If an easy-peasy, crunchy candy dipped in chocolate sounds like your kind of good time, wowza — have I got a deliciously simple treat for you. Honeycomb, which goes by myriad whimsical names (more on that below), is made with just four ingredients — sugar, syrup, baking soda, and cream of tartar — or five if you count the water (but who’s counting?).
Yes, honeycomb making involves boiling sugar on the stovetop and using a candy thermometer, and yes that can be scary, but I 100% got you and will be holding your hand all the way through the short (and sweet!) process. Moreover, for all the honey-lovers in the house, this recipe actually calls for honey as an ingredient, unlike others on the web that include corn syrup in their list and are therefore “honeycomb” in name only.
But what is honeycomb?
Honeycomb is a candy that goes by many different names, including sponge toffee, hokey pokey, and cinder toffee. And when chocolate-coated, it is often referred to as “crunchie bar” (because it tastes like an English candy bar of that name) or “violet crumbles” (because it tastes like an Australian candy bar of that name).
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Honeycomb is in the toffee family and is thus structurally rigid and crunchy in texture. However, due to the magic that is baking soda, which is added to the hot sugar-syrup mixture after it reaches temperature, it is filled with the most marvelous bubbles, giving the finished candy a light and airy feel.
Its origins are a little tricky to decipher. Some believe it first appeared in the 1940s, but others claim it showed up in the U.S. in the mid-19th century and in Britain in the 1920s. But one thing is clear: Honeycomb candy is popular all over the world, and once you make it from scratch in the comfort of your own kitchen, you’re going to understand why. If there is a homemade candy that offers up more bang for the buck than honeycomb, we have yet to be introduced.
Tips for making honeycomb
- Prep all your ingredients before you start cooking. Make sure to measure out and place next to the stovetop all of your ingredients before you begin cooking your sugar and honey.
- Do not stir the sugar and honey mixture once it begins to boil. Once it reaches a boil, you’re looking for an amber color and a temperature of 300 F.
- Work quickly when whisking in the baking soda and cream of tartar. You want to make sure that the soda is evenly distributed, but you do not want to deflate any of the bubbles that the soda creates.
- Work quickly when transferring the honeycomb to the prepared pan to set up. And do not touch the honeycomb once it is in the pan! Attempting to smooth or even out the candy in the pan will only release bubbles, and released bubbles are the enemy of a light and airy honeycomb!
- Crack your honeycomb and place it in a sealed container as soon as it reaches room temperature. If you keep the honeycomb on the counter for too long, because of its exposure to the air, it will begin to get tacky, as it easily absorbs moisture.
- If you want to dip your honeycomb in chocolate (and honestly, why wouldn’t you?), do so as soon as it reaches room temperature. Again, so the candy doesn’t have time to absorb moisture from the air. Place the dipped chocolate in the refrigerator or freezer to set up.
How do you keep honeycomb candy crunchy?
Honeycomb acts like a sponge once it reaches room temperature, absorbing the moisture around it. And once absorbed, the candy turns sticky and tacky. To avoid this, do not let honeycomb sit out on the counter, uncovered after it has come to room temperature —particularly if there is a lot of humidity in the air. Instead, once it reaches room temperature, immediately break it into pieces and store the pieces in an airtight container on the counter, or, my personal favorite, in the freezer.
If you are dipping your honeycomb in chocolate (and please tell us you’re doing that), once dipped, immediately place the candy in the freezer or refrigerator to set the chocolate and to avoid the underlying candy from getting tacky.
Serves 12 to 16
Cooking spray or softened butter, for the pan
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup water
For the chocolate dip (optional):
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with cooking spray or softened butter. Line the bottom and the 2 long sides with a sheet of parchment paper that extends a few inches over the long sides to form a sling.
2. Place 1 tablespoon baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar in a small bowl and stir to combine. Place the baking pan, baking soda mixture, and a small fine-mesh strainer near the stovetop.
3. Place 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup honey, and 1/4 cup water in a large pot or Dutch oven. Cook over medium-high heat, gently stirring with a flexible heat-proof spatula, until the mixture bubbles. Clip a candy or deep-fry thermometer to the side of the pot and cook without stirring until the bubbles begin to subside, the color of the mixture darkens and turns amber, and it reaches 300 F, 5 to 7 minutes.
4. Working quickly, remove the pot from the heat and remove the thermometer. Sift the baking soda mixture through the strainer into the pot. Whisk until combined, it will bubble up. Carefully pour the candy into the pan, scraping it gently out of the pot with a spatula. Do not try to smooth it out once it hits the pan or you will deflate all of its coveted bubbles.
5. Place the pan on a heat-proof surface or wire rack and let cool at room temperature until hardened, 30 to 60 minutes (the candy will collapse a bit as it cools). Break with your hands into small pieces.
6. If dipping your honeycomb in chocolate, fit a wire rack over a baking sheet. Place 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH in 30-second intervals, stirring after each, until melted and smooth, about 1 minute total. Decoratively dip part of each piece of candy in the chocolate and place on the rack. Refrigerate or freeze until the chocolate is set.
- Use a different-sized pan depending on the thickness of the honeycomb you desire, always lining with parchment paper first. For thinner honeycomb, use a rimmed baking sheet. For extra-thick honeycomb, line a 9-by-9-inch pan; this honeycomb is a little trickier to break up and will shatter a bit when you do so.
- Use golden syrup or light corn syrup instead of the honey.
- Store honeycomb in the freezer in a zip top bag for the longest shelf life, up to one month. It can also be stored at room temperature for up to one month. The candy will soften if it is exposed to air, so make sure it is in an airtight container.