Sugar Glass (or: You May Not Win the Bake-Off, but At Least You Won’t Totally Deserve to Lose)

Cupcakes with Candy Glass
Halloween: an excuse to make something called “murder cakes.”

For Halloween, my office had a bake-off. Since (unspecified, but probably money-related) prizes were on the line, I decided to put some serious effort in. Apparently, that included temporarily forgetting that I’m not a huge fan of baking.

I wanted to make these awesome-looking broken glass cupcakes. I thought that even if I didn’t win, I could rest easy knowing I tried something new: I was going to make my own sugar glass. Used for everything from a confectionery base for lollipops to a stage prop, I thought it may be cool to try. So I bought light corn syrup, sugar, cream of tartar, and a candy thermometer… and began my journey into the terrifyingly precise world of confections.

When I was in college, I worked briefly at a local chocolate shop. It sucked. I gained 15 pounds and acute hatred for working in retail. The worst part was that I didn’t learn much about actually making the sweets they had there. That’s why this foray was way more intimidating than it had to be. I should have had basic knowledge about tempering and the importance of heat, but I didn’t, and so I caramelized the shit out of this mix. It turned deep brown, defying the reading on the thermometer. I took this as a bad sign, but poured it into my foil-lined baking sheet anyway and waited for it to cool. The result was brown “glass”- like a beer bottle- and it looked great on the cupcakes, but tasted like a burnt marshmallow’s buttcrack. It was a so-so success, and I blame myself entirely, for I disobeyed two cardinal rules of baking: I lost patience and messed with the temperature.

The important thing is to keep it moving. The slow boil is just the beginning. From there, anticipate about an hour of frequent, if not constant, stirring with a silicone (or equally durable) spatula. You have to boil this to 300 degrees F… make sure your spatula can deal with it. Here’s where I went wrong: I let it sit for a little while (7-10 minutes), frustrated that the thermometer wasn’t creeping past 155. Almost as soon as I stopped stirring, it tinted yellow. Then, after fussing with the heat (because I’m an idiot), it turned mud brown.

Every tutorial says that sugar glass is hard to get right, so don’t get discouraged. Practice, practice, practice…if you’re really that into it. Or, if you’re like me, curse a lot… and your roommates will keep you company while you slowly lose your mind over a saucepan of glorified Simple Syrup.

Sugar glass

  • Servings: Enough to decorate 18 cupcakes and have enough left over to scare the shit out of neighborhood parents by putting it into kids' candy bags
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 3 1/2 cups white, granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Materials:

  • 17.25 x 11.5 in. metal baking pan lined with tinfoil
  • Candy thermometer
  • Silicone spatula
  • Patience
  1. Mix all ingredients in a large saucepan over medium-high heat (as close to medium as you can get it so it still boils).
  2. Bring the mixture slowly to a boil, stirring constantly.
  3. Using your candy thermometer, stir the boiling liquid and hang out until it reaches 300 degrees. The mixture will thicken as the water evaporates. It will also start to smell like candy. It’s pretty great.
  4. When the mixture reaches 300 degrees, pour it onto the baking sheet. Do this quickly to avoid bubbles. Lift up the baking pan and shake it gently to make sure the liquid is spread evenly, otherwise you could end up with glass of varying thickness.
  5. Cool the glass completely. You could do this by letting it sit, or you could pop it in the refrigerator. I let it sit on our counter, got impatient (sensing a theme?) and put it in the fridge. It was ready about half an hour or 45 minutes later.
  6. The most satisfying part: cover the glass with parchment paper, grab a meat mallet or other blunt object, and go to town. You don’t need to hit the glass hard for it to break (I did anyway, because life is frustrating and it’s cathartic).
  7. Use as needed. Try to resist the urge to give leftover shards to those assholes who show up to trick or treat by themselves without a costume.

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3 thoughts on “Sugar Glass (or: You May Not Win the Bake-Off, but At Least You Won’t Totally Deserve to Lose)

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