Candy melts: Oh, how we love and fear you. Yes, you can help us create spectacularly colorful desserts. But you can also leave us feeling totally frustrated and angry at the world.
The maddening part about working with candy melts is that the directions on the package can be super confusing. Instead, use our foolproof tips — based on lots of trial and error — and get ready to fall hard for candy melts all over again.
What Exactly Are Candy Melts?
Candy melts, also known as confectionery coating or summer coating, are made from sugar, milk solids, vegetable oils, flavorings and colors. If they're the chocolate kind, there's cocoa powder in there too. Candy melts behave a lot like chocolate , but they don't require tempering the way pure chocolate does.
You’ll find many candy melt brands out there, with loads of variations in quality and price. They also come in all kinds of colors that you can combine by melting them together.
In the recipe and images here, we’ll use Wilton and Merckens candy melts since they’re popular and widely available. We’ll create the color pink by adding a little bit of red to a bag of white candy melts, and melting them in the microwave since that’s an easy, no-fuss method.
A Few Pointers
- Get to know your microwave, and only heat your candy melts at 30-to 50-percent power — never higher.
- Colored candy melts are intensely concentrated, so you don’t need tons to get a bright color. Add them to white candy melts to create the color you want.
- Be extra-patient while warming your candy melts. It takes about 20 to 40 minutes for them to melt properly.
- Avoid over-heating your candy melts; they’ll get thicker and clumpier the hotter they get.
- This goes against everything you probably know about chocolate, but leave your candy melts alone as they cool — this sometimes yields better results than stirring.
- To speed the process, try melting more candy melts at the same time, rather than fewer.
- Use fresh candy melts; they tend to work better than candy melts that have sitting around on your shelf for three-plus months.
How to Melt Your Candy Melts
Put your candy melts in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 1 minute at 50 percent power.
The candy melts won’t look melted yet, but stir anyway. Put the bowl back in the microwave for 30 seconds at 50 percent power.
3. Stir Some More!
The melts will still be thick, but stir them well for about a minute. Place the bowl back in the microwave for another 30 seconds at 50 percent power.
4. Check the Temp
Stir again for about 1 or 2 more minutes, then check the temperature on your candy melts. They shouldn’t be warmer than your body temperature. If they're warmer, just set the bowl down and let them cool for a few minutes. You might still see clumps, and that’s okay. Just walk away for another few minutes. It’s hard, but trust us on this.
After a few minutes, try stirring again. By now you should find that the clumps are melting and the mixture is getting thinner.
If the candy melts are cooler than your body temperature, put the bowl back in the microwave for 20 seconds at 30 percent power. Stir, then check the temperature again. Repeat that step until your candy melts are nice and melted, just the way you want them.
5. Add Shortening, if Needed
Truth: Sometimes candy melts don’t cooperate. Instead of thinning out and turning smooth, they clump or get “elephant skin,” like the candy melts in the image above.
If you find your candy melts are too thick, just add a spoonful of shortening. The shortening will look clumpy at first, but once you stir it in, let it sit for a few minutes. The warm candy melts will actually melt the shortening, which will then do its job and thin out your candy melts. What comes around goes around, right?
But if after about five minutes the clumps are still there, heat the candy melts in the microwave for another 20 seconds at 20 percent power. That should do the trick.