How to Make Spun Sugar.

I need to warn you:  As soon as you read about how easy it is to make spun sugar you’ll be setting a pot on the stove and trying it yourself.  So don’t read any further unless you’re prepared to become a spun sugar master this instant.

There are a couple of reasons why you want to make some spun sugar this holiday season and a couple of reasons why you don’t.

Let’s go through the list of why you DO want to make it first.

1. Being able to spin sugar lets everyone know you’re better than they are.

2.  You never can tell when a food critic’s car might break down in front of your house.  You don’t want him/her to think you’re some sort of asshead who doesn’t know how to spin sugar.  Best to always be prepared.

Now the list of why you DON’T want to make spun sugar this holiday season.

1.  No one likes a show off (but who cares).

2.  It can make a mess, splattering sugar all over your kitchen and hair and it’s entirely possible the food critic will never leave your house because he will be forever stuck to the floor (but who cares).

O.K.,  now that that’s settled, let’s talk about how we’re all going to spin sugar this holiday season.

The best part about spun sugar is it’s easy to make. Much easier than the look of it would imply.


How to make spun sugar

In a nutshell, spun sugar is just thin strands of melted sugar that have  been formed into a ball, nest, ribbon, or whatever.  To get the strands you have to melt the sugar, let it cool a tiny bit, then use a spun sugar whisk or something to pick up the sugar syrup and fling it around. Once it reaches the cool air it starts to harden, creating thin strands of gold.

What’s a spun sugar whisk?

To pick up the melted sugar and fling it around you need a spun sugar whisk, which has lots of little tips, unlike a regular whisk which has no tips at all.

You can make a spun sugar whisk by just cutting the loops on your own whisk.

I made the one below.  It’s just a regular whisk that I’ve cut the end off of with wire cutters.  This lets you have many tips for the sugar strands to come off of when you’re flinging it.

The only things you need are sugar, water and either corn syrup or cream of tartar.

The water, sugar and cream of tartar get combined and brought to a 300 F boil. NO STIRRING!

Once it’s reached that temperature you turn the heat off, let it cool a minute or two and then dip your whisk in it and very quickly flick the whisk in long strokes to create long strands of gold sugar thread.

You can also wind the sugar around utensils to create coils of gold.

You’re supposed to line your floors with newspaper if you make spun sugar.  The first time I did this I didn’t line my floors with newspapers because I’m super-cool.  

And super-cool girls don’t need to line their floors with paper.   Super-cool girls are also stupid.  And sticky.

Confused? Watch this quick video of me making spun sugar and sugar spirals.


You can flick your whisk faster and wider, but doing that is going to create more mess. Better sugar strands, but more collateral damage.

It. Is. SO. Much. Fun. I don’t even know what I’m doing and I can make it look good.

It’d difficult to be great at sugar art, but easy to be good at it.

The one thing to keep in mind, the real downfall of this whole spun sugar situation is it really does need to be made the day you’re going to use it. Preferably right before.

If it isn’t humid it won’t be as much of an issue, but if there’s any humidity in the air your sugar will lose its form and get soft and weepy.

Spun Sugar Technique

Spun sugar is a quick technique that you can add to homemade creations or even to make storebought desserts more impressive. Traditionally it's used to cover a croquembouche.
4.5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Calories: 898kcal



  • Stainless steel or copper pot
  • A couple of wooden spoons
  • A whisk with the ends clipped


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 Tbsps Corn Syrup or 1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar


