What do grapes and Christmas have to do with cotton candy? The circus is not in town, and mid-December seems an odd time to celebrate cotton candy, but National Cotton Candy Day is December 7th, and an investigation of the treat reveals that some cotton candy items would make good Christmas gifts, stocking stuffers, or holiday fare.
The sweet has its origins in 15th century Italy, where its precursor, spun sugar, was made from melted sugar strands that were shaped into decorative forms. Since sugar was an expensive luxury in those days these creations tended to treat the elite.
But that changed in the early 20th century. Spun sugar as we know it was first called Fairy Floss. An 1899 patent for the first electric cotton candy machine was awarded to William Morrison and John C. Wharton. The machine melted sugar and spun it through small holes using centrifugal force. I love it when science advances flavor! The product was popularized at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. Its inventors sold almost 69,000 boxes of it there. Their gross earnings from those sales amounted to about $400,000.00 in today’s dollars.
Ringling Brothers used Thomas Patton’s product. He obtained his own patent in 1900 for the process of making spun sugar. The name was changed to Cotton Candy in the 1920’s and it has been associated with the circus ever since. But when the circus is not in town packaged cotton candy can be found in some specialty candy shops and online. Red colored ones would make fun additons to kids’ holiday parties or gift bags.
If you can’t find the real deal, you may want to consider making your own fresh cotton candy. Waring makes a reliable machine that sells for about $50.00. Target sells several brands, too, which start around $30.00 that could make a nice family gift from Santa.
But if you just like the taste of cotton candy and you aren’t tied to a particular delivery of it, all kinds of fun foods come in a cotton candy flavor.
Both Coldstone Creamery and Baskin Robbins sell a Cotton Candy ice cream. Put a gift certificate to one or both of these stores in your kids’ stockings. Or top a holiday cake using one of the many ice cream brands with a cotton candy flavor available in your supermarket freezer case.
Gigi’s Cupcakes sells a cotton candy one. If you don’t have a Gigi’s nearby you can make your own at home easily enough and serve them for a tasty holiday treat. Try icing them with green, white, and red frosting to add a seasonal touch. Both Duncan Hines and Williams Sonoma make a cotton candy cupcake mix. And Betty Crocker sells a cotton candy cookie mix. Even Yoplait sells a cotton candy flavored yogurt.
Why stop with food? The flavor isn’t limited to edible products. Bath & Body Works sells a cotton candy lipgloss which makes a nice stocking stuffer for tween and teen girls.
Future cotton candy flavored products include Magic Milk Straws, which has one slated for a 2014 release, and even seedless grapes have a cotton candy flavored varietal in the works, so next year you can make your Easy Weekly Meals Edible Christmas Tree, from our Complete Christmas Cooking Book, taste like cotton candy, or perhaps toast your Christmas guests with a cotton candy flavored wine.
Photo Courtesy of Easy Weekly Meals