Sherbet Powder

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

sherbet powder is a mixture of sugar, tartaric acid powder, bicarbonate of soda, and lemon flavoring. It combines sweetness, sharp acidity, and a sensation of fizz, and was described by Tim Richardson, in Sweets: A History of Temptation (2002), as “one of the most nutritionally unjustifiable and gastronomically obscure foodstuffs available to man (or child).”

This inexpensive confection is essentially a U.K. specialty beloved of children between six and ten. As “Rainbow Crystals,” arranged in colored stripes in the jar, it decorates the sweetshop shelves, waiting to be weighed out and tipped into flimsy paper bags; a cheap lollipop (a boiled sweet on a stick) is added to make a “sherbet dab.” Sherbet Fountains are paper tubes filled with the powder, each one sealed around a hollow tube of licorice that serves as a drinking straw for imbibing the contents. “Flying saucers” are fragile discs of wafer, domed in the middle and pressed together in twos to enclose the powder; and sherbet lemons are lemon-flavored boiled sweets filled with the powder. Sherbet also flavors tablet-like confections of powdered sugar stamped out under high pressure. Of these, Love Hearts, descendants of Victorian motto lozenges, are the most distinctive.