Candy & Icing

Candy & Icing

In its most basic form, candies are made of two ingredients: sugar and water. Different candies are produced by manipulating the proportion of the ingredients in the formula, and the crystallization of sugar during the process. The concentration of sugar in cooked syrup is key to create different types of candy. The more water a syrup has, the softer the candy produced will be.


As a sugar syrup boils, it gets more and more concentrated. The cold-water test is a simple test used by candy makers to know when the syrup has reached the correct temperature for the candy they are preparing. The method is simple, add a small amount of syrup to cold water and observe the behavior. Each stage of the syrup, determines the suitability for a particular candy.

In general, candies can be categorized into non-crystalline and crystalline candies.


  • Non-crystalline Candies
    Non-crystalline or amorphous candies are simpler to make than crystalline candies. Hard candy, candy, caramels, taffy, and toffees good examples. To prepare these types of candy, the sugar solution must contain sufficient interfering agents (such as invert sugars), or cook to a high enough temperature to prevent recrystallization.

    In taffies, butterscotch, brittles, and caramels, either invert sugar in the form of molasses, or acid that will produce invert sugar or corn syrup, is added to the mixture to prevent the formation of crystals in the candy. These candies are cooked to a higher temperature than crystallized candies to reduce the water content to 2% or less, which also prevents recrystallization.

    Non-crystalline candy can be cooked by dry heat as well as moist heat. Some peanut brittles, for example, are made by melting dry sugar. The brittle does not recrystallize because the lack of water during the cooling period causes it to take the form of a non-crystalline, glassy solid.

    Sugar's ability to recrystallize, and also to control recrystallization through development of invert sugar, provides a delightful variety of textures in candies and confections.
  • Crystalline Candies
    Crystalline candies have a structure of a small crystal, are smooth, creamy, and easily chewed. Examples include fondants and fudge.

    Invert sugar prevent recrystallization. Invert sugar is the result of the breakdown, or the inversion, of the sucrose into fructose and glucose. This process takes place when sucrose is heated with moist heat or, as in candy making, when a water and sugar solution is heated. The amount of water used and the length and intensity of the cooking of the supersaturated solution both control how much of the sucrose is inverted. The process may be accelerated by added acid from candy ingredients such as cream of tartar, fruit, brown sugar, molasses, honey or chocolate. While it is highly undesirable for too much sucrose in the cream candy to invert, a considerable amount of invert sugar is essential to keeping the candy moist and to preventing graininess (due to the formation of too-large crystals).

    Check out our variety of fudge candy recipes below. Below is a chart of the sugar syrups and uses in confectionary with a deep dive into the heating stages.

    Sugar Heating Stages Guide
    Sugar Heating Stages Cooking Temperature Description
    Thread Stage 215-235°F Makes a long thread when dropped in cold water. I.E. syrups and preserves.
    Soft Ball 235-240°F Forms a soft ball that doesn't hold its shape. Cream candies, fudge, fondants are done at the soft ball stage.
    Firm Ball 245-250° F This ball will only flatten with pressure. I.E. Divinity and Caramels.
    Hard Ball 250-265° F This ball will hold its shape when pressed. I.E. marshmallow, nougat.
    Soft Crack 270-290° F Separates into bendable threads, such as Taffy.
    Hard Crack 300-310° F Examples of these types of candy are: butterscotch, brittle.
    Caramelize 310 degrees F. Sugar turns dark.
  • Icings
    Sugar's role in icings is similar to those in candies. Its versatility contributes to the many tempting frostings that may be prepared for cakes. Icings enhance the flavor of baked goods as well as function as a barrier to moisture, extending freshness of the baked good. Sugar is the most important ingredient in icings, providing sweetness, flavor, bulk and structure.