Decorative sugar work is literally mind-blowing. Spectacular flowers, birds, fruits and more look almost identical to blown or sculpted glass, yet are crafted from the simplest of materials: sugar.
If you're ready to tackle this incredible art form, the first step is learning how to cook your sugar down to a pure, pristine liquid state with absolutely no crystals. (Even a tiny bit of crystal contamination can quickly wreck the whole batch!).
Cooked Sugar for Sugar Work
What You Need
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon cream of tarter
- 1 cup water
- ⅔ cup corn syrup
- ⅛ teaspoon gel food coloring (optional)
- 2 teaspoons flavored extract (lemon, almond, mint, etc.) or 1 teaspoon of a candy flavoring (optional)
- Silicone mat
- Medium or large pot (use a very clean stainless steel pot if you need your sugar to stay clear)
- Candy thermometer
- Silicone brush
- Large heat-proof glass measuring cup (must hold more than 2 cups)
1. Get Prepped
Place the heat-proof glass measuring cup in a cold oven, then turn the oven to 275 degrees. Place the sugar and cream of tartar in a bowl and mix well.
2. Boil and Brush
Heat 1 cup water, the corn syrup and the sugar mixture in the pot on medium heat and bring to a boil. When the sugar begins to boil, use a pastry brush or silicone brush and a little water to brush down the sides of the pan to prevent sugar crystals from forming.
Continue to boil until the mixture reaches 300 F.
Don't put the candy thermometer into the pot until the sugar is boiling rapidly. Otherwise the sugar will crystallize on the thermometer.
It will take quite a while for your sugar to get to 300 F, but watch carefully. The temperature will move very slowly up the thermometer until it reaches about 270 degrees, but from there it will jump up to 300 degrees very quickly.
3. Cool Undisturbed
When the mixture reaches 300 degrees, immediately remove your pan from the heat and allow it to cool undisturbed to 275.
Good to Know: After you remove the pot from the heat, the temperature of your sugar may continue to rise. This is normal. Don't touch it, stir, or add anything until it lowers to 275 degrees F.
4. Color and Flavor
Once the mixture cools to 275 degrees, add the food coloring and flavoring (if using), stirring gently to mix. If you notice any tiny crystals of sugar on the sides of your pan, take care not to mix them in.
5. Pour and Complete
As soon as your hot sugar is colored and flavored, remove the very hot glass measuring cup from the oven carefully, and pour your very hot sugar into it.
Safety first! Molten sugar is extremely hot and a serious burn hazard. Protect yourself, your surfaces and your equipment and pay close attention while you work. (Also, if you're thinking about skipping the step of preheating your glass measuring cup, don't. Pouring hot sugar into a cool glass will cause the glass to shatter.)
Place the glass measuring cup back in the oven and let it sit for five to 10 minutes to allow any bubbles to settle out. Your sugar is now ready to use for beautiful blown and pulled sugar work!