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Compton Resident is the Master of Funnel Cakes

APRIL 28, 2021

At Fun Diggity, opened long before the recent surge of home pop-ups, Cheyenne Brown serves the cheery dessert to the neighborhood.

(EATER.COM) A group of teenagers stand in front of a beige one-story house on a tree-lined street in Compton. Some are glued into their phones; others joke around and laugh. They’re waiting for crispy, powdered funnel cakes from Fun Diggity, which operates out of owner Cheyenne Brown’s home. A Lexus parks in front of Brown’s house, and a woman emerges from the car wearing expensive boots, jeans, and dark sunglasses. She breezes over to the window that serves as Fun Diggity’s funnel cake pickup station, looking as if she’s about to receive a birthday gift.

Brown — a Compton-native and Fun Diggity’s chief funnel cake maker — hands her a towering, deep-fried funnel cake dusted with powdered sugar, fresh berries, scoop of vanilla ice cream, generous swirls of whipped cream, and strawberry sauce. As she places the dessert into her customer’s hands, she says, “Have a fun diggity day!”

The teens pick up their orders after the Lexus pulls away. One manages the near-impossible feat of eating a funnel cake while skipping down the street, seemingly in a childlike reverie. Another lets out a squeal after one bite. The “fun” in Fun Diggity is because of Brown’s design: to spread joy in the community she resides in and loves.

Typically consumed at amusement parks and fairs, funnel cakes are America’s beloved deep-fried festival snack. Los Angeles embraces its love for funnel cake, too: Open any digital map and type in “funnel cakes in Los Angeles.” The red dots spread throughout the Southland, from North Hollywood’s Fun Ol’ Cakes all the way to Long Beach’s Sticky icky Funnel Cakes. Over by the beach, there’s the Funnel Cakes stand centrally located on the Santa Monica Pier. Disneyland’s are sold out of the Stage Door Cafe and Hungry Bear Restaurant.

But it’s not as easy to find funnel cakes near Brown’s home in Compton. Nestled on the southeast corner of the 105 and 110 freeways, her neighborhood is filled with corporate fast-food chains and a few family bakeries touting mostly cakes or baked goods. They’re nothing like Brown’s business, where she makes funnel cakes that come out piping hot.

Brown began her funnel cake business in 2016, long before the coronavirus pandemic ignited a pop-up boom in Los Angeles, with countless cooks, chefs, and residents preparing food for customers from their homes. In 2020, Brown found herself ahead of the trend: As the new crop of home food pop-ups figured out how to accept orders online or by direct message, how to manage food shopping and preparation, and where and how to market themselves, Brown only had to adapt to Los Angeles County’s COVID-19 safety protocols for restaurants, which included implementing social distancing and wearing PPE.

Brown’s journey didn’t begin in restaurants. In fact, prior to Fun Diggity, she never even worked in a food business. Everything began when Brown competed in the Miss Compton Pageant in 2013 and won the title. Before stepping into the role as a beauty queen, Brown describes herself as an angry young woman looking for purpose after her parents’ separation. “I saw [Miss Compton] flyers in the community and heard by word of mouth,” she says. “I just wanted something I could be involved in here. Like so many kids in Compton, we’re yearning for opportunities to do stuff.”

The pageant can have a springboard effect for young women who want to implement change within Compton and adjacent Los Angeles neighborhoods. The executive director, Shanice McKinley, says Brown surpassed the standard duties of Miss Compton with speeches and public appearances. “This young lady really took the title of Miss Compton to heart,” says McKinley who mentored Brown while she held the title. “She did more than was expected of the title; she loved being in the community and was so self-driven. I’m not surprised that she’s doing so well.”

Brown’s newfound confidence propelled her into the role of business owner. While she thought her future would be a career in communications, politics, or public planning, in early 2016, she founded Fun Diggity in her home for a simple reason: She needed a job. “At the time, I was in college, and it was a way for me to try my idea,” says Brown. “I didn’t expect it to go anywhere. And it totally took over.” She discovered quickly that the side hustle turned business could be a meaningful way to engage with her city and customers who are neighbors, working parents, medical field workers, and generations of the same families.

Brown built her customer base by marketing on Instagram and via word of mouth. She bought an industrial fryer and prepared funnel cakes every night for 11 months straight to perfect her technique. “It was an obsession trying to get the recipe right, tweaking it, and trying to understand it. I’m not a cook and had no experience of cooking. But this was just something that I really loved and felt like I could make it better,” she says.

The result is a funnel cake that’s crispy on the outside with a pillowy interior that actually keeps the right texture — even an hour later. Toppings vary, from cereal and Oreos to fresh fruit, Nutella, and chocolate. (She deep-fries Oreos, too.) Brown’s funnel cakes can also stand on their own with or without any powdered sugar. Best consumed hot, the cakes and Oreos are available for pickup via online ordering, but Brown also utilizes delivery apps. If customers want to make funnel cakes at home, Brown also developed a mix for sale on her website.

Many ask if she named the business after Blackstreet’s hit ’90s song “No Diggity”; Brown says it was a subconscious choice. “My dad is a music genius, and I grew up on that song. One day, Blackstreet will know about Fun Diggity!”

Her next step is a permanent storefront — in Compton, of course. “We’re looking at plenty of options, and my ultimate goal is to keep my first location within the community. We’re ready to definitely give our customers a better experience when it comes to parking, seating, all that good stuff once things become more safe. My ultimate dream is to have a drive-thru.”

Brown’s connection with her customers remains her primary motivation. “My customers are amazing,” she says. “These are hardworking men and women with children, whom I love. I call them the ‘fun baby crew’ because, to me, they are my family.”

Order Fun Diggity Funnel Cakes here for pickup or delivery.

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