  • Set your burner to medium low.
  • Pour 1/4 cup of water into pot, followed by 2 Tablespoons of corn syrup (or 1/4 tsp cream of tartar) and finally 1 cup of sugar. Make sure you slowly pour the sugar into the pot, keeping it in the centre so none of if touches the sides of the pot.
  • Now LEAVE it. Don’t stir it, swish it or move it. (if you stir the mixture it will crystallize) Allow the sugar to melt into the water on its own.
  • Heat the sugar mixture at medium low until it reaches 300 f degrees. That’s bordering the hard crack stage. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, 300 f degrees is when the sugar has just started to become a light amber colour. If it’s taking more than 5 minutes to get to this stage, turn up the heat a little bit.
  • Once you’ve reached temperature take your pot off the heat and let it cool down a bit. (a lot of cooks say they dunk their pot into cold water for a few seconds to stop the cooking of the sugar but I find when you’re just doing a small amount like this, you’re better off not dunking the pot into cool water because it cools it too quickly.
  • Take either 2 forks in your hand or a wire whisk that you’ve cut the ends off of and dip it into the sugar and lift it up. If you see tiny strands (as opposed to drips) coming off the tines, your sugar is cool enough to fling.
  • Set a couple of wood spoons over a bowl and just flick your whisk back and forth over it. The higher you hold the whisk the better and the stronger you fling it the better. BUT you’ll also get spun sugar all over your kitchen. I just slowly pull the sugar back and forth across the bowl. The upside? Not as much sugar around the kitchen. The downside? The strands are slightly thicker than if you fling the sugar.
  • Lift the spun sugar and form it into whatever shape you want. You can place it over a greased bowl or cup to get a rounded look. Or you can lift the strands as a long ribbon, wrap them around a straight sided glass or mason jar to make a big circle.
  • Once your sugar starts to get a bit too cool to fling, you can make your twirls. Take a spoon or knife and dip it into the sugar. Let the ribbon of sugar hang down and using a dowel or the handle of a wood spoon, just twirl the ribbon of sugar around it. I like these even more than the spun sugar and they’re way less messy to do because you aren’t flinging anything around.
  • 10. If your sugar gets too cool to work with just put it back on the stove and reheat it remembering not to stir it while it heats up. Each time you reheat your mixture it will get darker and darker making your spun sugar more and more caramelized. So you’ll start off with spun sugar that is a light amber and end up with spun sugar that’s more of a dark amber colour.


Calories: 898kcal | Carbohydrates: 233g | Sodium: 32mg | Sugar: 233g

Tips Learned by Making Spun Sugar for an Entire Day.

  • I first made it with only sugar (hardens too quickly, isn’t pliable for long).
  • Then I made it with sugar and water (same pliability problem, but totally doable if you don’t have corn syrup or cream of tartar).  
  • Next I made it with sugar, water and corn syrup. (this worked the best along with …)
  • Sugar, water and cream of tartar (worked just as well as corn syrup)
  • To clean your pot once the sugar syrup has hardened in it, just fill the pot with water and put it on the burner.
  • Don’t even attempt to make this on a humid day.
  • If it’s winter and really dry in your house, the sugar will last a day or two on the counter  before it gets weird. (melts, gets sticky). If you want to store it longer apparently you can put it in Tupperware with as many of those silica packs as you can scrounge up in your house.
  • Lay down the newspaper, Coolio.  Just put down the newspaper damnit.

How to Make Spun Sugar.


  1. Billy Sharpstick says:

    Don’t you have a vacant lot nearby to do this? Or better yet, at a neighbor’s house.

  2. Kendra says:

    I am going to do a dry run today since humidity is extremely low.


  3. Isabel says:

    I make a ‘cheater’s croquembouche’ by stacking M&M mini cream puffs in a pyramid, then whipping spun sugar all around it – impresses the hell out of people. I’ve never thought to cool it for a couple of minutes – maybe that will help with the burns I get from hot liquid sugar sticking to my hands during the flinging!

  4. Bethany Jones says:

    You’re ready for the Great British Bakeoff now.

  5. Sandy Harrison says:

    Hi Karen,
    I am fairly new to your web site and enjoy it immensely. Love your quick wit and wry sense of humor.
    Regards from Panama City, Florida,

  6. ecoteri says:

    Hey Karen, Is it just me, or are your videos not visible to other people too>. Both safari and chrome, no cool video to watch.
    sobbing because I would prefer to watch you than what is happening on the news tonight.

  7. Angela says:

    Fun thought for when I get ambitious enough to spin some sugar… line largish box with parchment, lava sugar inside, have homemade sugar whisk attached to my cordless drill and see what magic happens.

  8. Christine Friedlieb says:

    I just noticed that you updated a few days ago! Just making things More perfect? I’m making a Buche de Halloween for my friend’s birthday tonight. (Started last Thursday, I’m not insane!). Today is decorating, got the mushrooms around the log, it’s sitting on cedar and old sedum flowers. I’m ecstatic because the Italian meringue for the frosting came out perfect. So now I’m procrastinating by reading everything I can find about spun sugar. So happy that I ran across your article! I really don’t trust anyone else.
    I’ll let you know what happens. 😁

  9. Mel Bohrer says:

    How cool it is for you to be getting comments on a post you wrote a long time ago, huh? ;) I like this idea, Karen! Though I would recommend to anyone trying this who has young children, pets, or anyone else they might not want to injure, to get them out of the room before doing this. Though most of those with young children would probably not even attempt to spin sugar.

