Cotton Candy has a way of reminding us all of our childhoods.
Whether you are at a carnival or a sporting event, you can always count on the fluffy, bright, and sweet treat being there to satisfy all of your sugar cravings; it is nostalgia in sugar form!
The sweet and delectable treat has taken the world by storm as the infamous flavor of cotton candy has infiltrated many other foods like ice cream, soda, and milk. There are even cotton candy grapes!
You can now even buy the flavoring and infuse your own treats at home with this classic flavor.
So, what is cotton candy flavor? Cotton candy flavor is a varying mixture of the artificial flavorings Ethyl Maltol, Strawberry Furanone, and Vanillin and Ethyl Vanillin that creates a flavor profile called “pink vanilla”.
Keep reading to get a better understanding of exactly what these artificial flavors are and the flavors they produce.
We’ll also look at how cotton candy is made, and what the famous pink-and-blue cotton candy you have grown to love is actually flavored by! But first, a little history.
The History of Cotton Candy
Ironically, cotton candy was invented by the Nashville dentist James Morisson in partnership with a confectioner, and Morrison’s friend, John C. Warton in 1897.
The two created what they called an “electric candy machine” naming their new and sweet creation “fairy floss.”
Morrison and Warton premiered their new invention in 1904 at the World’s Fair where their “fairy floss” proved to be a hit.
Selling almost 20,000 dollars worth of spun sugar in 184 days (in 1904 I might add) it was clear these men had created something special.
Unfortunately for the pair of inventors their candy machine had many faults.
It eventually became an unreliable machine, and after the men’s patent lapsed another dentist by the name of Josef Lascaux attempted to recreate the machine in 1921. However, this dentist was also unsuccessful.
Though Lascaux was unable to properly rebuild the candy machine, he was successful in changing the name from fairy floss to the term “cotton candy” (though “fairy floss” is still used in many places around the world).
Though dentists were passionate, it seems the candy business just wasn’t for them.
Finally, in 1949 an Ohio-based company, Gold Medal Products, created a cotton candy machine that proved successful.
As other inventions kept arising, the company kept upgrading their machines to continue to produce the fluffy and airy treat that we now know and love as cotton candy.
How is Cotton Candy Made?
Now that we know where this sugary treat originates from, I am sure you might have a few questions.
How exactly is it made? How in the world does sugar turn into a whimsical fluff? How do they do it?
To create cotton candy there are four main steps: sugar processing, candy collection, cutting, and packaging.
Cutting and packaging mostly happen when cotton candy is produced in bulk for distribution, but they may still be utilized by vendors producing this treat on the spot.
Sugar processing is when the fine granulated sugar gets added into the machine’s extruder where it melts into an extremely hot liquid form of sugar.
From here the hot liquid sugar leaves the extruder creating those long cotton strands we are all familiar with.
Next, once those gorgeous velvety strands start being formed, collecting begins.
This is where a vendor takes a cone-shaped stick and slowly makes circles around the collecting bowl gathering the newly formed sugar and creating a big cloud of colorful goodness.
Cutting takes place next. In industrial machines, the clouds of sugar move along a conveyor belt where a blade cuts through and creates individual treats.
However, portable machines (the ones we are most familiar with) that you see at fairs and carnivals do not require this process.
Lastly, packaging is required. For industrial machines, this means creating even sized portions and wrapping them in plastic then eventually cardboard boxes for shipping.
For portable machines and on-the-spot cotton candy making, this step does not usually take place.
What Is Cotton Candy Flavor?
Now that you have learned where cotton candy originated from and how it is made, let’s look at what exactly cotton candy flavor is. We know it is sweet and has a very distinct taste, but what specifically produces it?
As mentioned earlier, there are three main artificial flavors that are combined together to form this iconic taste: ethyl maltol, strawberry furanone, and vanillin and ethyl vanillin.
Ethyl maltol is a soluble synthetic substance that takes form in a white powder and produces a fruity and caramelly taste in the products infused with it.
It is used in many different food products including but not limited to ice cream, chocolate, and even pickled vegetables to enhance the flavor.
Strawberry furanone is a naturally recurring compound found in strawberries, but it is also (and more commonly) created synthetically into a white powder.
Like ethyl maltol, it has fruity and caramelly notes but also a “burnt” smell to it and is used in many sweet treats, but also fragrances.
Vanillin and Ethyl Vanillin both produce one of the most popular flavor profiles around: vanilla.
Vanillin is the natural form of the compound that is made from the extraction of vanilla beans (and occasionally beavers!) where ethyl vanillin, like ethyl maltol and strawberry furanone, is a synthetic version made in a lab.
However, when you buy a cotton candy flavoring, syrup, or other infused food item, you may not see these ingredients listed.
Instead, you will see “artificial flavoring,” which really means it includes a mix of these three substances.
However, these three artificial flavors need a soluble to dissolve into. That is why you will notice in every cotton candy-flavored item, you will also see Propylene Glycol listed, which is a water-based soluble.
Without it, the flavoring will not be successful.
What Flavor Is Pink Cotton Candy?
When you close your eyes and imagine this fluffy delicacy there are two colors that most likely come to mind: a soft feminine pink and a calm baby blue–each one having a subtle, yet unique flavor.
For pink cotton candy, it is normally associated with a “pink vanilla” flavor. Having notes of vanilla, most times this is the type of flavor you should expect with this color of cotton candy.
Surprisingly, the flavor is not actually tied to cotton candy’s coloring. In fact, the cotton candy could be colorless and still taste like “pink vanilla.” What actually gives cotton candy its coloring is dye added to the flavored sugar.
What Flavor is Blue Cotton Candy?
Though you now know that flavorings and dye are responsible for the flavor and coloring of cotton candy regardless of color, there is still a specific flavor associated with blue cotton candy: blue raspberry.
Blue raspberry is one of those flavors that does not have a real origin (there is no such thing as a blue raspberry) yet we all are familiar with it as it shows up in many sweet treats like candy and the famous Slurpee. But what is it?
Blue raspberry is simply the flavor of raspberry dyed with blue dye to give it a distinct and recognizable taste.
When combining a mix of the previously mentioned artificial flavors and food dye, the iconic blue cotton candy is formed.
Cotton Candy: The Adaptable Treat
Because cotton candy is simply sugar, flavoring and dye, the flavor and color combinations are endless!
Though pink and blue are the most popular, the evolution of this treat has resulted in all sorts of colors and unique flavor combinations.
Some of the more creative flavors include birthday cake, chocolate strawberry, passionfruit, and piña colada.
Gold Medal Products even did a collaboration with Dominic “The Midway Gourmet”, a legend and visionary of carnival foods, creating a bacon flavored cotton candy!
The odd flavoring proved to be incredibly successful, selling out at its first weekend at the Houston Livestock and Rodeo Carnival in 2013. Gold Medal Products still sells the crazy-flavored cotton candy mix on their website today.
Cotton candy has come a long way since 1904 in both how it’s flavored, but also how it flavors other items. It is sweet, delectable, nostalgic, and there truly is nothing quite like it.
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