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Boiled Sweets Recipe

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Boiled Sweets Recipe

Author: Magdalena Marsden

This article was last updated on 20 July 2018

 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 & Heart few 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. You can find out more this workshop  just here.

Boiled Sweets Recipe

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 - I got mine from Amazon and you can't really do it without it) 

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

And here is what you actually do...

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!

If you are not sure, whether you can master making your own boiled sweets, I also offer 1 day one to one workshop where I can take you through how to make traditional boiled sweets at home step by step. You can find out more about how to book and my location by following this link here.

How to make sweets at home

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 Sweets Recipe

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  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.

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  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...

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  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!

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  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 !

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  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!

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  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.

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  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.

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  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!

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  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.

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  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

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  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...

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  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!

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  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?

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  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.

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  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!

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  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.

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  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.

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  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!

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  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!

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  20. Mui

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

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  21. sarah

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

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  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!)

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  23. Ellen

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

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  24. Joanna

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

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