Welcome to Cocoa & Heart blog!

Boiled Sweets Recipe

Posted on


boiled sweets design

Author: Magdalena Marsden

This article was last updated on 5 May 2020

I've always been interested in traditional confectionery - pretty much all of my life I was on a quest for the perfect sweets, chocolates or bonbons. And I was always fascinated about the process of sweet's making and it was partly the reason why I founded Cocoa & Heartfew years back. All those demonstrations at seaside sweet's shops of how to make a stick of rock got me thinking, that perhaps I could have a go myself. And I did - successfully - made several batches of boiled sweets and now you can have a go too, following my step by step boiled sweets recipe tutorial.

If it still sounds a bit scary, I also run day one to one masterclass where I can take you through how to make traditional boiled sweets at home, step by step. 


This is what you need to make your own boiled sweets at home

Boiled Sweets Equipment:

Marble slab (or large granite or marble chopping board, don't try to use anything else or it will melt)

Large pan

Thermometer (for making jams or digital thermometer)

Palette knife or two

Strong kitchen scissors


450 g granulated sugar

150 ml water

15ml (1 table spoon) liquid glucose (any supermarket stock these in the baking section)

1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar

Vegetable oil

Step by step instructions on how to make your own boiled sweets at home

Gently heat the sugar, liquid glucose and water in a heavy saucepan, stirring with a wooden spoon until the sugar has dissolved. Add the cream of tartar, bring to the boil and cover and boil for 3 minutes. Time the 3 minutes if you can. Than uncover and boil until the temperature reaches 143 C (the soft crack stage). Keep an eye on the thermometer, it takes anything up to 5 minutes to reach that temperature. Don't stir the sugar at this stage, otherwise it will crystallise.

Making Sweets

Pour the syrup on to the oiled marble slab and leave it to cool for a bit. As the syrup cools lift the edges with an oiled palette knife and fold them into the centre. You need to do this several times, especially if your marble is not big enough and the syrup keeps running away.

Cutting Boiled Sweets

So far, so good, but now comes the tricky bit. You need to oil your hands and start working with the syrup by pulling it and twisting in at the same time. And you need to work really fast - not only because the syrup cools down quickly, but also because it's really hot! Keep your hands oiled - it will help with the heat and you really don't want the hot syrup to stuck to your hands.

Keep pulling the mass of syrup and you will see that it becomes opaque - paler in colour and it will change to satin finish. When this happens, you need to be ready with oiled scissors and start cutting the rope up to a small (about 1cm) pieces.

Boiled Sweets Making

When I first made this boiled sweets recipe, I was quite slow and by the time I got to the stage of cutting the sweets up, the syrup was too cold for me to cut them properly, so I just broke them up in pieces. You can also make longer twisted rock sticks.

If you want to add flavour or colour to your sweets, you need to do this at the end of the boiling stage - add few drops of food essence (mint, lemon or something similar) and few drops of food colouring to compliment the flavour. Don't try to add too much otherwise the sweets might taste a bit chemical.

I store mine sweets in airtight jam jar and didn't need to wrap them into anything at all. If they are perfectly made (e.i. the sugar was at the right temperature when you took it off the heat), the sweets stay 'dry' to touch and will not go 'soggy' unless you leave them out for too long. I kept one jar for quite a while and they were still find and perfectly tasting (and dry) few weeks after I made them.

This boiled sweets recipe is not for the faint hearted and I would not recommend it to somebody who has never worked with boiled sugar before, but it can be done and I'm a living proof that you can make boiled sweets at home. And if you like experimenting - then this recipe is definitely for you! 

If you are brave enough to try these at home, I would love to know how you get on - leave me a comment - I'd like to hear from you!

PS. Not quite sure where to get the right equipment? I've done the research for you and here is my traditional sweets resource page, where you can find everything you need to start making your own sweets at home. I've also done quite a bit of research into Victorian Sweets, which is an era where traditional boiled sweets were invented and perfected. You can find more about Victorian Sweets here.

If you've liked this recipe and fancy trying another one, here is my Candy Cane Recipe with step by step instructions.


Traditional boiled sweets troubleshooting tips

How do you fix sticky hard boiled sweets?

This is really tricky, because the likely culprit here is a humidity in your kitchen or general environment. It unfortunately reacts with the sugar in the hard boiled sweets and can turn them sticky. The best thing to do is to wrap your sweets immediately as you make them. This way the humidity won't have as much chance to get in. I usually keep my wrapped sweets in another air-tight container with either food suitable silica gel packets or freshly bought rise (which keeps the humidity absorbed within rather than getting into my sweets).
Why do my hard boiled sweets turn yellow when I make them?
This can be caused by lots of different reasons, but one that's most likely one is that you've left the sugar on heat for little bit longer than necessary. Sugar is formed with both fructose and glucose, which tend to caramelise at different temperatures. Fructose begins to caramelize at 100 C and glucose at 150 C, so the more sucrose molecules break down into glucose and fructose, the greater the risk of your sugar yellowing. Sometimes this affect the flavour too, because you are starting to caramelise the sugar. Once it happends there is not much you can do about it. The best solution is to go with the flavour and add caramel, coffee or vanilla as a suporting flavour and colour your sweets brown or yellow. A little bit of caramelised flavour and colour is not going to hurt them and they will taste amazing.

mm author

Add a comment:

Leave a comment:


  1. Chandradat Deonandan

    Thank you for this recipe, I'm going to make sweets with mint and lemon. I want to make them for my family and my neighbours as a present.

