Chica and Jo
...simplifying life
Chica and Jo
...simplifying life
Chica and Jo
26
APR
2010

How to make hard candy jewels

by: Chica

How to make hard candy jewels
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Jo and I have been doing lots of projects over the last month or so for Little Jo’s birthday party, and I want to show you one of the projects I did for part of the party decor. We found ourselves needing some round gems in just the right color of teal. If they could be edible, all the better. So I did some shopping and some research and came up with everything I needed to make hard candy jewels. And I gotta tell you, this turned out to be one of the most fun projects I’ve done in ages!

By the way, there was a lot of trial and error as I figured out just the right techniques for making hard candy, and I’ll tell you about that at the end of this post. But for now, here is the right way to do it!

You’ll need to pick up a couple of custom supplies for making hard candy. First, you’ll need some hard candy jewel molds. Then you’ll need some liquid food coloring that’s suitable for use with hard candy and optionally, some candy flavoring oils in any flavor you like (although I left mine plain, and they tasted kind of like cotton candy!) The rest of the items you’ll need are quite simple: corn syrup, sugar, water, a pan, non-stick cooking spray, a candy thermometer, and a Pyrex 4-cup measuring cup.

how to make hard candy jewelshow to make hard candy jewels

Before we even think about turning that stove on, we’ve got lots of prep work to do. The prep will make this so much easier, so get everything ready to go before you start. The very first step, before you do anything else, is to calibrate your candy thermometer. You may not know that your thermometer can get “off” over time, especially the ones with the little paper guide inside that can move. If your numbers are off, you’ll never get the right temperature, and your candy might fail miserably.

Fortunately, it’s very easy to calibrate your candy thermometer. Just bring a pot of water to a boil and put the thermometer inside. It should read 212 degrees F (at sea level, anyway). If it’s higher or lower than that, then remember that difference and adjust your target temperature accordingly for this candy recipe. (For example: if your thermometer says 200 when the water is boiling, you’re 12 degrees too low, and you should subtract 12 from your recipe’s target temperature.)

I urge you to please not skip this calibration step, because it can save you so much frustration. I learned this the hard way (as you’ll see below) with candy that was overcooked and discolored!

Once your thermometer is set, then you need to spray the molds with the non-stick cooking spray. I put my molds in the sink to keep from spraying my counters. Don’t be too stingy, but don’t let it puddle, either.

how to make hard candy jewelshow to make hard candy jewels

Next, you want to cover your work area with aluminum foil. The candy won’t stock to the foil, so it’s a great surface to work on. Put a piece of aluminum foil on the counter next to your stove, making sure it’s close enough to catch any candy drips later. Put the Pyrex measuring cup right on the foil. Then put another big piece of foil on the counter and put your molds on top. If you’re going to use flavoring, get a clean, dry spoon ready and put it next to the Pyrex cup.

how to make hard candy jewelshow to make hard candy jewels

Now go ahead and mix up your ingredients in the pan. You’ll need:

  • 2 cups granulated white sugar
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup water
  • food coloring as desired (I used 20 drops)
  • 1 tsp (1 dram) of candy flavoring oil (optional)

Stir together everything except the flavoring oil so that it is mixed well and the color is uniform. Then clip your candy thermometer to the pan, making sure it does not touch the bottom of the pan.

UPDATE – I recently read that adding the coloring too early in the cooking process can make your candy turn out sticky (because the acid in the coloring will invert the sucrose), so despite what these pictures show, you may want to wait and add the coloring at the last minute with the flavoring.

how to make hard candy jewelshow to make hard candy jewels

Okay, all set? Everything greased and covered and set up and ready to go? Then go ahead and turn the burner on high and get it going. The faster you cook this, the less chance of caramelization, so be sure the burner is turned up as high as it will go. By the way, do not leave this unattended. Stay put!

