How to Spin Sugar
How to Spin Sugar! Learn how to make spun sugar in your kitchen. Use this beautiful decorative element for elegant desserts and pastries.
Today, I am going try my darnedest to teach you how to spin sugar. As I mentioned yesterday, I really hate writing how-to posts, because I rarely feel like I have the authority or experience to tell you how to do anything, let alone do anything that involves sugar. It is a whole different ballgame.
Unfortunately, I don’t have many step-by-step photos (ok, basically zero) of the process. Photography and burning hot sugar don’t mix. Bad things happen. In fact, I had to awkwardly hold out that rolling pin with one arm, while awkwardly focusing the camera and pressing the shutter with the other (see third photo). It was fairly uncomfortable and I don’t recommend it.
What is Spun Sugar?
Spun sugar is essentially a thicker version of cotton candy (which is much more fine and requires a machine). There are a few ways to spin sugar. One method is to slowly drizzle caramelized sugar from a fork (in a very, very thin continuous drizzle) and repeatedly grab the strands towards yourself (as I learned how to do in culinary school). This is not the method that I recommend, as it is a lot more terrifying (and potentially burn-inducing) and it is much more difficult to master.
How to Spin Sugar:
Instead, I’m going to share a method that is much more user-friendly and is relatively straight-forward. Did I mention that it is also kind of fun? It involves quickly drizzling the sugar back-and-forth across a rolling pin. Ideally, you want to create as thin of strands as possible, but don’t worry too much if you have an occasional droplet. [I had several as you can see.]
The best way to do this is to place a clean rolling pin on your kitchen counter–so that it hangs over half-way over the edge. You can hold down the other half of the rolling pin with whatever you have on hand, I actually held it down with a bunch of upside-down bananas (it sounds ridiculous, but it worked brilliantly).
Alternatively, you could use pot handles or tape down wooden spoons, if that is easier. Since you’ll be drizzling sugar essentially over your kitchen floor, you’ll want to cover the immediate surrounding area with newspaper or paper towels so that caramel doesn’t become a permanent fixture in your kitchen floor.
The trickiest part of making homemade spun sugar is having the caramel at the right temperature. Too hot and it won’t drizzle properly (and will form large clumps). Too cold and it won’t drizzle at all. It will take some practice, but I promise, eventually it will fall in a very thin drizzle from the fork and form sugar silk strands. Sugar is pretty amazing.
Once you have drizzled a fair amount of sugar over the rolling pin (this will depend on your preference for the size of the decoration), you’ll want to slowly bring the ends together with your hands and form a loose ball of spun sugar. Don’t wait too long, as the sugar will harden and potentially break.
In the end, the shape and style is up to you. If you need to spin more sugar and the caramel has hardened too much, just pop it back onto the stove for a quick second to warm it back up again.
How Do You Store Spun Sugar:
Spun sugar is highly susceptible to humidity and heat, so I highly recommend making it at the absolute last second. If you have an airtight container, it can be stored for a short amount of time, if necessary. If you have desiccant packets, place them in the container with the spun sugar – they will help absorb any excess humidity (just be sure not to ingest them).
Spun sugar will be at its lightest and best texture (it tends to get heavier, stickier, and loses height over time) immediately after it is made. Whatever you do, have fun with it and don’t take yourself too seriously. You can always make another batch.
Spun Sugar Motto: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!
How to Spin Sugar
- ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) water
- Place a clean rolling pin on your kitchen counter–so that it hangs half-way over the edge. Hold down the other half of the rolling pin with whatever you have on hand. Alternatively, use pot handles or tape down wooden spoons. Line the kitchen floor below with newspaper or paper towels.
- Combine the sugar and water in a small, heavy saucepan. Stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium and cook, without disturbing, until the caramel reaches a very light amber color. Watch the pot extremely carefully, as this will happen very quickly. Use a pastry brush to brush the sides of the pan with water to prevent crystallization. Remove the caramel from heat immediately.
- Allow caramel to cool just until very, very thin wispy strands form when drizzled with a fork. Dipping your fork repeatedly into the sugar mixture, whip the strands of sugar back and forth quickly across the rolling pin to form long, hanging strands of sugar.
