Homemade Sponge Candy

Like an airy, crunchy toffee coated in chocolate, sponge candy is a holiday treat that you can make at home with just a few ingredients.  Like an airy, crunchy toffee coated in chocolate, sponge candy is a holiday treat that you can make at home with just a few ingredients.

Perhaps this falls under the category of don’t tell me I can’t do something.

But the first time I made this recipe it failed. And while the recipe is classed as intermediate in difficultly, I’ve been making candy for decades. So I was slightly perturbed.

Come the new holiday season, I was determined to nail it. And after six (or was it seven) tests, I had it down–and learned a lot!  And maybe gained a pound or two 🙂 Like an airy, crunchy toffee coated in chocolate, sponge candy is a holiday treat that you can make at home with just a few ingredients.

What is Sponge Candy?

According to Fowler’s Chocolate “Sponge Candy is a light and crunchy but delicate toffee made from sugar, corn syrup, and baking soda. The recipe is very simple but produces a very unique flavor reminiscent of toasted molasses.”

Even better it is then (usually) coated in chocolate—yum!

There are many regional variations in the name. In Wisconsin, it goes by Fairy Food and in Britain it’s cinder toffee. That is unless you get the commercial candy bar–then it’s a Cadbury Crunchie. Yes, I think I brought home half a suitcase of these when I studied in Ireland. Like an airy, crunchy toffee coated in chocolate, sponge candy is a holiday treat that you can make at home with just a few ingredients.

What Makes This a Winner

This is a tasty holiday candy favorite that’s even better homemade. That gives you:

  • Great flavor. Since I’ve always loved this candy, I was really surprised that homemade tasted even better.
  • Quality and freshness. Sometime in the store I’d get sponge candy that’s a little too chewy and figured it wasn’t as fresh as it could be. Not a problem for homemade!
  • Uses simple basic ingredients. Using just basic ingredients, this can be made in about as much working time as a trip to the store.

Now just as a caution, in a number of online reviews, people likened this candy to burnt marshmallows (though it’s possible they actually did burn it!). But for those who love it, Sponge Candy is a treat! 

Step by Step Directions

Preheat the oven to 225 F if using the oven cool method (recommended).

Line a 9 x 13 baking pan with parchment paper. Crease the edges slightly to help it sit in the pan. You will be pouring the candy onto the parchment. Set the pan where it is convenient to the stove.  Line pan with baking parchment

Combine the sugar and corn syrup in a large saucepan (the pan must is large to allow room for the syrup space to foam up). On medium heat, stir until the sugar is dissolved, then stop stirring but continue to cook.  Combine sugar and corn syrup in saucepan

Sift the baking soda so no lumps remain and set near the stove. Sift baking soda

When the syrup cones to a boil, begin checking the temperature periodically with an instant read thermometer. After it has been boiling about 5-10 minutes it will start to turn just slightly yellow which means it is nearing the proper temperature of 295 F. If the syrup is heating very unevenly, swirl the syrup in the pan and lower the heat slightly. Boil syrup

When the syrup reaches 295 F, stir in the sifted baking powder until just mixed. It may foam up or if already very bubbly, may sink. Immediately pour the mixture into the parchment lined pan disturbing it as little as possible. Don’t worry that it doesn’t fill the pan and don’t level it–you are trying to keep the bubbles intact.

If cooling at room temperature, leave the pan completely undisturbed.

If using the oven cool method, put the pan in a 225 F oven then turn off the heat. Let sit for 15 minutes, then remove to finish cooling.

Preparing the Chocolate and Dipping

When the candy is completely cool and firm (up to a couple hours—I left mine overnight), prepare the chocolate. Chop the chocolate fine, them melt the cocoa butter (or coconut oil substitute) in the microwave. Heat in 30 second bursts, stirring between bursts until melted. Melt cocoa butter

Add about ¼ cup chopped chocolate to the cocoa butter. Stir until partly melted, then heat again for 10 seconds.  Using the instant read thermometer, take the temperature of the chocolate after every time in the microwave.

Your goal is to keep dark chocolate under 92 F or milk chocolate under 86 F. If the temperature is getting too close to the max, use shorter microwave bursts or stir for longer in between bursts. When chocolate is melted, add another ¼ cup and continue until it’s all melted.

If you succeed at this method of melting, you keep your chocolate in temper. This means it will be solid at room temperature with a nice snap. For more on tempering chocolate see the Sugar Geek.

The easiest way to break the candy is to score it with a knife, then break it by hand along the score lines. Score candy with knife to break

I dropped the candy into my melted chocolate one piece at a time, then rolled it and pulled it out with a fork. dip candy with fork

Then I set it to solidify on a cooling rack until hardened. When the dipping chocolate cooled too much, I’d microwave again for a few seconds and stir, then continue dipping. harden chocolate on baking rack

Different Ingredient Tests

While the ingredients and methods in the various online Sponge Candy recipes are pretty similar, there are some variations. After this candy failed on me the first time, I wanted at approach it very systematically this year!

