Food & Drink

Rosettes: Funnel Cakes’ Swiss Cousins

A sweet West Virginia tradition

Photo: Emily Hilliard

Feasting before the Lenten season fast is a Southern tradition—see: Mardi Gras, with its king cakes, beignets, and po’boys, among other indulgences. Helvetia, West Virginia, a mountain hamlet with Swiss roots dating back to 1869, puts its own unique spin on the notion, celebrating Switzerland’s winter holiday, Fasnacht (“night before the fast”), with rosettes, melt-in-your mouth fried pastries that are like a cross between donuts and funnel cakes.

“Years ago, people used to go from house to house and play music, have a glass of wine, and share rosettes,” says Heidi Arnett, who helps direct the festival. “It was the last chance to be bad before you had to be good for Lent.” This year, the party takes place on February 25, the Saturday before Ash Wednesday, in two community dance halls and at the Hütte, the Swiss restaurant Arnett helps run. Visitors and residents square-dance away their winter blues and burn an effigy of Old Man Winter to drive off the cold—all fueled by plenty of beer, bratwurst, and the traditional Swiss pastries.

The recipe for rosettes is simple—it’s a mixture of cream, eggs, and flour dipped into hot oil or lard. The pastries fry and then receive a dusting of powdered sugar. Just be sure to take a cue from town historian Eleanor Betler before you begin: “My grandmother’s secret was to add a tablespoon of good bourbon to the cream,” she says. “It crisps up the rosettes.”


    • 1 pint medium cream

    • 6 eggs, well beaten

    • 2 cups all-purpose flour

    • 1 tbsp. bourbon

    • Peanut oil or lard for frying


  1. Whisk cream, eggs, flour, and bourbon together in large bowl until smooth. Pour 2-3 inches of oil (or melt lard) in a heavy Dutch oven and heat over medium-high to 375 degrees. Place rosette iron in the fat to heat at the same time. Dip hot rosette iron into batter, almost to the top edge of iron. Place immediately into hot oil and remove iron as soon as rosette slips off (in a few seconds). Fry 15-30 seconds per side or until golden brown, then remove. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Repeat with remaining batter.