Buffalo, NY is famous for chicken wings, but they also have another claim to fame – Gluten Free Buffalo Sponge Candy. Sometimes I think I must live in a special bubble where no information penetrates because I have only just recently learned of Sponge Candy. Not only have I been a Professional Pastry Chef for years, but I have worked for the past 10+ years for a company who is headquartered in Buffalo, NY. I’ve been in that town a lot over the years, so there is NO excuse for me missing this one. But, now that I’m clued in, I had to make this myself.
But, what is sponge candy?
It’s this light, airy, crunchy and crispy molasses-tasting lattice structured (is that enough adjectives?) cooked sugar that can be coated with milk or dark or flavored (orange most likely) chocolate. Once you bite through that chocolate coating, it’s like sweet molasses air that melts on your tongue. Think of those experiments you did in grade school with your volcano – you combined baking soda with vinegar and it produced all this bubbling up – or carbon dioxide. Well – that’s what is happening here.
I l.o.v.e. this stuff. It could be my love of cotton candy – all that delicious air spun sugar that also melts on your tongue. Or maybe it’s just my love of sugar. No matter.
Any history here?
Not that I could find. There are lots of theories out there about how it was a happy accident – similar to the toll house cookie origin story. Or the story about the Whitt family, who owned Ko-Ed Candy Shop in South Buffalo from 1985, made it famous when they started mass producing sponge candy. No hard evidence out there. And, I find it interesting that I grew up in Pittsburgh and lived in both Cleveland and Philadelphia, which are relatively close to Buffalo, but sponge candy was just not a thing you would find in those cities.
All I know is that I’m glad that I’m trying this in what is considered the ‘winter’ in the south – meaning it’s below 80 degrees down here. I could see why this would not be a popular southern candy with all the humidity and heat here in the south. Not a kind environment for cooked sugar. Even in the north, if any of the sugar is exposed to the air for even a brief amount of time, that sugar will turn all sticky and chewy – not what we’re going for.
I didn’t feel like I needed to reinvent the wheel here so I searched the internet for recipes and found plenty. Like I mentioned above, the baking soda and vinegar together is what creates the lattice sugar structure for the light and airy texture. So, I decided to try this recipe from Epicurious. It’s exactly what you’d expect – sugar and dark corn syrup, vinegar and baking soda. The featured image is the recipe from Epicurious.
But, then I came across this unique approach to Buffalo Sponge Candy. No vinegar in sight for this recipe from Wilde in the Kitchen. The author eliminated vinegar altogether and added bloomed gelatin and then the baking soda. The reaction is the same as with vinegar. I made each of these recipes twice and, although I liked both of them, I preferred the very open structure of the recipe from Epicurious. So, I’m providing you both and you get to choose.
This is the structure of the recipe made with gelatin.
So, let’s get started.
P.S. My teeth hurt!