I tested multiple versions of the recipe Many of the variations didn’t make a whole lot of difference, but getting to really understand a recipe is part of the fun of food blogging!

Light corn syrup versus dark. I found that both worked but ultimately I preferred the light. The dark had slightly more flavor, but it almost came off as slightly chemical to me. The deciding factor was that the dark hid the caramelization that was occurring as the syrup cooked making it more likely to slightly burn a batch. But I’d use dark if that was all I had around.

White sugar versus brown versus a mixture. While I liked the flavor of the brown sugar slightly more, the white was much easier to work with. Like the dark corn syrup, the brown sugar hid any caramelization color change. And once coated with chocolate, the flavor advantage disappeared.

To add vinegar or not. This one I’m truly on the fence on. Adding a Tablespoon of vinegar to the sugar and corn syrup mixture resulted in larger air bubbles and a slightly crisper finish. I initially felt I liked it more. But in the end it was crumblier so I went with the no-vinegar option.  The top picture shows the with vinegar version and the bottom without. With vinegar has bigger air bubbles

no vinegarr has smaller bubbles

Vanilla. I omitted the vanilla in my final version. It didn’t seem to make much difference in the flavor and I’m hoarding vanilla at the current price.

Real Chocolate versus Candy Melts. There is a lot of chocolate on these so I encourage you to use real chocolate. This can even be chocolate chips if you check the ingredient list to make sure it contains cocoa butter. Just read my melting instructions (in Step by Step) for the easiest way to work with real chocolate!

When I was all done and had dipped the winner in chocolate, I decided that a good chocolate can probably hide a myriad of sins. Like an airy, crunchy toffee coated in chocolate, sponge candy is a holiday treat that you can make at home with just a few ingredients. 

On Corn Syrup and Other Options

Don’t want corn syrup in your life? While for many recipes, there’s an easy work around for corn syrup, in this case I didn’t like the honey or maple syrup options that are often cited. I thought the honey flavor was too strong and tended to take on more of a burnt flavor.

The flavor of the maple syrup was outstanding but the texture of the candy wasn’t good. I might have used too much maple syrup but I wasn’t up to trying another batch. The flavor was so good, though, that it’s probably worth another test–next year!

If you truly can’t have corn syrup–like a friend of mine who’s allergic, I would suggest you try “golden syrup.” This is Britain’s counterpart to corn syrup except it’s made from sugar. You can order it online or even make it yourself.

If you goal is simply to avoid GMOs, you can use organic corn syrup since organic standards don’t allow GMOs. If your avoidance is from a basic health perspective, please realize there is no way to make this healthy (sorry)!

But that’s okay once in awhile!  stacked sponge candy tied with ribbon

Troubleshooting Problems

Sponge candy is considered intermediate in difficulty. If you’ve never made candy before, and have trouble with this, my first suggestion is that you start by making toffee, which is easy and super tasty! Then come back and give this a try again!

The sponge collapses. If you are using the room temperature cooling method, don’t move the pan after pouring in the candy until it is fully cool. Or try the oven cooling technique.

Candy has a burnt flavor. This means your syrup got too hot. The most likely cause is uneven heating of the syrup so it burns, just in spots. This is more likely if you are cooking it at too high a temperature or if your pan size is too large (though it needs to be large enough to accommodate foaming). The next most likely cause is a thermometer that is off and needs to be re-calibrated. In that case, check your manufacturers website for instructions.

Candy is overly sticky or chewy rather than crunchy. This might be due to high humidity–I’ve read that even candy making companies won’t make this on days it rains. Of course winter in Wisconsin is so dry indoors, that I’d make this any time!

Another cause may be that your syrup didn’t reach 295 F (or cooked unevenly). Finally, if the candy was good to start, it may have picked up moisture over time so be sure to store in an airtight container.Like an airy, crunchy toffee coated in chocolate, sponge candy is a holiday treat that you can make at home with just a few ingredients. 

Tips and FAQs

Normally you should use a burner size that matches your pan size when cooking.  For this, I used a larger burner size which seemed to help the syrup heat more evenly. 

Lining the 9 x 13 cooling pan with baking parchment worked like a charm.  I didn’t butter the parchment or the pan and the candy released perfectly!  Brown parchment is even compostable, I’ve read!  Set thermometer upright in glass to dissolve hardened syrup

The syrup will look like it’s permanently stuck to your pans and thermometer.  Soak in a little warm water and it should dissolve!

And if you’re all psyched now to try some more candy, take a look at the recipes below from my blogging friends!  Like an airy, crunchy toffee coated in chocolate, sponge candy is a holiday treat that you can make at home with just a few ingredients. 

