Originally Posted October 22, 2009. Updated 12/7/2020
We used to get it at corner stores, farmer's markets, and gas stations... or make it at home. I loved the contrast between the appearance (bubbles!), and the crispy texture.
Whether I'd let it melt in my mouth slowly, or chomp through (and pick the sugar off my teeth for a long time afterwards!), it was just a fun food to enjoy.
As I got older, I realized that gas station sponge toffee is just *no* match for homemade.
This is really easy to make, and a lot of fun for kids to watch (From a distance! Hot sugar can be dangerous!).
What is Sponge Toffee?
Sponge toffee is an easy to make candy that’s usually sold in blocks or in chunks / nuggets.
The technique used to make the candy causes it to fizz up at the last minute, and it hardens full of holes. This gives it an airy, bubbly, almost flaky texture.
How to Make Sponge Toffee
Like all caramel or toffee based candy, this one starts off by boiling sugars together with water.
As the water boils off, temperature raises, the sugar caramelizes, and the whole mixture becomes something capable of hardening into a brittle candy.
At the last minute - as soon as the mixture reaches the appropriate temperature - you quickly mix some baking soda in, which causes it to VIOLENTLY bubble up.
As you stir the baking soda in, you’ll want to be sure it’s well incorporated, but you’ll also want to be mindful of how much you stir / beat it.
The less you beat it, the higher it will rise, and the bigger the holes will be.
The more you beat it, the smaller the holes will be, the less lift you’ll get, and the denser the final candy will be.
Once you’ve beat it as much as you’d like, quickly pour it into a prepared 9 x 13" pan.
If you’ve been judicious in your mixing, it will continue to foam a bit in the pan - it’s good to not beat the “life” out of it, in the pot.
Then, you let it cool.
If you’d like set sizes / shapes (blocks, bars), you can score the candy with a sharp knife. DO this several minutes after pouring it into the pan, so you don’t affect the rise.
As the candy cools, gently re-establish your score cuts, bit by bit. Once it’s 100% cooled, you can easily break it into the blocks or bars you’d like.
Sponge Toffee Around the World
Growing up, it was "sponge", but some older people (looking back, probably immigrants or 1st gen Canadians from England, where "Honeycomb" is the term for it) would call it honeycomb toffee.
I always liked that - it's a much cuter / more tasty sounding name than "sponge". Who wants to eat a sponge, anyway?
When I was in Minnesota, it was called "sponge candy" the few times I saw it. It definitely wasn't as commonly available there, as it had been my whole life in Canada.
Sponge Toffee - or something very similar - exists around the world, in slightly different variations, and with a bunch of different names.
I love that New Zealanders call it "Hokey Pokey" and put it in ice cream!
As a kid, I enjoyed drizzling ice cream with a bit of corn syrup and topping with the crumbs left over from making a batch of this toffee.
Sponge Toffee Variations
The most common variation you’ll see to this recipe is to dip the final - cooled - candy into chocolate.
Here in Canada, we have a popular candy bar based on this idea, the Crunchie bar. (I have a recipe for Homemade Crunchie Bars!).
Other than that, you can break up the cooled candy and dip them - fully or partially - in the melted chocolate of your choice.
Personally, I prefer milk or dark chocolate for this. While I enjoy white chocolate in general, it doesn’t taste quite right with the toffee.
While I wouldn’t call this a common variation - I came up with it myself, years ago - you can always swap out the corn syrup and add some ginger to make Ginger Molasses Sponge Toffee!
I designed that recipe to have the taste of a gingersnap cookie, only in candy form. I love the stuff!
More Candy Making Recipes
In the mood to melt some sugar, make some gummies, or play with chocolate? I've got you!
Bananas Foster Pralines
Banana Walnut Brittle
Blood Orange Cranberry Toffee
Dill Pickle Gummy Worms
Festive Easy Fudge
Homemade BCAA Gummies
Homemade Jolly Rancher Candies
Hop Flavoured Beer Lollipops (LolliHOPS!)
How to Make Marshmallow Cones
Jalapeno Beer Peanut Brittle
Milk Chocolate Chai Truffles
Peppermint Patties Recipe
White Chocolate Almond Amaretto Truffles
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- 2 ½ cups granulated sugar
- ⅔ cup corn syrup
- 6 tbsp water
- 2 tbsp baking soda
- 2 tsp vanilla
- Prepare a 9″ x 13″ cake pan with nonstick spray, or a light coating of vegetable oil or shortening. Set aside.
- In a large saucepan, stir together sugar, corn syrup, and water. Attach a candy thermometer to the pan, making sure that it does not touch the bottom of the pan.
- Bring mixture to a boil, and allow to cook until temperature reaches 300 degrees F (hard crack stage). From the time mixture starts boiling to the time it reaches 300F, do not stir.
- Once mixture reaches 300F, remove from heat.
- Add vanilla and baking soda, beating to incorporate. The mixture will start foaming quite a bit when you add the baking soda (chemical reaction!), so using a LONG wooden spoon is a good idea. The sugar will be very hot, and will burn if you get any on your hand as you stir. Be very careful and work FAST.
- Dump foaming mixture into greased cake pan, spreading it out as evenly as possible. Allow it to cool completely.
- Once toffee is cooled all the way through, remove from pan and snap into chunks / nuggets and serve.
- Be sure to store toffee in an airtight container – the sugar will attract water from the air, and the toffee can go soggy.
- While you definitely want the baking soda to be fully mixed in, know that how much you beat it affects the final texture. If you beat it a lot, the air bubbles will be smaller than if you don't.
- If you like big, airy toffee, beat it the minimum possible, and GENTLY pour it into the pan. DO NOT disturb it - it will keep rising and developing big bubbles.
More Recipes that Remind me of Gramma
Since originally writing this post, my gramma has sadly passed... but her memory lives on.
Here are a few recipes that remind me of her, whether as something she taught me to make, a replica of a retail treat we used to enjoy together, or one of my own recipes that she would request whenever I’d visit, as an adult.
Gramma's Perogies Recipe
Homemade Marshmallow Cones
Homemade Clodhoppers Candy
Puffed Wheat Squares
Honey Dill Dipping Sauce
Paska - Ukrainian Easter Bread
Baking Powder Biscuits
Grandma's Potato Salad
Easy Butterfly Cupcakes
Breakfast of Champions
Mushroom Soup and Eggs on Toast
French Canadian Pea Soup
Creamy Chicken Wild Rice Soup with Gluten Free Dumplings
Beep Drink Recipe
Gluten Free Cod Au Gratin