How To Spin Sugar For Delightful Desserts

published May 19, 2010
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Sometimes a dessert or baked good needs a little something extra for a final touch. We always turn to spun sugar for crowd pleasing ooohs and aaahs. It takes very little time and isn’t as scary as you might think. So get your candy thermometers ready, it’s time to make a mini-mess!

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What You Need

2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 cup granulated white sugar

Candy thermometer
Wooden spoons (or handles rather)
Sauce pan
Pastry brush
Large Bowl of Ice Water
Parchment paper or newsprint


1. Prep Workspace: Although this is an easy process, it does require a little set up. Take wooden spoons (or spatulas with wooden handles) and lay them over the edge of your countertop. We taped ours down, but you can also set something heavy on top and be just fine. Place newspaper or parchment paper on the floor to protect the surface (and save you some cleaning).

2. Prep Ice Bath: Having an ice bath on hand is super important and since you can’t take your eyes off the sugar while it’s heating, it needs to be made now, before things get all bubbly and brown!

3. Combine Ingredients: In a saucepan over high heat combine ingredients and stir just until sugar is moistened (using a fork). It should only take 5 seconds or so and then put the fork down! No more stirring!

4. Bring To Temperature: Clip on your candy thermometer and bring mixture to 256 degrees fahrenheit. Have a bowl of water and a pastry brush on hand to wipe to the sides of the pot. You’ll want to remove and crystallizing sugar around the edges so it doesn’t cause the entire pot to seize. It sounds scary, but it’s really no big deal, just a few wipes with the brush and you should be set.

5. Remove From Heat: When the mixture comes to 254 degrees, remove it from the heat and transfer the entire pan, straight to the ice bath. In the time it takes for you to move the pan it will have gained it’s last 2 degrees. When the thermometer stops climbing, remove from the ice bath and place on a dampened towel or potholder.

6. Spin Baby Spin!: Using a fork (or 3 forks at the same time), dip them into the sugar and then whip them back and forth slowly over the handles of your wooden utensils. Repeat the process until there is enough sugar hanging onto the handles that you can pick it up with your hand. Assuming your sugar was the right temperature, it will still be slightly pliable. If it went a few degrees over (like ours did in the photo above) that’s no big deal, but it might break instead of pull, so be prepared with both hands to help transfer it to a piece of parchment or air tight container.

7. Clean Up: If there’s sugar remaining in your pan, simply fill with water and return to high heat. The sugar will melt and you can pour the mixture out in the sink. It doesn’t hurt to give your utensils a quick swirl in the hot water first, cleaning them off too!

8. Storage: If you’ll be using this right away, then no worries, chow down! If you need to store it or if it’s extra humid where you are, store in an airtight container with a silica packet inside to help keep out extra moisture in the air. They’ll keep for up to a week with proper care.

Additional Notes:
The time that it takes for the sugar mixture to go from 150-254 is literally seconds. Keep an eye on your pot at all time. We wish we could tell you the photo of the burnt sugar above was done “to demonstrate what happens if you don’t pay attention” and although it serves that purpose, we were totally watching television and got distracted. When we turned around a few seconds later, we had a pan of burnt sugar! (check the photo above for instructions on removing and starting again).

If your mixture goes up to 10 degrees over, you’ll still be able to work with it, just work quick and it will turn out more spikey than rounded balls of airy fluff on top… like our first image above. It tastes just as great and still makes a great presentation. Good luck and enjoy!