When the mixture first starts to boil, the temperature will rise to 212 really fast, and there will be lots of steam as the water boils away. If your thermometer is anything like mine, it will be covered with condensation and hard to read. That’s okay, though… you’ll see why in a sec…

how to make hard candy jewelshow to make hard candy jewels

As it continues to boil, you’ll see the the temperature rises much more slowly now. (Don’t use that as an excuse to leave, though… please stay and watch it for your safety!) You’ll also notice that the steam dies down as the water goes away, and soon there is no steam at all. You’ll also notice that your thermometer is suddenly dry and easy to read. Awesome.

how to make hard candy jewelshow to make hard candy jewels

Now this part is critical, so pay attention. Let the sugar boil to 300 degrees F but not a bit more! (I’ll explain why at the end of this post). The minute you hit 300, take the thermometer out and set it on the foil (aren’t you glad you had that ready?). Then immediately dump the boiling sugar into the Pyrex cup. We do this for two reasons. First, it’s easier to pour from the spout. Second, we want to stop the cooking process, so we need to get that liquid out of that hot pan or else it will keep cooking.

how to make hard candy jewelshow to make hard candy jewels

NOTE – This sugar syrup is VERY hot, so make sure your measuring cup is made of something heat-proof like Pyrex. Also make sure it’s at least the 4-cup size so that you have enough room for the bubbling liquid.

At this point, you can add your optional flavoring oil (and coloring, if you didn’t add it already), and stir it in quickly (but carefully!) with the spoon you had ready.

Now you’ve got to work pretty fast to pour the sugar into the molds before it hardens. You’ll have a few minutes of working time, so don’t trip over yourself to rush, but don’t waste time either. The candy syrup will be very easy to pour for about 5 or 6 minutes, and then will start to thicken up. After 8 or 9 minutes, it’ll be too thick to pour and you’ll be done.

Just pour the sugar slowly and carefully into the molds, taking care not to overfill them. Do your absolute best to not leave huge puddles or trails of sugar between the pieces, because they will be nearly impossible to remove later.

how to make hard candy jewels

how to make hard candy jewelshow to make hard candy jewels

When you fill the “breakaway” molds (those with the pieces right up against each other), you need to be really careful not to overfill. If you cover up those little white lines between each jewel, I can pretty much guarantee that they will shatter when you try to break them apart later.

how to make hard candy jewelshow to make hard candy jewels

While you wait for the candy to set, let’s talk about cleanup. That pan looks awful with the caked-on sugar, right? Fortunately, all you need to do is fill it up with water and let it sit a few hours. Go ahead and toss the thermometer and spoon inside, too. The sugar will all dissolve after a good soak.

After five or ten minutes, your candies will be set. Just flip the mold over onto the foil and give it a gentle bend, and the candies should pop right out.

how to make hard candy jewelshow to make hard candy jewels

And that’s it, your candy jewels are done! They will have a slight film of oil on them, which will help keep them from sticking together, but you can wipe that away with a paper towel if you like. As long sure to store them in an air-tight container, they shouldn’t stick at all.

how to make hard candy jewelshow to make hard candy jewels

I just love how these hard candy jewels came out!

how to make hard candy jewels

So you might be wondering what I ended up using these candy jewels for. They were the decoration on the Princess Peach birthday cake that I made for Little Jo’s Super Mario Brothers themed birthday party.

Princess Peach birthday cake

I’ve also used this recipe to create cinnamon-flavored candies for Christmas, to give as little gifts to friends. I put some in bags and some in clear glass bowls, and they look so pretty.

how to make hard candy jewels

The film of oil on the candies (leftover from the greased molds) should keep them from sticking together, but if you want to be extra sure your candies don’t stick, you can toss them in a bag with a little bit of powdered sugar.

how to make hard candy jewelshow to make hard candy jewels

Once you brush off the excess, you end up with candies that not only won’t stick together, but that actually look like frosted glass!

how to make hard candy jewels

I also used this recipe to make some sweet heart-shaped candies for Valentine’s Day. Be sure to check out my Valentine’s Day heart shaped candy tutorial for more info, including our free downloadable bag tag. There’s even a tip about making giant heart-shaped lollipops!

Valentine's Day heart candy

BONUS – lessons I learned

Now that I’ve shown you how to make these candies the right way, let me share with you some lessons I learned while figuring it out.

