When I was a kid, my family used to stop at a bulk candy store in the middle of nowhere Illinois and sponge candy (I’ve also heard people call it hokey pokey, honeycomb, and sea foam) was my favorite treat. It starts out super sweet, but as you chew it becomes salty. Perfect for those of us who have the occasional sweet tooth but prefer salty snacks.
I haven’t had sponge candy in years because the candy store has long been out of business and it’s a persnickety candy to make (the outside temperature and humidity has to be just right to get that magical crunchy crumbly texture) so I thought I’d give it a try.
I started with Nigella Lawson’s sponge candy recipe, which I tried twice because certainly Nigella can be trusted when it comes to sweets, but it turned out like horrible burnt sugar hard candy both times.
So tried an Epicurious recipe that called for vinegar, which sounded promising given its foamy reaction with baking soda, but fell flat.
Then I came across a recipe by a synesthetic organic chemist (!!!) and it was perfection on the first try and just as good as I remember.
I highly recommend reading the recipe several times through before starting and having all your ingredients and cooking utensils handy. It also doesn’t hurt to pick a low-humidity day to make sponge candy, which makes it a perfect fall treat.
Recipe courtesy of Wilde in the Kitchen
- 1/4 teaspoon gelatin
- 1 teaspoon water
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
Line a 9 by 9 inch pan with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 1 teaspoon of water and allow to bloom.
In a stock pot, mix sugar, corn syrup, and 1/3 cup water and heat over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Once sugar is dissolved and the mixture comes to a boil, allow sugar to self stir until temperature reads 310° F with a candy thermometer.
Remove from heat and whisk in gelatin. Sprinkle in baking soda and whisk vigorously, returning to medium heat for approximately 30 seconds. This is the point where the mixture will foam up and more than double in size.
Quickly pour mixture into the parchment lined pan. Do not spread mixture or shake pan. Just dump it out and let it settle into the pan on its own.
Allow to cool completely (overnight is best) before removing from pan and scoring and breaking into chunks.
Enjoy as-is or dunk or drizzle with milk chocolate.