How to Make Party-Perfect Sweets

Why buy cotton candy at the fair when you can make it at home?

Cotton Candy

You’ve probably baked with sugar, serving a variety of cookies, brownies, and cakes from your kitchen for every birthday, bake sale, and family dinner party. But have you ever cooked with sugar, turning out pudding pops and homemade cotton candy for your child's sleepover-themed birthday or family backyard pool party?

For Gesine Bullock-Prado, the owner of Gesine Confectionary in Vermont, cooking with sugar is second nature. Some might even say sugar is literally in her blood. Even while raising six children by herself in the Depression, Bullock-Prado’s grandmother made sure sugar was a sweet part of her family’s life. She would regularly host sugar-pulling parties on birthdays and make candy canes from scratch during the holidays. It's no surprise that Gesine has inherited that same love of sugar.

In her new book, Sugar Baby, the self-professed sugar baby has created the ultimate resource that  teaches the home cook how to make a variety of sugar-based candies and confections perfect for any special occasion. Some find sugar fascinating. You use it to sweeten tea, but cook it a bit more and it becomes a pliable candy like the taffy you grew up eating. Take it further and it becomes a hard material that can be molded to create glass-like bowls (that you can then use to serve more candy in). 

Eager to try making your own candy for your next party? I’m sure you’ve never dreamed of serving homemade cotton candy at your next pool party. Well, now you can — maybe even use pink cotton candy to top off an icy-cold peppermint milkshake). Bittersweet Pudding Pops are perfect to serve at your kid’s next birthday, as well as for that backyard barbecue. And, when packaged lollipops are set stick-side-up (with a slit cut into the stick), homemade Sugar Daddy-like lollipops double as a perfect place card holder at that grand family dinner party.

With a little patience and some focus, working with sugar is not at all difficult. Aside from burning the pot (which Bullock-Prado has done, when not focused), she recalls having more baking disasters than candy-making disasters. Bullock-Prado likens it to driving — if you know the rules, you’ll be fine. She quips, “I mean would you reach into an oven and grab that hot cookie sheet without an oven mitt?” Goodness, no. These are her three simple steps to sugar success:

1. Arm yourself with the right equipment: All you need is an open flame and a heavy-bottomed stainless-steel pan (a candy thermometer and stand mixer optional, but recommended for advanced recipes).

2. Work patiently: Before starting a recipe, carefully read the directions through so you know exactly what to do and when. Sugar hardens fast so there isn’t time to look back sometimes.

3. Follow the rules. Sugar, when boiling, is much hotter than water. So arm yourself with oven mitts and start the mixers slowly when adding hot sugar. And if you do take that caramel too far (dark), it’s nothing a little water can’t fix.

Click here to see the Cotton Candy recipe.

Click here to see The Sugar, Baby! recipe.

Click here to see the Bittersweet Chocolate Pudding Pops recipe.