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Buffalo Sponge Candy

I am so excited to finally have a recipe for sponge candy to share with you! I have been testing out recipes and techniques for months now. I have had many failed batches and have spent quite a bit of time scrubbing scorched sugar out of pans. I am a total newb to candy making, and I tried at least 4 different recipes twice before I found one I was happy to share with you.

But, before we jump into the recipe and all that fun candy making stuff, let’s talk about Sponge Candy. If you are from Upstate New York, particularly the Buffalo Region, there is probably no explanation needed. This sweet Buffalo treat has been expertly crafted by longtime confectioners such as Watson’s, Fowler’s, Alethea’s, and Parkside, While many confectioners make and sell sponge candy, this popular confection can also be found in the bulk foods section of Wegmans.

These chocolates have a light-as-air crispy “sponge” of aerated toffee, you can find dark chocolate and milk chocolate sponge candy. If you have never had sponge candy, maybe you just know it by another name. The crispy “sponge” interior is not exclusive to our part of the country, in fact, it is known by a wide variety of names in different regions.

  • sea foam in Maine, Washington, Oregon, Utah, California, and Michigan, United States
  • sponge candy in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, St. Paul, Minnesota, Northwest Pennsylvania, and of course Western New York, United States
  • sponge toffee in Canada

Ok, let’s get back to the candy making, First off, I am a novice candy maker, terms like hardball and soft-crack are all foreign to me. I started with a recipe that had “easy” in the title and required no candy thermometer. I actually attempted this recipe a few times before moving on, it resulted in a flat candy with little aeration and was a no go for me.

The second recipe I tried using vinegar, I thought that would combat the “flatness” of the first few batches. It did, and that is putting it mildly. It is shocking is how long sponge candy can and will continue to expand, even after it has been poured in a pan. Big mess would be an understatement for what happened in my kitchen that day.

With each and every attempt I was beginning to grasp the concept of candy making, and also discover where my challenges were coming from. I quickly realized with each and every single attempt, though, was that my smooth top electric stove lacked precise temperature control, and even heating, which was where the majority of my problems stemmed from. All of my problems were easily fixed with a cheap candy thermometer.  If sponge candy is your first venture into candy making, I can not strongly enough suggest picking up a thermometer, especially if you have an electric stove. I can also see where an induction cook-top would be very handy in this process if you have one.  I had a NuWave Precision Induction Cooktop, but sadly,  it mysteriously just quit working before I began my quest to make sponge candy, has anyone else had this problem?

 Buffalo Sponge Candy

Buffalo Sponge Candy

Yield: 12
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

These chocolates have a light-as-air crispy “sponge” of aerated toffee and are especially common in the Buffalo area.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 tsp Gelatin unflavored
  • 1 tbsp cold water
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp baking soda sifted
  • 1 1/2 cups dark chocolate, melted and tempered for dipping

Instructions

  1. Line a 9x9 pan with parchment paper, with extra paper hanging over the sides. Alternatively, butter and dust the pan with flour. Tapping out the excess flour.
  2. In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 1 tablespoon cold water and allow to bloom.
  3. In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan with high sides, mix sugar, corn syrup and 1/2 cup water together. Heat over medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a boil. Clip on candy thermometer onto the side of the saucepan and cook without stirring until the syrup reaches 310 F.
  4. Remove from heat and let sit for two minutes undisturbed, the bubbling will subside, and the temperature will drop. Add gelatin and whisk, be careful, the sugar syrup will bubble up. Sprinkle baking soda over syrup and whisk vigorously. Return mixture to the heat and whisk for 30 seconds. The sugar will expand in the pot, a lot!
  5. Quickly pour into prepared pan, it should come out in a big blob. Do not spread the mixture, just let it settle into the pan. Leave the pan undisturbed, and allow the candy to cool completely (about 2 hours or overnight) before removing from the pan.
  6. Either break into odd pieces or cut into squares. This is an incredibly messy process, but fun! To cut into squares - using a serrated knife, score the candy at 1-inch intervals. Snap the candy apart at the score lines. Then score and break into squares.
  7. Melt chocolate melts in a double boiler (or bowl sitting above a pot of boiling water). Dip sponge candies in chocolate, tap off excess. Chill in the fridge to set the chocolate shell.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 292Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 331mgCarbohydrates: 53gFiber: 2gSugar: 49gProtein: 1g

With all my failed sponge candy attempts behind me, once I found what I think is the best recipe for sponge candy, I realized it really isn’t that difficult, and dare I say maybe even a little fun! After the sponge has set, the real fun begins! Breaking or cutting the candy is a messy endeavor, there will be a ton of “crumbles”, save these in a Ziploc bag (air is not a friend to sponge candy, especially when it is humid out) they are pretty tasty as an ice cream topping. It is fun to snap the candy into that well-known cube shape, and a good job for kids who want to be involved.

Coating the sponge candy in chocolate helps protect the delicate sponge from humidity, and tastes delicious. You can use milk or dark chocolate, to suit your tastes or mood.  Melting wafers are especially easy-to-use, with minimal fuss the wafers ensure a smooth and even melting. I melted mine in the microwave at a reduced power level so it wouldn’t burn, and no tempering is required so it will set up correctly and have that characteristic chocolate sheen.

Candy making can be tricky, but now that I have some basic skills and knowledge under my belt, I will be whipping these candies up as gifts around Christmas time for friends and family, I think they will be pleasantly surprised, or not if they read my blog .

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Sandy

Sunday 26th of July 2020

We make sponge candy in our southern Michigan candy store. Our recipe uses molasses for flavor. I have been looking for a recipe that uses gelatin. How could I use molasses in this recipe? In our recipe, we add the molasses at the end when it reaches the proper temp but before the baking soda. Any suggestions?

Si Charlee

Sunday 19th of July 2020

may i know the significance of using gelatin in this recipe? does it make any different if i don't use gelatin? i also notice that the end result looks more solid rather than spongey. is this because the temperature was reduced before adding the gelatin? causing the baking soda didn't raise the sugar well. thanks!

Steve

Monday 18th of May 2020

I remember this from when I was younger growing up in Michigan, where it is most definitely known as "Sea foam"! Meijer's stores used to sell it in the bulk candy section. I found it 2 years ago at Trader Joe's! I bought like 10 boxes of it! Alas, I found out this past fall they have discontinued selling it! I was so sad. I just tried your recipe and..........it is so awesome! It tastes just like any store-bought and maybe even better! I used an 8" x 8" pan instead of the 9 by 9, so it was definitely a little thicker than normal! I had a hard time figuring out how to cut it up until I used a flat head screwdriver and a hammer! Worked perfectly! Thanks again for making this sea foam fan's day (and week.....and month.....and year!)

Sponge Candy | Edible Finger Lakes

Tuesday 21st of April 2020

[…] Submitted by MJ Kircher, adapted from Home in the Finger Lakes […]

E

Saturday 22nd of February 2020

Thank you SO MUCH for posting this recipe! I have very limited candy making experience and this turned out on the first try! I agree with others that the outside bits are a little harder to bite into and get a little tacky as you chew them, but honestly it still tastes good, and I thought the texture of the middle of the batch was perfect, especially for homemade. Sponge candy is such a unique treat and I'm so excited to be able to make this recipe for friends and family, both those who have had sponge candy before and those who never have!

So glad I found your blog!! I hope you keep posting WNY/upstate NY recipes..I so miss the food there since I have moved away