The label typically reads “sponge candy,” but you may also know this candy as cinder block, sea foam, fairy food, angel food or a multitude of other names. Each of these names are referring to the same type of candy with origins that are rather vague, but appear to have started in the Buffalo, New York area. Additionally, it can be found scattered from coast to coast in the northern third of the U.S. and some areas of Canada.
For decades, Vande Walle’s Candies has been making sponge candy that keeps customers coming back for more. Keep reading as Tom Vande Walle shares the basics of this confection, plus tips and tricks for making sponge candy that customers crave.
WHAT IS IT?
What exactly is sponge candy? Basically, it is a hard candy to which baking soda is added, causing it to foam up, similar to that of a light, airy peanut brittle. Later gelatin is added to hold the foamy structure while the batch cools. When cool, the candy has a crisp, crunchy quality at first, but then will melt in your mouth.
Sponge-type candy can be made with slight variations, such as substituting molasses or honey for some of the sugar, using different D.E. (dextrose equivalent) corn syrup or adding flavors such as orange or mint. Some recipes even call for vinegar. Though confectioners can make it differently, what keeps them similar is that they all have the same airy texture that soaks up moisture very easily. Perhaps these variations help explain why there are so many names for the same basic candy.
HOW IS IT MADE?
Making sponge candy is really not any more difficult than making peanut brittle. Here is a quick general rundown of the procedure for making sponge candy:
Cook sugar, corn syrup and water to about 310°F/ 154°C. Let that mixture cool down to about 30°F/-1°C, then mix in gelatin and then add baking soda. Next, pour mixture into a square insulated box with a heavy floating cover and let cool overnight. The next morning, cut one to two inches of the candy off all the way around the outside of the block of candy with a handsaw and discard. Cut the remaining center into bite-sized pieces and enrobe in chocolate.
When making sponge candy it is important to keep the following points in mind:
- The gelatin must be completely mixed in before adding the baking soda or the result will be burnt streaks in the block after it is cool.
- Another cause of the center of the block to be burnt could be from not letting the batch cool enough before adding the baking soda. The baking soda must be mixed in and the batch poured out quickly if a fine texture is desired.
- Also, humidity that is too high, over 50%, after the candy is cooked will cause it to become gummy, especially after it is cut and before it is enrobed in chocolate.
- About half the weight of each batch will be trimmed from the outside of the block and will need to be disposed.
- The dust from cutting the block into pieces will settle on you and everything around you.
- The pounds per hour of production will be lower than many other candies due to its light weight.
- It can be sold with or without being enrobed in chocolate. If it is cut and packaged in low humidity conditions, it can have a shelf life of more than six months.
By any name, sponge candy is a highly sought-after confection in the northern region of the United States and Canada. Although it is a polarizing confection, those who love it, really love it and will buy it for themselves and for their loved ones during the holidays, for special celebrations and just because.
Share in the comments below if you love sponge candy, what you call it and what area you are from.
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