9 Things You Don’t Know About Cotton Candy

 In Education, Information

Got Cotton? Got Candy? Got Cotton Candy?

Growing up in southeast Kansas in the late 1950’s didn’t generate much excitement on its own. But every year in the summer a carnival would roll into tiny Allen County and set up in Iola, KS, the county seat.

It was a week full of pure excitement on the Ferris wheel and Tilt-a-Whirl, attractions like acrobats, sword swallowers, bearded ladies, tiny people and so much more.

And the food was to die for (or from) with everything imaginable deep fried and every day for dessert we would watch spellbound as the cotton candy maker spun and gathered the feathery substance to create a confection that looked like giant pillows of wool but melted in your mouth like a snowflake.
OK, cotton candy may have lacked some of the “wow” factor of other carnival attractions, but it did have its own kind of magic and drawing power and continues to do so down through the decades and now centuries.

Here are a few things you may not know about our fluffy pink national treasure.

1. Cotton Candy was invented by a dentist

In the late 1890’s a Dentist named William Morrison teamed up with candy maker John C. Wharton in Nashville, TN and received a patent for a new kind of machine that could make cotton candy much as we know it today. The original machine was loud and shook badly which lead to frequent breakdowns. But over the years many improvements were made to the original design until an automated version was introduced in 1972.

2. The first name for Cotton Candy was Fairy Floss

Sounds like a name a dentist would come up with, eh? The name cotton candy didn’t actually come into use until the mid-1920’s and has been in use ever since. However, cotton candy is still known as Fairy Floss in Australia and Candy Floss in the UK. It is called Papa’s Beard in France and Sugar String in Italy.

3. Cotton Candy was a huge hit at the 1904 World Fair in St Louiscotton candy

At the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Doc Morrison and Wharton sold nearly 80,000 boxes of Fairly Floss which amounted to a huge success. Each box sold for $0.25, a hefty price back in 1904 (equivalent to $5.99 today). The men pulled in a total of $17,163.75, which is equivalent to nearly a half million dollars today. Imagine candy sales of a half million dollars at one event!

4. There was an Old World version of Cotton Candy

In the 1400s Italian pastry chefs in Venice began experimenting with a new culinary technique to create spun sugar. Cooks melted sugar and separated it into very fine strands which they draped over objects to create various decorative forms. Because of the high cost of sugar and the labor involved, spun sugar was a treat that only the most wealthy could afford.

5. What is Cotton Candy?

Cotton Candy starts with caramelized sugar that’s been melted by intense heat. The heat breaks down the sugar into its basic components that when hurled through the tiny holes in the cotton candy machine at 3,500 revolutions a minute cool so rapidly they don’t have a chance to recrystallize. Instead they reform into finely wound noncrystalized strings that create the light and fluffy confection we adore.

6. How is Cotton Candy made?

Cotton Candy Machine

Sugar is melted into syrup by an electric heating element at the base of a funnel-shaped dish. The machine then rotates rapidly, forcing the syrup through tiny holes in the funnel using a strong centrifugal force. An outer bowl catches the tiny threads as they cool. The finished product is a puffy, fluffy and heavenly tasting treat.
Today the manufacturing process is fully automated combining the above process with mass production of a continuous roll of cotton candy on a conveyor belt where it’s shaped and lopped into uniform bundles that are packaged in bags of plastic that are sent throughout the world.

7. The future of Cotton Candy

While pink / vanilla flavored cotton candy is still the best-seller, you can find a rainbow of colors and flavors (over 100 and counting), including bubble gum, carrot cake, hazelnut coffee, eggnog, pumpkin, custard, peppermint, piña colada, sangria and rum. Later in 2015 the maker of Oreo cookies will introduce Cotton Candy flavored Oreos, who knew?

8. Not just here at home

Today the popularity of cotton candy is world-wide: the UK, Europe, India, Pakistan, Turkey, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, et. And its popularity continues to spread as the world becomes greatly reduced in size due to the Internet and our ever expanding technologies.
And smack dab in the middle of it all is this still simple tasty confection that has fascinated us for generations and is likely to continue to do so.

9. A day for celebration

And when you think you’ve heard it all, December 7th is National Cotton Candy Day. We at Back in the Day invite you to celebrate your life-long love affair with this fluffy treat and the warm memories it ignites in all of us.


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