If you’ve never heard of sponge candy, perhaps it’s because you know this crunchy treat by one of its other names. Brits call it honeycomb toffee, while rumor has it at least some Americans know it as fairy food. There are even folks south of the equator calling it hokey pokey. No matter what you call it, it’s a one-of-a-kind candy that happens to be super easy to make.
What is sponge candy?
Sponge candy, or honeycomb toffee, is a crunchy, airy toffee made from brown sugar, corn syrup (or sometimes molasses or golden syrup), and baking soda.
So why give it names like “sponge” or “honeycomb”? That has to do with the light, airy texture of the candy, which is characterized by layers of toffee containing air bubbles that resemble those of a sponge or a honeycomb. Sponge candy can be enjoyed plain, but it’s also popular to cover it in chocolate, as with the British Cadbury Crunchie bar and plenty of other confections worldwide.
While no one really knows the exact origin of this special treat, it has strong roots in a few places besides the UK. Residents of Buffalo, NY claim sponge candy as part of their heritage, and the city is home to a number of chocolatiers and confectioners who specialize in the treat.
At one time or another, sponge candy has also been popular in China, Japan, Hungary (where it’s called torokmez or “Turkish honey”), and South Korea (where it’s called dalgona), among other places.
Why you should learn how to make sponge candy
1. It’s easy. You can make sponge candy with as few as four ingredients, and it’s pretty much as simple as mixing ingredients together and heating them up. That’s only a little harder than getting yourself to the candy store to buy some!
2. It’s fun. There’s really nothing better than getting candy delivered straight to your door, but second best is getting creative in the kitchen to make your very own DIY candy. Whether you’re perfecting your confectionery skills or keeping the kids entertained on a day off, making homemade candy is hardly the worst way you can spend your time. After all, in the end, you get to celebrate all your hard work with the sweet treats you’ve made!
3. It’s a great gift. Cookies are great, but how often do you get homemade sponge candy as a gift? Give someone a unique present for their birthday or an upcoming holiday.
4. It’s educational. Since making sponge candy is so easy, it’s a great activity for science classrooms. Specifically, the science behind sponge candy offers a great opportunity to learn about chemical reactions. Read on to learn more!
The science of sponge candy
What makes sponge candy sponge candy is actually a simple chemical reaction. If you bake a lot, you’ll know that baking soda (or sodium bicarbonate) is what makes cakes and other baked goods rise. It’s also what you would use to make a model volcano in science class. In sponge candy, it performs the same function.
When baking soda mixes with the extreme heat of the sugar, it causes the signature honeycomb-like bubbles to form in your sugar mixture. You can see this exciting process happen in real-time as you make your own sponge candy.
Though the hot sugar is usually enough to react with the baking soda, some also use a small amount of vinegar, since the reaction between sodium bicarbonate and an acid will cause the same bubbling effect.
To learn more about the science of candy and sugar, check out this article from The Guardian. Then try out a super sweet science project in your class!
Now to the main event – how to make sponge candy yourself.
How to make sponge candy
Sponge candy is the perfect candy to make for people of all experience levels. It’s simple and only requires a few ingredients.
To make classic sponge candy, you’ll need:
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup dark corn syrup
- 1 tbsp white vinegar
- 1 tbsp baking soda
- Optional: Dash vanilla extract
- Candy thermometer
- Combine ingredients in a medium saucepan.
- Heat ingredients. Cook on medium heat, stirring until the sugar melts. Then stop stirring until the mixture reaches about 300 to 310 degrees F.
- Remove from heat and add baking soda. Stir and enjoy watching the mixture foam up!
- Pour into a greased pan and let harden.
- Break up the pieces, and enjoy!
It really is that easy to make basic sponge candy.
Want to try another version? For another popular take, you can dip or cover the candy pieces in melted chocolate. Learn how with this classic Buffalo sponge candy recipe.
Want more fun candy recipes? Explore the Candy Club blog today!