#1 – Don’t overfill the molds

Those molds are labeled as “breakaway” and you might think that you can just snap the candies apart when they are cool and everything will go great. That is not the case at all. If you put too much candy in the molds, you’ll end up with a huge slab of hard candy that breaks into every shape imaginable EXCEPT the one you were trying for! Here’s what happened to me on my first attempt. What a mess it made.

how to make hard candy jewelshow to make hard candy jewels

#2 – Don’t undergrease the molds

When I made my first batch of candy, I didn’t have any non-stick cooking spray, so I tried to just wipe some oil onto the molds with a paper towel. The result was a film of oil that was no where near enough, and the candies stuck like crazy. Take another look at the picture above and see the bits of candies stuck to the mold. Ugh!

#3 – Don’t overheat the syrup

You can get decent candies with varying temperatures, but for decent and true COLOR, you need to be sure you don’t heat past 300 degrees. Having an accurate candy thermometer is critical to the success of this candy, so please make sure you calibrate it using the instructions I mentioned at the start of this tutorial.

The first time I tried this candy, my thermometer was way off and I had no idea. My candy cooked way too long and the sugar started to caramelize. The syrup was yellowish by the time I added my blue food coloring, and the result was quite green! Then I tried again with a lower temperature, and it was still too much. Then I finally figured out my thermometer was wrong, and when I adjusted for that, I hit the jackpot with true blue candies.

NOTE – Colors like red/orange/yellow are pretty easy, because a little extra caramelization won’t mess it up, but if you’re doing clear or blue candies, or you really want true colors with no golden tint, you might want to stop the temperature a little shy of 300 degrees. Stopping at 295 or 290 will keep your colors true, but you also run the risk of the candy not setting up hard enough. It’s a very fine line, so you need to experiment to get the results you want.

Here’s a picture of the three batches I made with the exact same amount of blue food coloring, but I let them cook to different temperatures. Can you believe the difference? If you want your colors true and bright, be sure your thermometer is accurate and don’t cook it too long.

how to make hard candy jewels

#6 – Have enough molds ready

There’s nothing more frustrating with this project than having extra sugar syrup leftover with nowhere to put it. So make sure you pick up several of the hard candy molds and prep them all so that you’re ready for however far your syrup takes you!

#5 – Don’t leave the syrup in the pan

As I mentioned earlier, you need to dump the syrup into another container when it has reached the proper temperature. Otherwise, the hot pan will continue to cook the syrup and you’ll go over the target temperature and it will start to turn yellow. If you don’t believe a few degrees will make that much of a difference, take a look at this picture of my pan. After I had dumped it out and made my candies, I went back and looked and the small amount of sugar left in the pan started to turn yellow just from sitting there. Discoloration like that will ruin a batch of candies fast!

how to make hard candy jewels

I hope you guys find these tips helpful and if you try your hand at hard candy, let me know how it goes!

How to make hard candy jewels
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426 comments so far:

  • 1
    Lisa @ Sweet2Eat Baking 02/12/2012 at 8:46 am

    This tutorial is awesome. I love that you’ve listed your trial run and explained what went wrong, etc. I’ve been looking for an in-depth tutorial on candy gems so I can create them for my cakes.

    I have yet to buy the moulds (yes, I’m British, lol) and the candy thermometer. Also, we don’t have corn syrup here in the UK. The closest thing is Golden Syrup but it’s not a clear syrup (google time). What could I sub this for? Or will it make a difference?

    I’m very much a beginner and I’m mobility disabled (I’m only 30) so I’m hoping this won’t be too hard for me.

    Thanks for sharing,
    -Lisa
    http://sweet2eatbaking.blogspot.com

  • 2
    Chica 02/12/2012 at 9:04 am

    Lisa, we’re so happy that you like our tutorial. We’ve had a couple of other UK readers mention golden syrup as an alternative, and if you search through for “golden syrup” on this page, you can see their comments. I haven’t heard back from anyone who has tried it, though, so if you do please let us know how it comes out.

  • 3
    Becky 02/12/2012 at 10:04 am

    I just made the jewels and I used the isomalt sticks and they work wonderful. I would highly recommend the sticks.

  • 4
    Chica 02/12/2012 at 11:09 am

    Becky, I had never heard of Isomalt sticks before but I just looked and found them on Amazon. Looks very interesting! The brief info I’ve seen so far indicates that you melt them in the microwave. Is that what you did? Do you have any tips to share with everyone?

