Tasteful Inventions: What are you doing for Cotton Candy Day?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

What are you doing for Cotton Candy Day?

Spinning, Spinning, & Spinning!
I need a favor. The next time you go to the dentist for your yearly check up, ask him or her if they ever heard of a guy by the name of Josef Lascaux. If they haven't, which I'm quite sure they have not, tell them this: Cotton Candy was invented by a dentist! You can get into details later. I  just want to know the reaction. I would do it myself but, I just went to the dentist on my last trip back to PA. I wish I would have remembered then this would have been a really cool post! Even though he never received a patent, dentist Josef Lascaux introduced cotton candy at his dental practice in Louisiana. If he gives you the impression such a story is mere fluff, assure him with this: William James Morrison a prominent dentist, author and civic leader from Nashville, Tennessee patented the first electric cotton candy machine on January 31, 1899! His partner in crime was John C. Wharton. No, he wasn't a dentist but, he was a candy-maker, also from Tennessee.

Happy Cotton Candy Day!
Originally called “Fairy Floss”, the process of making Cotton Candy was invented by four men: Thomas Patton, Josef Delarose Lascaux, John C. Wharton, and William Morrison. In 1899, Morrison and Wharton were able to patent the first electric cotton candy machine, which used centrifugal force to spin and melt sugar through small holes. In 1904, these two Nashville candy makers introduced their invention of how to make cotton candy to the St. Louis World’s Fair. Due to fair goers’ curiosity, these inventors sold approximately 68,655 boxes of cotton candy for 25 cents a box for a total of $17,163.75. Back then and today this is a great deal of money, just think of the profit that you could make today selling such a low cost and enjoyable product! 
There's some spin concerning the fourth man involved in the history of cotton candy; Thomas Patton. It seems, Patton also had a cotton candy invention. His Fairy Sugar was gas fired!
William Morrison and John C. Wharton are generally credited for the cotton candy invention, some sources say that another vendor by the name of Thomas Patton also had a cotton candy invention patented. Patton had been playing with the process of caramelization - that is, boiling it until it turns into a caramelized state (about 320 degrees Fahrenheit). His machine differed from the cotton candy machine of Morrison and Wharton -- his was gas-fired. The machine rotated a plate around to create the strands which were collected and served on a cone...Cotton Candy Net
The cotton candy machine patent (U.S. Patent #618,428) filed by William Morrison and John C. Wharton is available at google patents. The drawing are also available. If you have a moment, you really should take a peek at them. You'll probably be surprised to discover, they aren't much different then the ones you see at your favorite fair or carnival. I want to be a cotton candy vendor! Come on, you have to admit, it sure is fun to watch cotton candy spin. I was disappointed when I took my grand kids to the Idaho State Fair this past summer because the cotton candy was pre-bagged. They didn't get to see it made:(Perhaps, when they get a little older I'll buy them the toy cotton candy machines:) I bought a pink one for Tabi and a blue one for Noah. Neither liked it. I think it was the fuzzy feel and before I could tell them it would melt in their mouths, it had melted. Yes, they both got sticky chines with just one lick! It's probably better they didn't like it, my daughter wasn't to pleased with their sticky hands and mouths. (party pooper:) The kids don't eat that much sugar anyway. I was surprised to read that cotton candy doesn't actually have as much sugar as one would think. Cotton candy is 99% sugar. Other ingredients include food coloring and air. A 1 oz serving of cotton candy contains approximately 105 calories and no fat. In addition, there are 26.3 grams of carbohydrates in this serving. Since cotton candy is made completely from sugar, all of the calories come from the carbohydrates.
Cotton candy was fantastically successful in 1904 and is still very popular at fairs today. Modern machines work in much the same way as the original. The centre part of the machine consists of a small bowl into which sugar is poured and food colouring added. Heaters near the rim melt the sugar and it is spun out through a myriad of tiny holes into a large bowl which catches it. The operator twirls a stick or a cone around the rim of the large catching bowl and picks up the candy. Because candy floss consists of mostly air portions, servings are large. A typical candy floss cone will be a little bigger than an adults head, and they look enormous to a child. However, although they are bad for the teeth as are all sugary snacks, they are not particularly high in calories because they contain a fairly small amount of sugar. A typical candy floss contains less sugar than a can of most (non diet) soft drinks. source