Welcome to #CandyFudgeFavorites Day hosted by Jennifer from Take Two Tapas! It’s the holidays and we are celebrating the holiday tradition of making candy and fudge!

Join me and my fellow bloggers as we share our favorite holiday candy and fudge recipes today. I know you will see some old favorites and I hope you find some new ones!

sponge candy

Homemade Sponge Candy

Yield: 48
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Additional Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 35 minutes

Like an airy, crunchy toffee coated in chocolate, sponge candy is a holiday treat that you can make at home with just a few ingredients. 

Ingredients

Sponge Candy:

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup or golden syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon baking soda

Dipping Chocolate:

  • 4 Tablespoons cocoa butter or coconut oil
  • 2 cups real chocolate chips or chopped real chocolate. You can use milk, dark or semi-sweet.

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 225 F if using the oven cool method (recommended).

Line a 9 x 13 baking pan with parchment paper. Crease the edges slightly to help it sit in the pan. You will be pouring the candy onto the parchment.

Combine the sugar and corn syrup in a large saucepan (the pan must is large to allow room for the syrup space to foam up). On medium heat, stir until the sugar is dissolved, then stop stirring but continue to cook. 

Sift the baking soda so no lumps remain and set near the stove.

When the syrup cones to a boil, begin checking the temperature periodically with an instant read thermometer. After it has been boiling about 5-10 minutes it will start to turn just slightly yellow which means it is nearing the proper temperature of 295 F. If the syrup is heating very unevenly, swirl the syrup in the pan and lower the heat slightly.

When the syrup reaches 295 F, stir in the sifted baking powder until just mixed. It may foam up or if already very bubbly, may sink. Immediately pour the mixture into the parchment lined pan disturbing it as little as possible. Don’t worry that it doesn’t fill the pan and don’t level it--you are trying to keep the bubbles intact.

If cooling at room temperature, leave the pan completely undisturbed.

If using the oven cool method, put the pan in a 225 F oven then turn off the heat. Let sit for 15 minutes, then remove to finish cooling.

Preparing the Chocolate and Dipping

When the candy is completely cool and firm (up to a couple hours—I left mine overnight), prepare the chocolate. Chop the chocolate fine, them melt the cocoa butter (or substitute) in the microwave. Heat in 30 second bursts, stirring between bursts until melted.

Add about ¼ cup chopped chocolate to the cocoa butter. Stir until partly melted, then heat again for 10 seconds.  Using the instant read thermometer, take the temperature of the chocolate after every time in the microwave.

Your goal is to keep dark chocolate under 92 F or milk chocolate under 86 F. If the temperature is getting too close to the max, use shorter microwave bursts or stir for longer in between bursts. When chocolate is melted, add another ¼ cup and continue until it’s all melted.

To break the candy for dipping, score it with a knife, then break it by hand along the score lines.

Drop the candy into my melted chocolate one piece at a time, then roll it and pull it out with a fork.

Cool on a cooling rack until hardened. If the dipping chocolate cools too much, microwave again for a few seconds and stir, then continue dipping.

16 thoughts on “Homemade Sponge Candy

  1. norma

    Why is there so much oil (4 Tablespoons cocoa butter) in the chocolate? I have coated thousands of caramels and never added oil. I do use organic fairtrade 85-90% dark.

    Any comments, anybody?

    1. Inger Post author

      I think that the chocolate is easier to work with (that is, it is runnier) with added cocoa butter–and even more flavorful. And for 2 cups of chocolate, it’s not that much extra. But if you’ve had success with straight chocolate for your caramels, go ahead and use that here. The dipping will be the same.

  2. Barbara

    I have never had homemade sponge candy. I’ve had store bought it’s good….but this has to be amazing…nice & fresh…I gotta make this for sure….wish me luck LOL

    1. Inger Post author

      I think I used better chocolate than my last store bought, which was a happy surprise! Have fun!

  3. Jennifer

    This is absolutely show stopping! I love the flavor and the texture! I ate all of the first batch so I need to make a double batch next time!

  4. Kathleen Pope

    This is so much fun, I cannot wait to try it — you have so many great tips and tricks! Thank you for sharing, I am an organic corn syrup girl myself and don’t typically like to use much, but sometimes you just need to go for it!

  5. Amy (Savory Moments)

    Sponge candy has been on my to-make list forever now and you did a great job here! Sponge candy is a Buffalo area favorite and people have their favorite places (like Fowlers) to get it. It’s such a delicious candy and bravo!

  6. John / Kitchen Riffs

    Although I don’t like to fail at making a recipe, I always learn something when I do. So in a weird way I DO like it. Anyway, these look great. Terrific recipe — thanks.

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