Homemade Candy Canes

Homemade candy canes
Ana Guisado Photography / Getty Images
  • Total: 90 mins
  • Prep: 75 mins
  • Cook: 15 mins
  • Yield: 12 to 18 Canes/12 to 18 Servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
182 Calories
0g Fat
48g Carbs
0g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12 to 18 Canes/12 to 18 Servings
Amount per serving
Calories 182
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 20mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 48g 17%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Protein 0g
Calcium 4mg 0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Have you ever made candy canes? If not, this is the perfect winter project for you. Your candy canes will look just as fun and festive as store-bought ones—they'll have a beautiful glossy sheen, twisting, bright stripes, and that traditional minty crunch. Of course, homemade candy canes require some time and energy, but everyone's amazement and delight will make the endeavor worthwhile.

Like most hard sweets, candy canes call for a few basic ingredients: sugar, water, corn syrup, and some flavoring. The difficulty lies in boiling the sugar, then pulling the candy until it's stiff but pliable, and finally, forming it into the right shapes. Because molten sugar requires careful attention, you should read the whole recipe thoroughly and set up your work station before you embark on this project. You should also invest in heat resistant plastic gloves and a candy thermometer.

As long as you use the right equipment and exercise caution, you'll have no trouble with this foolproof recipe. The best part: Once people see and taste your candy canes, they'll be begging you to make another batch. (Maybe you can fool them with some candy cane cookies instead.)

Ingredients

  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup water, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract
  • 1 teaspoon red gel food coloring
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon white gel food coloring

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Gather the ingredients for candy cane recipe
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  2. Spray two rimmed baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. Preheat the oven to 200 F.

    Spray baking sheet
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  3. Combine sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup of the water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; stir with a heatproof spatula until the sugar dissolves.

    Combine sugar
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  4. Wet a pastry brush in a small bowl filled with the remaining water. Using the wet brush, wash any sugar crystals off the side of the pan. Do not stir the syrup.

    Wet a pastry brush
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  5. When the syrup comes to a boil, insert a candy thermometer and continue to cook, without stirring, until the thermometer registers 285 F. At this point, the candy will have reached the soft-crack stage.

    Insert a candy thermometer
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  6. Remove from heat. Let the bubbles subside, then stir in peppermint extract.

    Remove from heat
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  7. Pour about half of the syrup onto a prepared baking sheet and place it in the preheated oven.

    Pour syrup into baking sheet
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  8. Stir red food coloring into the remaining syrup. If necessary, add more dye to achieve a vibrant shade.

    Stir red food coloring in
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  9. Pour the candy onto the remaining baking sheet and allow it to sit briefly until it forms a “skin.”

    Pour candy into baking sheet
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  10. Spray a bench scraper or metal spatula with nonstick cooking spray, and use the tool to "knead" the candy. Flatten the candy, then fold it back over itself. Repeat this process for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the candy is significantly cooler.

    Spray a bench scraper
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  11. Put on your heat resistant gloves. Stretch the candy into a long rope, then fold the rope in half and twist the candy until it melts back into itself.

    Bend mixture
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  12. Repeat this process for 2 to 3 minutes, until the candy takes on an opaque color and a satiny finish. At this point, the candy will be warm—you should have some trouble pulling and folding it. Stretch the candy into a rope, about 2 inches in diameter, then return it to the oven, where it will stay warm and pliable.

    Make rope
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  13. Remove the other baking sheet from the oven. At this point, you can knead white food coloring into the candy.

    Bench scraper
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  14. Pull and fold the candy in the same fashion, until it becomes opaque, glossy, and difficult to manipulate. Stretch it into a second log, about 2 inches in diameter.

    Pull and fold candy
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  15. Remove the red candy from the oven. Cut a 2-inch segment from the white log and another from the red log, then put the remaining candy back in the oven.

    Remove red candy from oven
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  16. Squeeze the two segments together, until they form one two-toned log, then stretch the candy again. This step will determine the thickness of your candy canes—you can make thinner ones (with a 1/4-inch diameter) or thicker ones (with a 1/2-inch diameter).

    Squeeze candy segments together
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  17. When you're happy with the candy's width, twist the rope to form those distinctive candy stripes.

    Twist the rope
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  18. Using a pair of oiled kitchen shears, cut the candy into smaller pieces. Again, you can choose to make long or small candy canes. A 7-inch piece of candy will yield a medium-sized candy cane.

    Cut candy
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  19. Immediately form the hook at the top of the cane and place it on a clean surface to firm up at room temperature.

    Form hook
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  20. Cut off another segment from each log, then return the logs to the oven. Repeat the twisting and stretching process until you have used up all the candy.

  21. Enjoy your candy canes with friends and family. They'll look particularly festive hanging on your tree, alongside some stained glass window cookies.

Tips

  • Make sure you have a calibrated clip-on candy thermometer before you begin this recipe. The thermometer will tell you when to take the sugar syrup off the stove—if yours is faulty or incorrectly calibrated, then you may undercook or overcook the syrup.
  • You should also invest in heat resistant gloves, which are available for purchase online. The gloves will protect your hands from the hot candy and the dye.
  • You may want to adjust the amount of peppermint extract in subsequent batches since peppermint extracts vary from brand to brand.
  • If the candy cracks or hardens, return it to the warm oven for a few minutes. (Any longer than a few minutes and the candy will lose its shape.) At room temperature, your candy canes should be as hard as the store-bought variety.
  • Be sure to wrap them in plastic wrap or cellophane to preserve their shelf life.