Cotton Candy

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

cotton candy, a confection made from melted sugar that has been flavored and finely spun into soft, pillowy threads, is a popular novelty dessert at festivals and fairs. Although production of the sweet was not mechanized until 1897, versions of spun sugar threads are recorded as early as the sixteenth century.

A recipe for a “silver web” made from spun sugar, intended to adorn sweetmeats, appears in the 1769 edition of Elizabeth Raffald’s The Experienced English Housekeeper. Recipes for a “gold web” and a dessert of spun sugar are also included. The late-nineteenth-century Skuse’s Complete Confectioner suggests using spun sugar as a window dressing in shops. Charles Henry King’s Cakes, Cake Decorations and Desserts: A Manual for Housewives, Simple and Up-to-date (1896) includes instructions for making large spun-sugar ornaments, as well as using the threads to decorate charlotte russes and tarts, and as handles for meringue baskets. See meringue and tart.