If you've ever been to a carnival, circus, amusement park, fair or any other type of large outdoor event with vendors selling a variety of trinkets, you've most likely had the chance to sample an odd yet delicious candy known as cotton candy. Today is National Cotton Candy Day in celebration of the delicious, sugary treat!
Originally called "Fairy Floss", the process of making Cotton Candy was invented by four men: Thomas Patton, Josef Delarose Lascaux, John C. Wharton, and William Morrison. In 1899, Morrison and Wharton were able to patent the first electric cotton candy machine, which used centrifugal force to spin and melt sugar through small holes. In 1904, these two Nashville candy makers introduced their invention of how to make cotton candy to the St. Louis World's Fair. Due to fair goers' curiosity, these inventors sold approximately 68,655 boxes of cotton candy for 25 cents a box for a total of $17,163.75!
In 1900, Patton obtained a patent for his invention of making cotton candy. Using a gas-fired rotating plate to spin caramelizing sugar, he was able to form threads of cotton candy with a fork. In addition, he introduced his invention to the public at the Ringley Bros. Circus. Boy was it a hit! Even though he never received a patent, dentist Josef Lascaux introduced this popular candy to his Louisiana dental office. About 50 years later, in 1949, Gold Medal Products launched a cotton candy machine that had a spring base. Like any other invention, this cotton candy maker was more dependable than the past machines due to the help of new knowledge on how to create a better machine.
Cotton candy doesn't contain all that much sugar - merely as much sugar as one would get drinking a can of an average soft drink. In fact, in a normal serving of cotton candy (about a 1 oz. cone) there are only about 100 calories - compared to anywhere from 130-170 calories in a can of non-diet soft drink.
This fluffy and delightful candy is a novelty to children as well as adults. The process by which cotton candy is made has been around for over 100 years so chances are you could ask your grandparents about their first encounter with cotton candy and they'll tell you at great length how much it cost and how neat it was back in the day.
This absolutely adorable cotton candy cupcake is by The Sweet Tooth Fairy!
Cotton candy cake (Rachael Ray)
Cotton Candy Cake Recipe by Virginia Pollack (Rachael Ray's Magazine)
You'll need 9-inch and 6-inch round baking or spring-form pans, 3 inches deep, for this cake. It makes 20 servings and takes approximately 25 minutes preparation time.
4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1½ cups sugar
6 large egg whites
Red food coloring
One 9-inch round, 3-inch-deep yellow cake, made from 1 box cake mix
One 6- or 7-inch round, 3-inch-deep yellow cake, from 1 box cake mix
One 8- to 10-ounce jar raspberry preserves
Cotton candy and assorted round pink and red candy or gumballs, for decorating*
* Jacques Torres cotton candy recipe follows or you can buy cotton candy at your local grocery store
Before you begin, trace the pans on cardboard and cut out the 2 circles to use as bases for each tier.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and vanilla. In a separate heatproof bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg whites. Place over a pan of barely simmering water, whisking, just until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and beat with clean mixer blades on high speed until the mixture cools to room temperature and forms stiff peaks, about 5 minutes.
Lower the speed and add the creamed butter a few tablespoons at a time (the mixture will look broken and curdled). Slowly mix in the rest of the butter until combined. Beat on high until smooth, about 10 minutes. Add a drop of red food coloring and beat until uniform in color. Cover with plastic wrap until ready to use.
Using a long serrated knife, slice each cake horizontally into 2 even layers. Dab a bit of the preserves onto each cardboard round and place one corresponding cake layer on top. Spread the remaining preserves on the 2 bottom layers, then spread about ½ cup frosting over the preserves. Top with the remaining 2 cake layers. Apply a thin layer of frosting to each double-layer cake to seal in the crumbs. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to set slightly.
Cover the tops and sides of each cake with the remaining frosting, then place the small cake and its cardboard on top of the large cake. Top with cotton candy and decorate with the candies.
Jacques Torres' Homemade Cotton Candy Recipe
This Jacques Torres recipe is intermediate level and
takes approximately 10 minutes cook time and yields 10 servings.
5 cups granulated sugar
Scant 1 1/3 cups light corn syrup
1 cup plus 2 T. water
Food color paste
Vegetable baking spray
To make this recipe at home, you will
need a pair of wire cutters and an old inexpensive whisk. Cut the
round ends off an inexpensive whisk. Arrange the tines so they are
evenly spaced. You will also need an open space to make the cotton
candy. At home, slit open a garbage bag and cover the floor area.
Wedge 2 long wooden spoons under something heavy so they extend off
the edge of the counter.
Place the sugar, corn syrup, and water
in a 2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Insert a
candy thermometer and cook the sugar mixture until it reaches 320
degrees F, what is known as the hard crack stage (the sugar becomes
brittle when it comes in contact with a cooler surface). Remove from
the heat and carefully pour into a medium-size microwaveable glass
bowl. If you leave the sugar in the pan, the sugar will continue to
cook and turn dark brown. A glass bowl will hold the temperature of
the sugar. I put a towel under the bowl to keep the bowl from tipping
over and to protect my hands from the heat of the glass. (The sugar
will stay liquid enough to work with easily for about 10 minutes;
after that it will start to thicken. If this happens before you are
finished, just pop the bowl in the microwave for 3 to 5 minutes, or
until the sugar is liquid enough to work with once again.) If you are
going to color and/or flavor the sugar, add those drops now.
Dip the tines into the hot sugar. Allow
the sugar to drain off for 1 to 2 seconds until the draining sugar
strands are relatively the same consistency. Then wave the whisk over
the extended wooden spoons and allow the sugar strands to gently
drift until they are resting on top of the spoons. Make sure you are
about 12 to 18 inches above the spoons. Use broad long strokes and
work quickly. Gather the cotton candy and roll onto paper that you've
rolled into a long, thin cone, like cotton candy is served in at the
carnival or serve as is. If you need to store the cotton candy for a
few hours, place it in an airtight container. The delicate sugar will
melt in a humid environment.
Sources: Cottoncandy.net, Cotton Candy Express, Wikipedia