  10. Annie says:

    HI I’m making fancy halloween cupcakes for a wedding. I’m curious if you can add black food coloring to this?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie! I’ve never done it myself but yes you can add food colouring. You would do it while the sugar is melting. Keep in mind though it sometimes takes a lot of black food colouring to get a good looking black. I’m not sure how the plain sugar will take the colour, but the only way to find out is try. :) Just do a practice run. ~ karen!

  11. Mike Parker says:

    Thank you for making this instructional easy! Sometimes, when you come from a restaurant background, it’s difficult to do proper ‘civilian’ instruction…Just can’t find the words. Thanks for helping me help my friends, you kick a little ass.

    • Karen says:

      You’re welcome Mike! That’s me, kicking little asses all across the land. ~ karen!

      • TucsonPatty says:

        You kick ass, Karen, with every single thing you tell us/help us with/show us how to do/suggest a better way/experiment for all of us so now we know the best way ever to do stuff. Thank you, Karen, from the bottom of my heart!

  12. Cussot says:

    Shoot, I almost missed the VERY cool animated GIF at the end …

  13. Cappy says:

    So I wanted to use these to make a cheesecake look fancy, but if I store the cheesecake in the fridge are these curls going to melt into oblivion after a few hours?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cappy. Just don’t store the curls on the cake in the fridge. Leave them off and store them in a plastic container with a lid. Then when it’s time to serve the cake put them on. They curls will stay fine anywhere from a few hours to a few days in the plastic container depending on how humid it is where you are. ~ karen!

  14. Bobbi says:

    Long ago, I watched Martha S. make spun sugar. She was flinging it onto a wooden laundry rack. I thought, well, it is far too tricky if Martha S. is doing it. Now you have brought the art to the masses. I trust you. I guess it is really doable. Maybe my sister down the street will volunteer her kitchen.

    • Karen says:

      If you don’t really fling it and just pull it back and forth like I do in the video it really doesn’t make a mess. And the spirals make no mess at all! But … maybe ask your sister just in case. ;) ~ karen!

  15. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    I love the little springy swirly ones..they are really pretty..they look like they could bounce off the counter..

  16. Diana says:


    Saw it on Pinterest and always wanted to try it. But with only one Picture and the most informations missing, i wasn`t brave enough.

    Thank you

  17. Korrine Johnson says:

    As a person who abhors sticky hands, I’m thinking this one is not for me. But it’s pretty!

  18. Mindy says:

    I’m diggin’ the fact that, instead of black, your nails are gold to match the sugar.
    The spirals are my favorite.

    • Karen says:

      I did that on purpose! And am highly impressed that you not only noticed the nails but the correlation to the photos. That’s a freakish talent you have there. I bet you understand the underlying themes in novels too. And all of the plots twists and turns on The Sopranos. ~ karen!

  19. Janet says:

    You know how sometimes when you want to spontaneously buy somethng and if you just walk away and think about it enough, it almost gives you the satisfaction of buying it,so in the end you don’t really need to buy it? Well just watching you make spun sugar did that for me today…I no longer feel the need to make spun sugar. Thank you.

  20. Ella says:

    Whoa! AMAZING. This may be my favorite post. And I’ve read every one you have ever written!

  21. Marti says:

    So… when you did NOT put down the newspaper and you made the spun sugar, on your lovely heated floors, how fun was THAT to clean up?

  22. barbee says:

    I tried this once-epic fail

  23. jainegayer says:

    I would love to try this but I am too busy caring for the cold sore I got from not doing the Christmas Pledge.
    They are beautiful pictures, Karen.

  24. Cyn says:

    At first I thought your whisk was one of those tingly head massage tools. Maybe that’s how they came up with the idea! Lol!

