History of Cotton Candy

Published: 22nd February 2010
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Americans know it as 'Cotton Candy', the British as 'Candy Floss', and in Australia it is 'Fairy Floss'. Whatever you call it, cotton candy is a favorite of children across the world. It is a memory of childhoods gone by, of circuses and fairgrounds, of theme parks and summertime treats. It is fluffy pink clouds on sticks or in bags. Traditionally, it is pink but even cotton candy has seen progress; these days it comes in blue, yellow, green, or even purple! It is treasured memories of sticky hands and faces! While most adults remember it fondly as an essential part of childhood, few know the history of this magical childhood delight.



Cotton candy is essentially sugar, water and corn syrup that is boiled and quickly spun. This practice dates back to the 14th century when chefs in noble households would spin sugar into extravagant desserts! Originally, it was a somewhat dangerous occupation with chefs suffering painful burns for their 'art'. The practice is still in use in top restaurants around the world with famous chefs creating incredible structures from sugar.



Improvements in sugar production methods over the centuries meant more production and lower prices. Once reserved for the few, such as Europe's nobility, sugar become affordable and available for everyone.



Throughout the 1800s, the quality of sugar improved and spinning sugar became easier, if not less dangerous. The process of boiling sugar with water and a few other secret ingredients became more widespread. Cooks used only the best cane sugar and copper bowls, and used to oil their skin to stop the blisteringly hot liquid from sticking to them. Once the mixture was ready, the cook had precious few moments to plunge in their fork or whisk, grab a glob and literally fling it through the air! The strands would cool and quickly solidify as they flew through the air. Hey Presto! Spun sugar!



It took American ingenuity to see the potential of taking the historic practice of spinning sugar and creating something for a mass market. Here's where it gets a bit difficult to establish exactly who invented the cotton candy we know today. Certainly, the first patent for a machine to mass produce cotton candy was given to John C Wharton and William Morris in 1897. It is they who introduced it to a large audience. So it is these men who are credited with inventing 'cotton candy'. They called it Fairy Floss, so perhaps the Australians are the most historically accurate.



It made its first real public appearance at the renowned St Louis World's Fair in 1904. Unsurprisingly, it was a huge hit. However, it was not on sticks or even in bags, it was in boxes, of which 68,655 were sold - even at 25 cents, a fairly expensive price for the time.



Just a year later, American Thomas Patton patented a different machine. He took his invention to Ringling Bros., and cotton candy became a fundamental part of the wonderful adventure of a trip to the Circus.



The granulated sugar that we know today became widely available shortly after World War I and now special sugar is used to give longer strands and a fluffier texture. Today, at venues across the world, the secret recipe is added to a large drum and swirled onto sticks or tubes and handed down to the eagerly waiting little hands.



New machines, invented in the 1970s were able to mass produce huge bulks of cotton candy which could be cut. These are the ones used to produce the bags of cotton candy available in stores.



Recent developments include adding flavors, such as ice cream or bubble gum. This may please some but real aficionados will stick to pure sugar, (preferably pink!).



Another recent development is the invention of machines for home use. So lovers of cotton candy can make their own at home with these small machines. These come with everything you need to create the perfect cotton candy - except the circus!Manufacturefun.com offers a wide range of possibilities for businesses, schools or concessionaires. Visit them online for more information on their popcorn machine, snow cone machines or cotton candy machines.

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