  • 5
    fathima 02/13/2012 at 7:00 pm

    hi i just want ask u can i use glucose syrup for substitute for corn syrup because i cant find corn syrup pls reply me if u cen

  • 6
    Chica 02/14/2012 at 6:57 am

    Fathima, we’ve had a few people ask about golden syrup in the comments above. Some have suggested it would work, but nobody has come back with final results, so I don’t have a definite answer for you. If you try it out, please let us know how it goes!

  • 7
    Jason 02/16/2012 at 8:52 pm

    I would like to make a batch with about a quarter of the recipe. what do you reccomend?

  • 8
    Chica 02/17/2012 at 6:59 am

    Jason, a quarter of the ingredients in this recipe would be: 1/2 cup sugar, 8 tsp corn syrup, and 3 tbsp water.

  • 9
    Mrshaert 02/17/2012 at 8:30 pm

    Thank you, thank you! I made beautiful jewels last nite with your recipe. I had tried the “jolly rancher” recipe the night before and was so disappointed. Your recipe was perfect and all of your advice great! I tooka a chance and use Wilton paste colorings with the jewels, since I couldn’t get to a large city to get the liquid color. I just mixed the color with the water before I put it in the pan. It worked great. Thanks again!!!!!!!

  • 10
    Kariema 02/18/2012 at 12:42 pm

    Hi thanks so much for the receipe,iv tried the gems and it came out beautiful

  • 11
    Chica 02/18/2012 at 12:50 pm

    I’m so glad you had such success, Mrsheart! Thanks for the tip on the paste colorings, too.

  • 12
    HolleyV 02/20/2012 at 8:44 pm

    My church is having a fun mystery dinner with a Gold Rush theme. I can’t wait to try these for edible diamonds on the tables!

  • 13
    kathy 03/04/2012 at 5:23 pm

    I am making an Indian lamp cake topper and used your instructions for the windows in my fondant lamp.. It worked PERFECTLY!! thanks!

  • 14
    Chica 03/04/2012 at 5:49 pm

    So glad it worked well for you, Kathy! We’d love to see your cake topper, if you’d like to share a photo with us in our Flickr group for reader photos.

  • 15
    Kelly 03/06/2012 at 5:36 pm

    If I miss out the colouring will I end up with clear gems, also I am based in the UK and I am having problems getting corn syrup, is there anything else I could use?

  • 16
    Chica 03/07/2012 at 6:53 am

    Hi Kelly. If you leave out the color, you will get gems that are mostly clear, but may have a yellowish tint depending on how long you cook the sugar. We’ve had several of our UK readers in the comments above ask about using golden syrup (which is available in the UK), but nobody has reported back with results, so I’m not sure if it will work for you or not. I assume that “golden” syrup is not clear, though, which would mean that the gems would not be clear if you don’t use any coloring. Hope that helps!

  • 17
    good 03/17/2012 at 2:52 pm

    can you eat it?

  • 18
    Chica 03/17/2012 at 4:28 pm

    This candy is made of sugar and completely edible!

  • 19
    Carolyn 03/18/2012 at 12:46 am

    Love these instructions! Worked like a charm every time! We made lots of batches in all different colors. Couldn’t be easier, thanks so much!!!

  • 20
    Chica 03/18/2012 at 9:38 am

    So glad to hear it, Carolyn! We’d love to see pictures of some of your creations if you want to post them in Flickr group for reader projects.

  • 21
    kim 03/23/2012 at 12:36 pm

    Your ideas are great and I was wondering where to get the moulds? Just awsome.

  • 22
    Chica 03/23/2012 at 8:22 pm

    Kim, I found the molds at my local Hobby Lobby store, but you can also buy them here on Amazon.

  • 23
    Kristi Ambrose 04/01/2012 at 2:27 pm

    Okay, let me just say this is awesome. I have been looking around for an all in one guide for days. All in one being a guide that tells me HOW to cook it, where to get the supplies and how to not screw up lol. I buy candy jewels from a lady on etsy, but they become so expensive between that and the shipping, I wanted to see if there was a better way and a cheaper way around this. I have made “barley” candy before (the kind you put on a baking sheet, freeze and then literally BREAK), but I wanted to try some of these little candy jewels because they are very uniform and they fit in your mouth without jabbing you lol.

