Like any other hard, tempered candy, candy canes start with essential ingredients like sugar, cream of tartar, flavoring, and food coloring. While there are multiple recipes, the process remains the same. So how are candy canes made? The ingredients are heated, poured, slapped, stretched, twisted, and pulled as detailed below. Small batches can be made at home; however, medium and large batches are really meant for professional kitchens.
The ingredients (except the flavor and coloring) are cooked over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Then it’s heated to a molten state of 320 degrees Fahrenheit, the hard candy stage. Either a thermometer or a cold-water test can be used to measure the candy stage. Be mindful that the sugary liquid will stick to the skin at the hard candy stage, causing burns and blisters. Even the smallest splash or touch can cause burns.
As you reach the hard candy stage, turn off the heat, add your flavoring, and then pour half of the sugary mixture into another pan. Then add the food coloring to one of the pans and allow the candy to cool enough to handle with heat resistant gloves. Of course, professional candy makers have warming tables to keep the candy warm enough to stretch for the next steps. It’s best for regular home-cooks to have a second pair of hands to help, or you could end up with large candy sticks instead of candy canes.
Starting with the plain sugar, you’ll begin pulling and folding until the air being pulled into the amber-colored mixture turns white and glossy. Put one-third of the white candy aside and roll the larger piece into a log. Set aside and roll out the smaller piece into a strip about ¾ the log’s length and set aside. This may include using the oven at a temperature of around 180 degrees.
Simultaneously, the second person should be pulling and folding the colored mixture until it is glossy. Roll it out to the length of the white strip. These strips are then cut in several strips lengthwise, depending on how many stripes are desired. Laying the alternating strips together lengthwise, then roll out to the length of the log. Place the log in the center of the stripes and enclose the log, cutting any excess, so there is no overlap.
Regularly and consistently, start rolling and twisting the log into a longer log. When the desired cane circumference and amount of twist are reached, cut the proper length, then with a turn to one end creating the cane’s hook shape. This is where creativity can occur, such as a wreath-shape, heart, or swirl shaped lollipop. When shaped, place on a greased cookie sheet to cool.
Once cooled, if meant as a gift or treat, store the candy canes in an airtight container at room temperature. If meant for decoration, add them to your tree, wreath, table centerpiece, or decorative add-on to wrapped gifts.
Burnell, Melissa. “Make Your Own Candy Canes.” Budget 101.com. Accessed: September 13, 2020.
Eddy, Jody. (Dec. 13, 2019). “How to Make Homemade Candy Canes.” Chowhound. Accessed: September 12, 2020.
Torres, Jacques. “Candy Canes.” Food Network. Accessed: September 12, 2020.