    Posted on

  2. Richardard

    Please help... I am tying to make some clear blue hearts to go on cupcakes for a wedding, I have tried different ways, some came out green? My problem is they are always sticky and start to melt. I need to make these in advance. Any solution? What am I doing wrong...

    Posted on

  3. Magdalena

    Hi San, I love the idea of traditional sweets as a favours - so beautifully retro! Yes, you could use moulds to create the sweets, but just make sure that they are specifically for sweets/candy making. They need to be able to cope with a fairly high temperature - if you pour the mixture straight after it reaches the right boiling point (143C) it will be very, very hot! (Just to give you a comparison - water boils at about 99C!). I would also oil the moulds before you use them (any basic sunflower or vegetable oil will do). Hope it all goes well and if you fancy sharing your pictures on our Cocoa & Heart Twitter or Facebook page - I'd love to see how you get on!

    Posted on

  4. San

    I'm thinking of making boiled sweets for my engagement favours, your recipe makes it sound so simple but I just wanted to ask would this still work if I was to pour the boiled mixture into moulds? Would they still come out the same after setting? Many thanks & your blog is wonderful !

    Posted on

  5. Erin Grocott

    These lollies were great! We're making them for our school market and I'm sure they will go down a treat! Thanks for the recipe!

    Posted on

  6. Magdalena

    Hi Manuela, glad you've enjoyed the recipe - your version of the recipe sound delicious! It's always tricky getting the consistency right. I sometimes get batches that don't come out that great, so don't worry. There is lots of things that could have contributed to the 'sticking together', but my guess would be that the temperature (before you start working with the mixture) wasn't quite hot enough. Sometimes it's the humidity in the kitchen that can do that too. If it happens again, you can always disolve the 'stuck disaster' again in the pan and start again.

    Posted on

  7. Manuela

    Hi I made a batch of lollies using cherry juice and sugar only with a bit of cream of tartar. They worked perfectly and didn't last long due to being eaten. The second batch was a disaster and they are all stuck together. It is fun though trying.

    Posted on

  8. Magdalena Marsden

    That's good to know Nidge, I like the idea of strong pair of secateurs, probably much more useful than normal scissors. And your butterscotch flavour with hit of salt, sounds delicious!

    Posted on

  9. Nidge

    Brilliant instructions. Finally one that worked for me. I've found a pair of secateurs are fab for cutting (not the ones I use in the garden though!) I made some with butterscotch flavouring & sprinkled a tiny bit of salt in when twisting.

    Posted on

  10. Niki

    Best recipe and instructions available on the web. After trying and failing twice with other recipes I picked this up and had instant success, so easy and great fun. Looking forward to many more hours improving my boiled sweet making skills. THANK YOU FOR SHARING

    Posted on

  11. Michael

    Fantastic, please keep us in the loop with what you find out! Foxes can make perfectly clear sweets (without Isomalt) but up until now it's not something that anyone has been willing to share...

    Posted on

  12. Magdalena

    Great to know the recipe worked for you Michael! I think you might be right re: moulding the mixture, but don't forget that it' sooo hot that you need to have moulds that will withstand it. The pulling makes the mixture opaque, cools it down and I think it does something to the sugar crystals too. I'm always up for a challenge, so I can see myself making some clear sweets very soon!

    Posted on

  13. Michael

    Great post, and recipe worked first time :) Obviously pulling the sugar makes it turn opaque but if you wanted to make crystal clear sweets using a mould would you need to tweak the recipe?

    Posted on

  14. Magdalena

    That's brilliant! So, glad that you find the recipe useful Martha and I love the story that goes with the taffy making. It sounds like a real community tradition.

    Posted on

  15. Z

    My 12 year old son and I have just made boiled sweets for the first time. We followed your recipe to the letter with great results!

    Posted on

  16. MARTHA Ramsey

    I have seen references to boiled sweets for years in books set in England.Always wanted to know what they were. Today I decided to find out and chose your site. Thank you fo such good instructi This sounds very much like the taffy we make in the US. We always have two people to do the pulling and folding back. Favorite parties especially for churches was the taffy pull where the young people wpukd pair off (boy,girl), collect a ball of the cooked candy. and pull it together until ready to cut. The boiling of the candy was always dobe by adult women.

    Posted on

  17. Heather

    Hi. I have just made the sweets for the first time adding yellow food colouring and lemon flavouring. Although mine look no where near as yours I think i have had a success and I do have some sweets to put in a jar. :-) Thank you for your recipe.

    Posted on

  18. Magdalena Marsden

    I'm so glad to hear that you had a great result with the recipe Grace, it's not an easy one to get right - so well done you!

    Posted on

  19. Grace

    Have just made a flat sheet of this dyed blue for a frozen themed cake. I tried a different recipe yesterday and it turned out rubbish, but this recipe has worked brilliantly! Thank you! P.S To all of you thinking its too hard - I am no master at sugar work, try it, you might surprise yourself!

    Posted on

  20. Mui

    The sweets look so pretty. Makes to want to try one :)

    Posted on

  21. sarah

    What fun! I could see this going all pete tong! Especially if the boys were here

    Posted on

  22. Star Khechara

    Wow this looks tricky! I used to make all kinds of sweets as a kid but I am a bit clumsy for this kind of work (burnt figures guaranteed!)

    Posted on

  23. Ellen

    I think this one is a bit beyond me, but I love the pictures!

    Posted on

  24. Joanna

    Wow! I sense some burnt fingers in my not too distant future!

    Posted on

Add a comment