- Repeat until you have accumulated enough sugar to pick up with your hand. While it is still pliable, grab the two ends of the sugar and bring together forming a fluffy, free-form shape. If the caramel hardens too much as you work, place back over low heat just until it begins to loosen up a bit.
- Use immediately or store in an airtight container. If you have desiccant packets, you can place them in the container with the nests, as they will help absorb excess humidity. Just remember not to ingest them.
- To remove any hardened caramel from the pot or utensils once you are finished, fill the pot with water (and place the utensils in the pot) and bring to a low boil, until the caramel has dissolved.
Tips for Success:
- Be extremely, extremely careful when working with any hot sugar, as you can burn yourself relatively easily.
55 Comments on “How to Spin Sugar”
This worked well and the rolling pin idea worked great! I had to practice the technique a ton of times but I finally got it down.
Yes!!! It’s tricky but if you have patience and are willing to practice, it eventually comes together. Glad it was helpful, spinning sugar is not for the light hearted, haha!
Candy thermometer should be used. Gauging by looks isnt going to get you good results each time.
Hi Angela, this is an older recipe that hasn’t been revisited. Today I’d probably advise to use a candy thermometer but I can assure you that texture is very important and I did not learn how to do this (in culinary school) with a thermometer – so it’s 100% possible but I will consider coming back to this post and making it more detailed. Thanks for the feedback!
Can you add food coloring, e.g. black food dye, to the caramel it will this affect the properties of the sugar?
I don’t think it would, but I haven’t tested the recipe to be 100% sure!
Are you greasing or oiling the rolling pin or other objects you spin the sugar onto?
I have read many blogs with directions and cannot see a clear answer on this.
I tried making some yesterday and everything stuck firmly, breaking into bits when I tried to remove the coils or threads. I was attempting to make a dome by dripping it over a foil covered bowl, then tried spinning over spoon handles and a rolling pin. No luck in removing it from anything. I just put the broken mess onto the cake and it was still pretty, but was not according to my plan.
Perhaps I did not wait for it to cool sufficiently before spinning? Does yours come off without greasing? I will try again as I think spun sugar is so beautiful, but I want to have better control over it.
Yes – it has come off without greasing for me! Although the temperature of the sugar (both cooking and cooling) would probably make a difference. The sugar should be cool-ish but be able to drizzle from the spoon in a steady, very thin stream. Maybe try wrapping the rolling pin or dowel in parchment paper. The problem is that you don’t want it to be so slick of a surface that the sugar falls off, but I think its worth a try!
I don’t know how quickly you meant but for me it’s been over 10 minutes and it’s barely yellow and I feel it’s just turning back to granulated sugar 🙁
Using induction heat.
Did you still have trouble with this? Obviously the time that sugar takes to caramelize will depend on what temperature the sugar was over (this recipe was developed over gas, which tends to be hotter, than a low induction setting), but it still should not take much longer at all for sugar to begin to change color. It definitely won’t turn back to granulated sugar.
Thank you so much! This worked perfectly and it tasted so good! Just one question; how do you make a spun sugar bowl?
All I do to is lightly cost a bowl with cooking oil and use a spoon to dip the liquid sugar over it .
This is a great idea too! It’s been a while since I wrote this recipe and post, so I might have to update it one of these days. Lots of ways to do this! 🙂
I tried it over the rolling pin and when I tried to take it off it would just break, even when I took it off right away. Should it be coming off easily?
Hmm, I never experienced this myself. You shouldn’t allow it to cool entirely before you remove it, it should still be slightly pliable (but not hot to touch). This allows you to shape it too. If you’re still having trouble, try a metal handle or you could line the rolling pin with parchment?
Thanks. It worked! Though rather than put the rolling pin over the floor I rested it across my kitchen sink – it balanced perfectly across either side of the sink & way easier to clean up!
I recommend adding a Tbsp of corn syrup per 1/2 C of sugar. I attempted this without corn syrup and it crystallized in the pan. I did with corn syrup, and it came out smooth.