    I am going to use this recipe I think, and I am getting my flavored oils from https://www.lorannoils.com/c-6-super-strength-flavors.aspx and I will take your advice about the molds. I did have one question though, assuming these are silicone, what do you think is better, metal or silicone? I see a lot of people on sites saying different things. In our house we have one main worry: Cancerous products. We try not to use things like bleach and things that can harm you because my mom had breast cancer last year and it was really.. scary. Does the silicone have any types of chemicals in it that would harm a person?

  • 24
    Chica 04/01/2012 at 7:49 pm

    Kristi, we’re so happy we were your all-in-one! I have never used metal molds. The molds I used are not silicon, but are a shiny and hard plastic that is still flexible. Since they are specifically designed for use with hot liquid sugar, I would assume they are completely safe and free of dangerous chemicals.

  • 25
    Kristi Ambrose 04/03/2012 at 2:28 pm

    I bought pretty much all of my stuff already – minus the pyrex because we have one at home already. I kind of cannot wait til I get to make these! I got flavored oils as well – cranberry for myself, pomegranate for my mom and key lime for my girlfriend lol. Going to try all of them and see what happens!

    Thanks for your answer. I went ahead with whatever Lorann Oils had (I thought it best to buy everything in one place), I could not find jewels that were uniform, so I got stars instead – which are still super super cute. Here is the link, maybe as a connisueur you can tell me if this is silicon or hard plastic like you were telling me about:

    https://www.lorannoils.com/p-8619-sheet-mold-stars-candies.aspx

    Hopefully that is the thing I needed.

  • 26
    Chica 04/03/2012 at 5:40 pm

    Kristi, that looks like the hard plastic to me, which should work great for hard candy. Good luck and do let us know how it goes!

  • 27
    Kristi Ambrose 04/06/2012 at 10:11 pm

    Good I hope it works! We plan to do it sometime next week and I can’t wait. Mmm.

    Thanks!

  • 28
    Sahu 04/07/2012 at 2:48 pm

    Hey guys thanks for the tutorial. Can I use gel food colors instead of water-based liquid colors? I’ve tried making these too, but I get tiny bubbles in mine, and I use regular sugar, not isomalt. I believe it’s because I pour into molds too quickly… next time I’ll try waiting till the bubbles settle before pouring.

  • 29
    Chica 04/07/2012 at 3:20 pm

    Sahu, I haven’t tried the gel colors for this, but check the product details (either on the packaging or their company website) and see if it says the gel can be used for hard candy.

  • 30
    Mars 04/07/2012 at 5:03 pm

    Does this color stain your tongue/mouth? If not, do you know how i can make it stain?

  • 31
    Chica 04/07/2012 at 5:30 pm

    Mars, I haven’t seen it stain with just the few drops of coloring I’ve added, but if you add a LOT more coloring, you might be able to get the results you’re looking for!

  • 32
    Kelly 04/08/2012 at 2:24 pm

    I made my first hard candy today, but being located in the UK I cannot get corn syrup so I just used sugar and water with blue food colouring, just need to make sure the syrup reaches the right temp, it worked really well

  • 33
    Chica 04/08/2012 at 8:37 pm

    Thanks for sharing your results, Kelly. I’m sure our other readers in the UK who have mentioned issues with getting corn syrup will be grateful for the advice.

  • 34
    K. Ofori 04/17/2012 at 4:36 am

    These are great directions! do you think it would be possible to exchange corn syrup for FRUIT SYRUP? I havent tried it yet but I wanted to ask just in case you already knew the result of the substitution. Does anything about the instructions change if I do so? :-)

  • 35
    Chica 04/17/2012 at 6:49 am

    K, I’ve never tried using fruit syrup. If you try it, let us know how it goes!

  • 36
    Rac 04/23/2012 at 8:58 pm

    Great instructions. Trying this very soon. Thanks,

  • 37
    Kayla 04/26/2012 at 9:55 am

    I’m using a small jewel mold…I used a dowel(I didn’t have a skewer) to drop the sugar into the mold. It worked well, but I suggest doing a really small batch. I halfed this recipe and it started to get hard to pour. Question: I let my sugar go to 276. The first couple jewels were nice and clear but as I went the turned more brown. Any suggestions?

