Enjoy the carnival (or the circus) without leaving your kitchen! These fun carnival and circus treats will make you feel like you're celebrating without having to buy a ticket. We gathered all of our favorite sweet and fried treats in one place so you can host your own carnival-inspired party.

By Andrea Beck
June 11, 2019
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One of the best parts of visiting a carnival or circus is the food. When you’re craving those same eats but the circus isn’t in town, try these carnival and circus-inspired recipes. These fun dessert recipes and fried treats will remind you of all your favorites. We took cotton candy and corndogs to the next level and created a cake that looks like a circus tent (and that’s just the start).

cookies, cookie, fries

1. Carnival Cookie Fries

At the carnival, all of our favorite foods are fried, so why not cookies? Roll out cookie dough with rainbow sprinkles, then cut into strips to make them look just like fries. After you give them a quick fry, don’t go dunking these cookies in milk—instead, serve with mango and strawberry sauces (they look just like ketchup and mustard!).

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Frosted Animal Cookie No-Bake Cheesecake

2. Frosted Animal Cookie No-Bake Cheesecake

Frosted animal cookies are a popular circus snack on their own, but we made them bigger and better with this indulgent no-bake cheesecake. Instead of graham crackers, use frosted animal cookie crumbs for the crust, and stand up a few whole cookies along the outside of your cheesecake to emphasize that circus vibe. You can decorate with a few more on top, but the strips of white cheesecake and blended red strawberries (plus dollops of whipped cream and sprinkles on top) are more than enough to make this no-bake cheesecake recipe look festive.

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Cotton Candy Cocktail

3. Cotton Candy Cocktail

No trip to the circus is complete without cotton candy. You can turn this classic favorite into an adults-only treat by pouring champagne over a few sugary puffs of cotton candy (Fun Sweets Classic Cotton Candy, $14.95, Amazon). It’ll make your glass of bubbly even sweeter! And you can include the kids, too, by swapping in a nonalcoholic option for the champagne, such as lemon-lime soda or sparkling water, so they can enjoy their own fun mocktail.

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orange and green Circus Cake with animal crackers
Credit: Andy Lyons

4. Circus Cake

Make your own Big Top to celebrate a child's birthday party or whenever you want to create your own (edible) circus. Building this adorable circus cake is half the fun. (The other half is eating it!) You might want to let the adults construct the tent by stacking cupcakes and sugar cones on top of a layer cake, then let the kids help with the rest. Animal cookies, colored candies, and fruit leather all go a long way toward bringing your circus to life with strips, animals, and decorations.

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Blue Cheese Mini Corn Dogs

5. Blue Cheese and Bacon Mini Corndogs

Want something savory instead of sweet? You can’t go to a carnival or circus without seeing corndogs everywhere, so it’s only fitting to make your own version at home. Of course, this recipe is a little more special than the treats you’ll find on a stick at the carnival. We added blue cheese and bacon to the batter before frying them.

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Cinnamon Churros with Mexican Chocolate Sauce

6. Cinnamon Churros

These churros aren’t as long as you might see at the carnival (though you can make yours as long as you'd like), but the pillowy pieces of fried dough are even more enticing than those at the food stand. Like funnel cake, these fried dough treats are best served warm with a fresh coating of cinnamon-sugar. And since you’ll be eating them at home and not while you’re walking around or sitting on bleacher seats, you can dunk them in a melted chocolate dipping sauce and add your own toppings.

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Boozy Snow Cones

7. Boozy Snow Cones

Snow cones are a staple of summer carnivals. For added fun, we turned this icy treat into an adults-only dessert by giving it a boozy twist. Instead of choosing between traditional snow cone flavors, choose your favorite cocktailstrawberry daiquiri, mojito, limoncello, or grapefruit and tequila—to pour over a cone (Snow Cone Cups and Straws, $18.49, Amazon) filled with crushed ice.

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You're just a short time in the kitchen away from hosting your own circus or carnival party! While we'd happily eat any of these treats for dessert or as a special snack, most of them could also help turn a child's birthday party into an event worthy of the Big Top. To really help bring the circus to town, you could also set up a few carnival-style games or even a fun face-painting station. Your backyard will look a carnival before you know it!


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