This is a great “how to”! I had so much fun making these awesome little balls, I was actually giggling out loud as I shaped them. Once you get the right consistency you will know. And I understand the comment “Sugar is pretty amazing”! I took about a million photos and can’t wait to serve these tonight. Thank you!!
I’m thinking of trying this with isomalt to make elf whiskers. You make it sound do easy!
I loooooved it!
Thank you thank you thank you!
I am hosting bookclub and my book choice is Lincoln in the Bardo. The descriptions of the spun sugar confections served at the banquet were awe inspiring!! I live in humid East Texas but really want to include spun sugar in dessert. My rolling pin is marble. Will it be usable? Should I oil it first? I guess you can tell I am anxious but determined. How long before humidity meltdown?
I would love to try this! My question for you is I live in a humid coastal town, will this be doable for where I live? I don’t want to attempt this recipe if it is going to fail
Amazing. This makes it seem like it is possible for me to achieve. The best written so far and I’ve looked at a few. Off to try now!!!haha
Thank you so much!!! Hope the spinning goes well! 🙂
Your tips are very useful and clear.
Genuinely it’s worth it.
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Amazing. Im trying out for masterchef junior and I can’t wait to try this.
Thanks Michelyn! 🙂 Good luck!
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So you’re trying to teach people how to spin sugar Laura… Well, I’ve got news for you. With your easy going descriptive writing style, you could spin anything…take my word for it.
I’ve read quite a few different how to’s on spinning sugar; and I think your ability to impart is the best by far. I say that because I could more easily understand and follow you. Thanks Laura
This is the most pretty little thing I’ve seen!!!!! i can almost picture the behind-the-scene mess where I lick off the caramel off my hands and face and hair and feet and… floor and everywhere. But no one will have to know that..
Wow, these pictures could not be any more gorgeous! This is definitely one of my favorite posts in the blogosphere. I’ve always been intimidated to try this, but I think I’ll be making this very soon!! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Oh my goodness. That is such a huge compliment, thank you 🙂 Speaking of gorgeous food, I just checked out your homemade beignets–agghh!
I can’t say that I’ll be attempting this anytime soon, but you are definitely amazing! Your photos are gorgeous!
Omg, thank you! And yeah, I totally get it 😉
Girl you are on a roll! I am totally doing this!!!
Report back!! 🙂
Like whoa.. those photos are phenomenal and can I just say that I feel like I could spin sugar like a pro now.. great how to…
Haha! So glad it made sense–wish I had more pictures, but oh well 😉
awesome! I’d probably tape some parchment paper over the rolling pin/pot to make clean up easier :). Just a thought!
You definitely can do that! The sugar comes off relatively easily without it though! 🙂
Both of these posts have been amazing! Also, scary! But the way you describe it makes a lot of sense! Hopefully Max was prevented from entering the kitchen as the sugar slowly dripped down toward the floor, although I guess it stops just short of doing that if you have the temperature correct and everything else! Makes for a stunning presentation! Very impressive, Laura!
I still can’t get over the beauty of this. You’ve got me wanting to try it!
Do it, do it!!!
I’m not sure you should be encouraging sugar work… the dangers far outweigh the benefits in my opinion:)
Maybe I should have included a picture of your hand at the bottom with a warning?
This is so incredibly cool, Laura! And your photography has been just phenomenal these past few weeks. I totally feel you on writing how-to posts — I feel super inadequate to write them too! And then it doesn’t work out for someone and I’m consumed with guilt. lol. 🙁 But hey, for every person who’s a master at spun sugar, there are 20 like me who don’t know the first thing about it and appreciate your time and effort tremendously. I’m so excited to try this out at some point :):)
You’re so sweet! And yeah, you pretty much outlined all the reasons why I hate how-to posts–HA.
Fantastic Post! Unique and Well Done, I just love the photos. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you so much!
and now I actually kind of feel like I can DO spun sugar! However, I will also make sure to have paramedics at the ready. Just in case.
Fo someone who does not like how tos I would say you did an amazing job! I honestly cannot wait to give it a try. I am pretty freaking nervous though!
Oh yay! Just don’t touch the sugar–as long as you don’t do that, you’ll be fine!
This is a great How To!! Spinning sugar is super intimidating but you make it seem doable. Thanks for sharing!