  25. Adrienne in Atlanta says:

    1. I’ve been awaiting this post since I saw the sneak peek on your IG. Happy to see that you included a video! Helps with my visual codependency.
    2. Butter Tart recipe, please? I need some good individual desserts for my holiday parties. I see a few recipes on Google, but I love a tried and true one more. A Canadian dessert, it seems?
    3. Most importantly, I LOVE that you’ve started doing the black box pictures. They are so stunning. Very well done. ;)

  26. Nancy says:

    Newspaper notwithstanding, you shoulda said that in order for this to work, you need to do it with background music. Loved the Rag. And you’re not bad, yourself! :)

  27. Pati Gulat says:

    You’re amazing, Karen…is there ANYTHING you won’t try ? I’m adventurous in the kitchen ( hee-hee-hee ;) …) but this I ain’t doing. I’ve tried something similar to this before and it didn’t work out in the humidity in Louisiana. And to the commenter above who posted on the sugar shards, I made those too and stuck them in cupcakes and adorned them with “blood” for Halloween one year. They eventually melted and didn’t “cut” anyone but they were a HUGE hit !

  28. Kristin Ferguson says:

    When I spin sugar I take the pot of hot caramel outside and fling away–no mess in my kitchen. I usually spread the (clean) newspaper on the patio and spin the sugar directly onto the paper. I did this for a croquembouche I made for my daughter’s sixteenth birthday, and I got lovely long swaths of fine strands. The non-flingy parts I do inside after the initial whisk-spinning.

    • Karen says:

      That’s a great idea! (wouldn’t work here most days in the summer because of the humidity and the day I made the spun sugar it would have frozen and cracked in mid air, lol.) But there would be a few days it would work. I’d love to be able to really and truly FLING it. ~ karen!

  29. Valerie says:

    I am impressed.
    I will not be making spun sugar in my kitchen.
    I finally realized the connective between spun sugar and the angel hair that we would sometimes put on the Christmas tree, years ago.

  30. Julie says:

    i hope you were wearing an old time-y moustache when you were making that video…that music _demanded_ it! :) i can’t wait to try this…

  31. Elen Grey says:

    Hey. I’m just trying to get through the Christmas Pledge here, Karen. LOL I love, love, love that first image.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Elen! As long as you’ve gotten through most of the pledge, or some of it, maybe just one thing … I think you can do the sugar. ~ karen!

  32. Mary Werner says:

    LOVE that spurtle spool coil!

  33. Melissa in North Carolina says:

    Thanks for sharing this amazing technique, but I will admire from afar. I must admit, it would be fun to be able show off to my youngest daughter, a true foodie. VERY COOL Karen!!!!

  34. LazySusan says:

    What a brave woman you are to do that in such a nice sweater. I’d be head to toe (and especially on the elbows) spun sugar, with about an inch of it on the spoon handle and the rest on me. It does look like fun, though, and would be a nice touch for a fancy dinner party. I can see small sugar nests at Easter dinner with small chocolate birds eggs in them.

  35. Jody says:

    I will never in a million gazillion trizillion years try this. But it does look beautiful. I just really like looking at the photos.

  36. Heather says:

    Food porn! These photos are really, really, REALLY good!

  37. Tigersmom says:

    Ha! I thought it was just my computer but as I scrolled back up to admire them again, I noticed the reappearing one in the last photo. You have become quite the photo effects whiz!

  38. Tigersmom says:

    It is beautiful and ethereal and golden. All things I love. And all things I will appreciate from a distance as I have an open kitchen with upholstered furniture in flinging range.

    Really beautiful, though.

    Oh, and are those individual pumpkin pies made with real, not-canned, pumpkin that they are gracing?

    • Karen says:

      ha! No those are little butter tarts. (it’s all I had around to display the spun sugar. Well … it was between the butter tarts and a bowl of chili) ~ karen!

      • pat says:

        Mmm, butter tarts, but no raisins? My family hates the raisin version, but I like them. They prefer my Christmas version which has dried cranberries. It’s almost time to break out the tart shells; if I make butter tarts too early, they get found by my family and I never have time to make more before Christmas.

        Spun sugar looks hard; pretty, but hard. I’m more of a “it’s really easy to make, but impresses the pants off people” kind of baker / cook.

  39. Ev Wilcox says:

    Very cool, and yes, you are better than us! Until we make spun sugar too, that is. Thanks for a fun tutorial. Trying to figure out who’s house to use to make this ….

