What is a Candy Cane at Christmas?
There are many traditions at Christmas, that all make up the festivities of the season. Regardless of how good or bad the year was, the holiday season of Christmas and New Year definitely serves as a mood lifter and reminder of how every end gives rise to a new beginning.
Christmas trees, gingerbread house, shiny stars, fairy lights, lifting bells and carols, puddings, and other savouries are a few staples that Christmas is incomplete without. There is another common symbol of Christmas – the Christmas candy cane.
In this article, we’ll be covering what a candy cane is, the history of the candy cane and how to make your very own stripy treats.
What is a Christmas Candy Cane?
These sweet sugar sticks, shaped as canes, are traditionally decorated in red and white stripes and flavoured with peppermint. They’re seen as an iconic symbol for Christmas decorations while also being a significant festive treat.
Have you ever wondered where this tradition came from and why they’re associated with Christmas? Let’s discover the candy cane history and how candy canes are made at home.
History of the Christmas Candy Cane
Some stories say that the peppermint flavoured stick was first enjoyed in Germany in the 1600s. This stick was flavoured with peppermint and enjoyed across the country during Christmastime.
However, we do know that the first candy cane stick recorded originated in 1837 at one of the exhibitions in Massachusetts, USA. These sticks started out as white sugar sticks and the red stripes were added a few years later.
It was back in 1866 when these candy sticks were documented as “candy canes” for the first time. And in 1874, their connection to Christmas was made.
Around 1920, Bob McCormack (from Georgia, USA), started manufacturing candy canes for his family and friends. As they became popular, he started his own business named ‘Bob’s Candies‘. Gregory Harding Keller, Bob’s brother-in-law invented the ‘Keller Machine’.
This machine automatically made straight sticks into curved candy cane sticks. A revelation at the time.
What Does a Candy Cane Represent for Christmas?
Most people believe that the form and shape of candy canes have a religious meaning. It is also believed that the red stripes represent the blood of Jesus while the white stripes represent the purity of Jesus.
The three stripes on the candy cane are believed to be a representation of the Holy Trinity. The candy cane’s ‘J’ shape is also believed to represent the name of Lord Jesus Christ.
The hardness and solid texture of the candy cane symbolize the solid foundation of the church while its peppermint flavour is believed to stem from hyssop, an herb.
In the Old Testament, hyssop used to symbolize the purity of Jesus and all the sacrifices he made. Also, the crook shape of the candy canes symbolises a shepherd’s crook.
Either way, candy canes have become a traditional symbol of Christmas for many households. These days, they are available in different flavours, shapes, and colours. But, the red and white peppermint will forever be the classic favourite among candy cane lovers around the world.
How to Make Candy Canes
Impress your loved ones and colleagues by making your own Christmas candy cane. Use our detailed step-by-step guide on how to make candy canes easily.
- 3 cups of sugar
- 1 cup of light corn syrup
- ½ cup water
- 1 ½ teaspoon of peppermint extract
- 1 teaspoon of Christmas red gel food colouring
Making the Syrup
- Preheat the oven to 200°F to keep the candy mixture flexible and warm.
- Grease two baking trays with butter or non-stick cooking spray and set them aside. Be liberal – you don’t want the sugar mixture to stick.
- Combine granulated sugar, ¼ cup of water, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan at medium-high heat. Keep stirring with a heatproof spatula until all the sugar has dissolved.
- Pour some water in a small bowl and wet the pastry brush. Using that brush, wipe any sugar crystals off the pan. But, don’t stir the syrup.
- Bring the syrup to the boil. Use a candy thermometer and keep on cooking (without stirring), until the thermometer reads 285°F. At this point, the candy will reach the soft-crack stage.
- Remove the pan from the heat. Wait until the bubbles subside, and then stir in peppermint extract.
- Pour half of the syrup onto one of the baking trays. Then place the syrup in the pre-heated oven.
- Stir 1 teaspoon of red food colouring into the remaining syrup.
- Next, pour the red syrup onto the second baking sheet. Allow the syrup to sit until it forms a skin.
- Spray a dough scraper or metal spatular with non-stick cooking spray and use it to ‘knead’ the mixture. Flatten it, then fold it back over itself. Repeat this process for 1-2 minutes, or until the mixture cools down.
- Wear heat resistant gloves and stretch the red mixture into a long rope or line. Fold the rope in half and twist it until it melts back into itself. Keep folding the rope and twisting until the mixture becomes opaque, not translucent.
- Stretch the candy into a line, with about 2 inches in diameter. Put it into the oven to stay flexible.
- Remove the white syrup from the oven, and repeat the same process as the red syrup until it becomes opaque and difficult to work with. As before, stretch this into a long rope.
How to Form the Candy Cane
- Take the red syrup out of the oven. Cut a 2-inch segment from the white and red ropes. Then put the rest of the candy back into the oven to stay warm.
- Place the 2 segments together and twist them until you get a long, thin rope with the cane candy stripes. It should now look like a long, straight candy cane.
- Use a knife to cut this long, thin rope into 7-inch candy canes.
- Form the hook at the top of the candy cane and place on a tray to let it sit at room temperature to firm.
- Repeat this process with the remaining mixture in the oven.
- Once they’re completely cool, store them in an airtight container. The candy canes will keep for up to three months.
Use your Christmas candy canes for gifts, hang them on your tree, or even crush them up and use them as decoration for desserts and hot chocolates.
Related Handmade Christmas Articles:
- What is a Yule Log? The Delicious Christmas History
- How to Make a Christmas Wreath in 4 Simple Steps
- How to Make a Christmas Stocking in 8 Simple Steps
- How to Make a Christmas Cracker
- 15 Easy & Unique Homemade Christmas Gift Ideas