I am so excited to finally have a recipe for sponge candy to share with you! I have been testing out recipes and techniques for months now. I have had many failed batches and have spent quite a bit of time scrubbing scorched sugar out of pans. I am a total newb to candy making, and I tried at least 4 different recipes twice before I found one I was happy to share with you.
But, before we jump into the recipe and all that fun candy making stuff, let’s talk about Sponge Candy. If you are from Upstate New York, particularly the Buffalo Region, there is probably no explanation needed. This sweet Buffalo treat has been expertly crafted by longtime confectioners such as Watson’s, Fowler’s, Alethea’s, and Parkside, While many confectioners make and sell sponge candy, this popular confection can also be found in the bulk foods section of Wegmans.
These chocolates have a light-as-air crispy “sponge” of aerated toffee, you can find dark chocolate and milk chocolate sponge candy. If you have never had sponge candy, maybe you just know it by another name. The crispy “sponge” interior is not exclusive to our part of the country, in fact, it is known by a wide variety of names in different regions.
- sea foam in Maine, Washington, Oregon, Utah, California, and Michigan, United States
- sponge candy in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, St. Paul, Minnesota, Northwest Pennsylvania, and of course Western New York, United States
- sponge toffee in Canada
Ok, let’s get back to the candy making, First off, I am a novice candy maker, terms like hard ball, and soft-crack are all foreign to me. I started with a recipe that had “easy” in the title and required no candy thermometer. I actually attempted this recipe a few times before moving on, it resulted in a flat candy with little aeration and was a no go for me.
The second recipe I tried used vinegar, I thought that would combat the “flatness” of the first few batches. It did, and that is putting it mildly. It is shocking is how long sponge candy can and will continue to expand, even after it has been poured in a pan. Big mess would be an understatement for what happened in my kitchen that day.
With each and every attempt I was beginning to grasp the concept of candy making, and also discover where my challenges were coming from. I quickly realized with each and every single attempt, though, was that my smooth top electric stove lacked precise temperature control, and even heating, which was where the majority of my problems stemmed from. All of my problems were easily fixed with a cheap candy thermometer. If sponge candy is your first venture into candy making, I can not strongly enough suggest picking up a thermometer, especially if you have an electric stove. I can also see where an induction cook-top would be very handy in this process if you have one. I had a NuWave Precision Induction Cooktop, but sadly, it mysteriously just quit working before I began my quest to make sponge candy, has anyone else had this problem?
Buffalo Sponge Candy
These chocolates have a light-as-air crispy “sponge” of aerated toffee and are especially common in the Buffalo area.
- 1/4 tsp Gelatin, unflavored
- 1 tbsp cold water
- 1 1/2 cups white sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tbsp baking soda, sifted
- 1 1/2 cups dark chocolate, melted and tempered for dipping
- Line a 9x9 pan with parchment paper, with extra paper hanging over the sides. Alternatively, butter and dust the pan with flour. Tapping out the excess flour.
- In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 1 tablespoon cold water and allow to bloom.
- In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan with high sides, mix sugar, corn syrup and 1/2 cup water together. Heat over medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a boil. Clip on candy thermometer onto the side of the saucepan and cook without stirring until the syrup reaches 310 F.
- Remove from heat and let sit for two minutes undisturbed, the bubbling will subside, and the temperature will drop. Add gelatin and whisk, be careful, the sugar syrup will bubble up. Sprinkle baking soda over syrup and whisk vigorously. Return mixture to the heat and whisk for 30 seconds. The sugar will expand in the pot, a lot!
- Quickly pour into prepared pan, it should come out in a big blob. Do not spread the mixture, just let it settle into the pan. Leave the pan undisturbed, and allow the candy to cool completely (about 2 hours or overnight) before removing from the pan.
- Either break into odd pieces or cut into squares. This is an incredibly messy process, but fun! To cut into squares - using a serrated knife, score the candy at 1-inch intervals. Snap the candy apart at the score lines. Then score and break into squares.
- Melt chocolate melts in a double boiler (or bowl sitting above a pot of boiling water). Dip sponge candies in chocolate, tap off excess. Chill in the fridge to set the chocolate shell.
With all my failed sponge candy attempts behind me, once I found what I think is the best recipe for sponge candy, I realized it really isn’t that difficult, and dare I say maybe even a little fun! After the sponge has set, the real fun begins! Breaking or cutting the candy is a messy endeavor, there will be a ton of “crumbles”, save these in a Ziploc bag (air is not a friend to sponge candy, especially when it is humid out) they are pretty tasty as an ice cream topping. It is fun to snap the candy into that well-known cube shape, and a good job for kids who want to be involved.
Coating the sponge candy in chocolate helps protect the delicate sponge from humidity, and tastes delicious. You can use milk or dark chocolate, to suit your tastes or mood. Melting wafers are especially easy-to-use, with minimal fuss the wafers ensure a smooth and even melting. I melted mine in the microwave at a reduced power level so it wouldn’t burn, and no tempering is required so it will set up correctly and have that characteristic chocolate sheen.
Candy making can be tricky, but now that I have some basic skills and knowledge under my belt, I will be whipping these candies up as gifts around Christmas time for friends and family, I think they will be pleasantly surprised, or not if they read my blog