  • 38
    Chica 04/26/2012 at 10:40 am

    I like the dowel idea for dropping the sugar in the mold, Kayla. Thanks for the tip! As for the color changing, the sugar is going to continue to cook for a few minutes after you take it off the heat, which is why I recommend pouring it out of the hot pan and into a cooler container like a Pyrex measuring cup. This will help stop the cooking process. Hope that helps!

  • 39
    Kristi Ambrose 05/02/2012 at 7:13 am

    FYI I tried this recipe and it worked awesome. I made a whole bunch of red, blue and green candy stars and I added the flavorings as I said I would. Now I am going to an event with my mom in a week and I am going to make pink breast cancer ribbons in cranberry and strawberry flavors to give out. It works well because the event is sponsored by the Komen foundation and my mom had breast cancer last year :o)

    Since I cannot sell them (laws and stuff), I am going to give them away and set a price for them. Then, my mom is going to give me the money for them lol and then I am going to pocket half and donate the rest to the Cancer Research Fund or the Susan Komen foundation – not sure which one yet.

    Wish me luck!

  • 40
    Chica 05/02/2012 at 8:13 am

    Kristi, I’m so glad to hear that the recipe worked so well for you. You sound like you’re turning into quite the candy maker! I’m sure your ribbon candies will be a big hit at the event, and kudos to you for sharing your profits with either charity.

  • 41
    Joanne 05/02/2012 at 8:48 am

    Thanks for your tips how to make it and I am going to try it very soon.

    Is there any supermarkets sell Light corn syrup or have to buy it from the Internet?

  • 42
    Chica 05/02/2012 at 10:34 am

    Joanne, you should be able to find corn syrup in any supermarket. It’s often located near the pancake syrup.

  • 43
    Tiffany 05/18/2012 at 8:01 am

    Your ideas have been a fantastic addition to my childrens birthday parties. For my oldest daughter I made tiaras for all the girls that came to the party, and bags of flavored gemstones for them to take home. It was wonderful, something so simple made it so beautiful.

  • 44
    Chica 05/18/2012 at 2:19 pm

    Tiffany, that sounds like a wonderfully fancy and inexpensive favor that I’m sure the girls cherished.

  • 45
    Tracie 05/23/2012 at 1:23 pm

    Just made these today as I have a cake this weekend that will have emeralds on it. I love that I had all supplies on hand and this really was so simple! Following your directions exactly they turned out perfectly! Thanks for sharing

  • 46
    Chica 05/23/2012 at 3:11 pm

    That’s great to hear, Tracie. We’d love to see a photo of your emeralds and/or cake if you want to upload it to our Flickr group for reader photos.

  • 47
    Xochitl 05/31/2012 at 1:55 am

    I just made my first batch. My thermometer only went up to 150 and the candy burned. I just got it. :(

  • 48
    Chica 06/01/2012 at 7:04 am

    Xochitl, is there any chance you were looking at Celsius instead of Fahrenheit on the thermometer? Or maybe you didn’t have the end of the thermometer down in the sugar enough to get a good readout?

  • 49
    joyce 06/13/2012 at 2:04 am

    Hi I need help! i used isomalt with water and made some gems and it turned out nice just like yours. I kept it in air tight container and take out the air (vacuum) n it turned sticky the next day.the day b4 i made some and i didn’t put in air tight container n they also turned sticky (kinda melting). Singapore is highly humid country however i thought it shldn’t turn sticky since i’ve put them in a vacuumed container? hope that u can help me, may be i shld add corn water?

  • 50
    Chica 06/13/2012 at 6:48 am

    Hi Joyce. I haven’t used isomalt, so I can’t comment on that specifically, but the biggest causes of stickiness are humidity or from the candies being not quite hard enough in the first place (from not being cooked to too high a temperature). I’ve read that you can coat the candies in powdered sugar to keep them from sticking, but that ruins the clear glass look, and instead makes them look like frosted glass.

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We are two best friends sharing our creative journey. You never know what we will be into each time you visit. We could be throwing a unique party, refinishing a flea market find, or whipping up a new cupcake recipe. We invite you to join us for the ride as we tackle life one project at a time!

Please visit Chica and Jo at http://www.chicaandjo.com for more DIY projects and clever ideas!