Sugar Coated Spinning

The machine used to design cotton candy may not have changed much but it sure looks like the the construction has. Take a look at this woman preparing Apricot Meringues (Meringues D'abricots) I don't think so...The recipe (and the picture) comes from the 1891 edition of Larger Cookery Book Of Extra Recipes by Mrs A. B. Marshall. It's available on line at chest of books. (as are other vintage cookbooks:) This is what she writes about Spun Sugar.
Put half a pound of water and one pound of best cane loaf-sugar in a perfectly clean copper sugar-boiler or thick stewpan; cover the Spinning Sugar pan over, bring to the boil, remove any scum as it rises from time to time, and continue boiling until the liquid forms a thick bubbled appearance (commonly called the crack); then take a small portion on a clean knife or spoon (or the finger may be used, but must be well wetted with cold water and used very quickly), and plunge it immediately into cold water, and if it is then quite brittle and leaves the knife or spoon or finger quite clear it is ready for spinning. If it clings or is at all soft or pliable, continue the boiling until as above. When ready take a small portion on a fork or spoon, and rapidly throw it to and fro over a slightly oiled rolling-pin; continue until sufficient threads of sugar are obtained.
Take half a pound of finely sifted castor sugar, and mix with it a teaspoonful of Marshall's Apricot Yellow and a saltspoonful of Vanilla essence; rub it well together and allow it to thoroughly dry. Put in a whipping-tin four large fresh whites of egg and a pinch of salt, whip them quite stiff, then add the prepared sugar by degrees, taking care not to stir the mixture more than possible after adding the sugar. Take a hot baking-tin, rub it all over with white wax, then leave it till cold; put the meringue mixture into a forcing bag with a plain pipe and force it out on to the tin in portions of about the size of apricots, dust them over with castor sugar, and put into a moderate oven till quite dry and crisp on the top, but the under side should be somewhat soft; then take them from the tin, and by means of an egg work a little well in the bottom of each, holding the top of the meringue in the hand; return them to the tin and place them in the oven (care must be taken that the meringues are not hurried in the cooking or they will lose their colour); when quite dry remove from the tin and set aside till cold, then place in each of the little wells a small round of cooked apricot; place another meringue on the top of this, mask them over with Maraschino glace (vol. i.) coloured with a little apricot yellow, and dish up round a pile of stiffly-whipped cream sweetened and flavoured with vanilla; serve as a dinner or luncheon sweet, or for any cold collation. These meringues can be kept ready for use if put in a dry place.
In 1949, Gold Medal Products launched a cotton candy machine that had a spring base. This updated cotton candy maker was much more dependable. Today, cotton candy is mass produced on two different types of machines. "One machine is semiautomatic and is used to make single servings that are sold at carnivals and amusement parks. The other is a fully automated machine that produces large volumes of cotton candy for widespread distribution." If you scroll down the page a bit, you can read about the manufacturing process, cutting and packaging, as well as information about the coloring of factory produced cotton candy. source
Cotton candy is made from sugar and food coloring. Modern cotton candy machines work in very much the same way as older ones. The center part of the machine consists of a small bowl into which sugar is poured and food coloring added. Heaters near the rim melt the sugar into a liquid and it is spun out through tiny holes where it solidifies in the air and is caught in a large metal bowl. The operator of the machine twirls a stick, a cone, or their hands around the rim of the large catching bowl, gathering the candy into portions. We at Dandy Cotton Candy can make virtually any flavor or color combination of cotton candy. Some favorites that we have produced in the past are Strawberry Banana, Coffee, and Pumpkin Spice. What does the future of cotton candy flavors bring? As long as you can think of it, we can create it! source
They say cotton candy has gone up-scale. I wouldn't know, I've never spun sugar at the Four Seasons in New York City. (Now that I know, I'll just have to make it my business to change that:) Cotton Candy has been on the menu at The Four Seasons since around 1950 where it was served as a special occasion treat for those celebrating birthdays or anniversaries. These huge poofs may just be the most expensive amorphous solid you've ever seen!

The quintessential tongue and sweet answers to numerous names. In the United Kingdom, cotton candy is called "candy floss" and "fairy floss" in Australia. In Greece and India cotton candy is known as "old woman's hair" albeit in their respective languages. And in France, it is called Barbe à papa, which means "Papa's beard."

Here's an idea for a quick cotton candy party. Head to the freezer for a few scoops of ice cream. Grab some bowls, don't forget the spoons and create a cotton candy sundae. Sprinkle with candy sprinkles! Not in the mood for ice cream? Try the "Sweet Nostalgic" Cotton Candy Cupcakes created by Cakespy. If you want to make your own home made cotton candy, check below. Happy Cotton Candy Day!


  • 1. History of Cotton Candy
  • 2. Who invented cotton candy?
  • 3. William J. Morrison (1860-1926): Co-Inventor Of The Cotton Candy Machine
  • 4. What Is Cotton Candy?
  • 5. How is Cotton Candy Made? (sweetened images:)
  • 6. I Love Cotton Candy! (discussion group of cotton candy lovers')
  • 7. Spun Heaven (gourmet magazine article)
  • 8. Cotton Candy has gone upscale!
  • 9. Nutritional Information for Cotton Candy
  • Recipes
  • 1. Jacques Homemade Cotton Candy (Jacques Torres @ food network)
  • 2. Homemade Cotton Candy Recipe
  • 3. Diabetic Cotton Candy Cookies
  • 4. Cotton Candy Ice Cream Bomb (food network recipe; easy, even for me:)
  • 5. The Complete Confectioner By Eleanor Parkinson 1864 @ Feed America


Chef Chuck said...

Wow,there is more to cotton candy then one would think!
Your blog is very interesting and a great souse of history. I like that we can learn something new every day!!
Thanks chuck

~~louise~~ said...

Thank you for the kind words Chef Chuck. I'm so glad you enjoyed your visit. Drop in anytime. You never know what we'll be exploring...

acey said...

there's cotton candy day, too!!! oh, joy! sweet tooth is happy.

you know, louise, you're blogs are slowly turning me into a food fan. i'm learning about food each visit. :)

~~louise~~ said...

hi acey,
thanks for visiting. i hope you're feeling better. think cotton candy:) now if there was only cotton candy baby food, hehe

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