite, etc.). It is basically heated sweetened milk that changes texture, color, and flavor through the Maillard reaction. To make the real thing is an act of patience and love as you slowly cook milk and sugar (specific recipes call for additional ingredients) over low heat. You can make it in an Instant Pot, but I’m going to show you a hack I learned when I was a kid that basically involves submerging a can of condensed milk in boiling water.

Churro Funnel Cakes with Dulce de Leche

View Recipe

This method of making dulce de leche — or arequipe — is easy, but you do have to pay attention to the water level. You need:

  • 14-ounce can of condensed milk
  • Water
  • Large pot

1. Place the can on its side in a large pot. Fill the pot with room temperature water, making sure the water level is at least 2 inches above the can.

2. Set the pot over high heat and let the water come to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 2 hours.

3. Check the pot and adjust water level and heat if needed. The water should always be 2 inches above the can; letting the water burn and evaporate can lead to the can exploding which is a serious risk.

4. Remove the can from the water using a pair of tongs, and set it on a wire rack or heat resistant surface to cool to room temperature. Don’t attempt to open the can while it’s still hot; this can cause pressurized hot arequipe to spray dangerously.

5. You can store unopened cans of arequipe at room temperature for up to 3 months.

Reheat in a double boiler to soften arequipe to a spreadable or drizzle-able consistency. After using arequipe from the can, you can transfer your leftovers to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

For another method of making dulce de leche, check out this recipe:

Dulce de Leche

View Recipe