Homemade Candy Canes

Homemade candy canes
Ana Guisado Photography / Getty Images
Prep: 75 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 90 mins
Servings: 12 to 18 servings
Yield: 12 to 18 candy canes
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
184 Calories
0g Fat
48g Carbs
0g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12 to 18
Amount per serving
Calories 184
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 12mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 48g 17%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 48g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 3mg 0%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 1mg 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.)

Although homemade candy canes require some time and energy, everyone's amazement and delight—including your own—will make the endeavor worthwhile. Candy canes from scratch look just as fun and festive as store-bought ones. They'll have a beautiful glossy sheen, twisting, bright stripes, and that traditional minty taste.

Like most hard sweets, candy canes call for a few basic ingredients: sugar, water, corn syrup, along with some peppermint extract for flavor and food coloring. The challenge 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, make sure to read the whole recipe thoroughly and set up your work station before you embark on this project. It's definitely wise to invest in a candy thermometer as well as heat resistant plastic gloves, since burning your fingers is a real danger. However, as long as you use the right equipment and exercise caution, you should not have trouble with this foolproof recipe; in fact, it should be fun.

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray, for baking sheets

  • 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

  • 1 teaspoon white gel food coloring, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

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

    Two rimmed baking sheets coated with nonstick spray
    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 sugar dissolves.

    Sugar, corn syrup and water combined in a pot
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  4. Pour remaining 1/4 cup water into a small bowl and use it to wet a pastry brush.

  5. Using wet brush, wash any sugar crystals off side of pan. Do not stir syrup.

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

    A candy thermometer inserted in the boiling hot sugary syrup
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  7. Remove from heat. Let bubbles subside, then stir in peppermint extract.

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

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

    Red food coloring added to syrup
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  10. Pour candy onto remaining baking sheet and allow it to sit briefly until it forms a “skin.”

    Pour candy into baking sheet until it forms a skin
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  11. 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 and knead the candy
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  12. Using heat-resistant gloves, stretch the candy into a long rope, then fold rope in half and twist candy until it melts back into itself.

    Red candy twisted into a rope-like shape
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  13. Repeat this process for 2 to 3 minutes, until 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.

  14. Stretch candy into a rope, about 2 inches in diameter, then return it to oven, where it will stay warm and pliable.

    Red candy stretched and twisted into a rope shape, on a baking sheet
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  15. Remove other baking sheet from oven. At this point, you can knead white food coloring into the candy if you like.

    Kneading white food coloring into the syrup
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  16. Pull and fold the candy in the same fashion, until it becomes opaque, glossy, and difficult to manipulate.

  17. Stretch it into a second log, about 2 inches in diameter.

    White half of candy cane pulled and twisted into a rope shape.
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  18. Remove red candy from oven. Cut a 2-inch segment from white log and another from red log, then put remaining candy back in oven.

    Red and white candy ropes cut into 2-inch segments
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  19. Squeeze 2 segments together until they form a two-toned log.

    Squeeze red and white candy segments together
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  20. Stretch 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).

  21. When you're happy with the candy's width, twist rope to form those distinctive candy stripes.

    Twist and stretch the candy into a longer rope
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  22. Oil or use cooking spray on a pair of cooking shears and cut 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.

    Candy canes cut into smaller segments before twisting into shape
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  23. Immediately form the hook at the top of the cane and place it on a clean surface to firm up at room temperature.

    Candy canes formed into their signature hook shape
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  24. Cut off another segment from each log, returning the remaining logs to the oven, and repeat the twisting and stretching process until you have used up all the candy.

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.
  • Invest in heat resistant gloves, which will protect your hands from the hot candy and the dye. They are available online.
  • If the candy cracks or hardens, return it to the warm oven for just a few minutes. (Any longer 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.

Variation

Candy canes are fun to eat on their own, but there are plenty of creative ways to use them in other recipes around the holidays.

Crush them up and use them in peppermint bark.

Make chocolate truffles and sprinkle them over the truffles like snow.

Melt white chocolate, crush up candy canes, and combine both with popcorn for a fun holiday treat.