  40. Meg says:

    this is AMAZING.
    it’s like Pele’s hair.

    I am guessing cotton candy is some really THINNER version of this. Like why they have the big drum where you collect the sugar in…

    I can’t wait to try this on this year’s gingerbread house. (which I WILL HAVE TIME FOR if I FINISH my pledge, dang it.)

    • Karen says:

      Hi Meg. Yup. This is exactly what spun sugar is. Just pure sugar cooked to a certain temp and then flung into tiny threads. ~ karen!

  41. Grammy says:

    That actually looks like fun. But so does performing on a trapeze. I’m not trying either of them. My idea of kitchen magic is teaching a five-year-old how to make Pineapple Upside Down Cake, which I’m going to do next week. I guarantee he will be as impressed with the cake as the rest of us are with your beautiful spun sugar. So you are better than I am, but I won’t have to spread newspaper on my floor.

    • Deb J. says:

      You’re lucky. Any time I tried to bake with any of my 3 kids, I usually wished I’d spread newspapers:)

      • Grammy says:

        This is my grandson, Deb, and that would be true for him, too. But over the years I’ve kind of developed a system where I anticipate where the worst mess will be and assign the kid to do one of the things that is least destructive and most fun. For an upside-down cake I’m counting on him not minding me making the batter this time while he spends an inordinate amount of time arranging the maraschino cherries in the design.

        • Becky says:

          spun sugar on top of the pineapple upside down cake would be amazing. The crunchy corners are my favorite part.

  42. SeaDee says:

    Really pretty. Love the video.

    How about laying down a shower curtain or some painters plastic on the floors and counters?

    • Tigersmom says:

      You wouldn’t think so (I know because I tried it while painting), but plastic on the floor becomes incredibly slippery and dangerous. This is why painters still use fabric drop cloths and not plastic even though paint can seep through the fabric.

      I speak from a near-concussion experience on this one.

  43. Pam'a says:

    One super-helpful hint comes to mind here for keeping the floor clean, and you don’t have to spread newspapers: Do it at a friend’s place. Heh.

  44. Stephanie says:

    ” Don’t even attempt to make this on a humid day.”
    LOL, thanks for the warning! We’ve had 109 inches of rain so far this year in Hilo, and that’s BELOW average. Even a “dry” day is humid here. I can’t make merinques, either, for the same reason. Although it’s nice I can blame it on the humidity, not on my culinary skills. What I really got from this post was the urge to grab my wire cutters and snip away at my whisk… that part really looks like fun.

  45. Sherry says:

    I once watched Julia Child do this on her cooking show years and years ago for a yule log. It was and remains THE funniest television I have ever seen. I admire your courage, but ain’t no way I’m doing this in my house! Hell no.

  46. Cynthia says:

    I know….Bwwwahahah! (not sure how that really goes). :)

  47. Cynthia says:

    I had better change my ways, cos I just realised after checking the earlier photo of twirling it, it really is spun sugar. What an asshole I am.

  48. danni says:

    I can’t remember which formula I used, but the thing that stuck with me was this….. when I went to retrieve the perfect golden/ambery spheres from the top of the washing machine, where I put them for safe keeping…. they had melted into sticky brown goo that looked like nothing so much as spilled honey. And I had wasted HOURS on them. Oh, one other thing I remember is that the next time I fooled with sugar, I made hard candy syrup and ‘poured’ letters for everyone’s dessert for a dinner party. Yours Karen, would have had a giant “K” stabbed into it. Gorgeous, but when people stopped oohing and ahhing and tried to eat them, someone broke their letter and then stabbed it thru the roof of their mouth. The stuff is crazy sharp, like glass. I was cut off from the sugar arts by my husband, fearing lawsuits and ants.

  49. Cynthia says:

    I was going to write a smart comment about how you are cheating and I can tell that is a coil of copper wire in one of the photos….but I got scared you would say I am an asshole. BTW, I spell it arsehole, but what the hell would I know? I like asshole better and will promptly change my ways.

  50. Gerri says:

    Wow! The spun sugar looks so pretty and delightful and ethereal-looking! I just may try this with my bonus-kids so that I come off looking ultra-cool. Or sticky. One or the other. But hey, last year’s Salted Trees in Mason Jars project was a huge hit with them, so I have the courage to try this too.

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