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How to Flavor Sugar for a Cotton Candy Machine

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Chances are, you’ve seen the breathtaking videos and clips of street vendors creating elaborate characters and designs using only cotton candy! If you haven’t, do yourself a favor and go check it out. It’s mesmerizing!

Now, these clips may have inspired you to try your hand at making cotton candy at home with/without a cotton candy machine.

But, can you color and, more importantly, flavor homemade cotton candy? All you do is add a drop or two flavoring extracts or concentrate to granulated white sugar. Then, keep stirring until the flavor (and color) has been evenly distributed. Just like that, flavored sugar for cotton candy making!

Today, we will not only look at the best way to make flavored sugar but also give you expert tips and tricks for making cotton candy at home. We will also take a look at how the machines work and how you can use yours at home!

Cotton Candy – What Is This Magical Sweet Treat?

Cotton candy is a mind-blowing unique sweet treat that is made across the world! It is frequently made at movie theatres, carnivals, festivals, and even mass-produced and sold at grocery stores.

You can find it virtually everywhere! And, don’t even get us started on the candy floss art and flavors you get today!

But, have you ever stopped and thought about what this interesting treat is? Or how it is even made? Let’s have a look!

Cotton candy, also called candy floss or fairy floss, is made from finely spun melted sugar, which resembles cotton. The sugar granules are melted in a chamber and spun in machines to create these fine threads.

Along with the sugar, flavoring ingredients and coloring ingredients are added to make it more unique and flavorful.

Then, all that has to be done is to catch the threads and shape them around a stick so that you can easily enjoy them. Sometimes, the ball of cotton candy is also placed inside of a plastic bag so that it can be stored for later.

Cotton Candy Flavors and Colors

When it comes to coloring and flavoring cotton candy, there are almost no limits. You only need flavoring extract and coloring powder or gel. That is literally your only limitation!

So, if you can find an extract in the flavor you want to make, for example, bacon, then you can make bacon-flavored cotton candy.

And, if you want to make that cotton candy a deep shade of green, you can choose from a wide range available at your local baking supply shop or online.

How Do Cotton Candy Machines Work?

It is actually surprisingly simplistic really, once someone actually explains the process. A typical cotton candy-making machine consists of a spinning head that encloses a tiny bowl that holds the sugar granules.

First, you place the sugar granules (colored, flavored, or plain) inside this chamber. Once the machine is switched on, the chamber is heated which starts slowly melting the sugar.

cotton candy machine

Then, this melted sugar is spun at a very high speed. Thin threads are formed and “pushed out” through tiny holes in this chamber.

Then, the only thing left to do is catch the threads with a stick to form a ball. Today, the art of making cotton candy has evolved to such an extent that you get artists that create beautiful shapes and designs using only this treat.

And, you can also follow some tutorials online that will walk you through the process of creating a heart, a face, or animal.

What You Will Need to Make Flavored Sugar

So, today, you can get a wide range of homemade cotton candy machines that are very easy to find. And, they are even easier to use!

Once you have mastered making plain cotton candy (no flavoring or coloring) you are naturally going to experiment a bit.

So, what will you need to make flavored sugar for cotton candy? The keyword here is flavored sugar.

You cannot make cotton candy and flavor it during the creation process or afterward. You can only use flavored sugar. Luckily, it is easier to make than it may sound.

All that you need is granulated white sugar and flavoring concentrate, extract, or essence.

Choosing the Sugar

Now, we prefer using white granulated sugar instead of brown granulated sugar. Brown sugar will affect both the color and flavor of the cotton candy you are making.

Brown sugar has a more caramel-like flavor. While this may sound good and tasty, it is devastating if you are trying to make a unique flavor. White sugar has virtually no flavor other than being classically sweet.

You can also use fine sugar or granulated caster sugar. However, do not use powdered sugar. The flavoring will make the powdered sugar clump, which then won’t produce fine sugar threads.

Choosing the Flavor

Now, the more difficult question is not which flavor to choose, but which form of the flavor you should use. 

Flavorings come in different forms, namely essences, extracts, and concentrates.

Essences generally don’t have as many flavor options as compared to extracts and concentrate. And, they are also much runnier and you need to use quite a lot of essence to get a prominent and noticeable flavor.

Of course, when you add a ton of liquid to the sugar, it will affect how the cotton candy threads are formed.

Then, you get extracts and concentrates. Now, while there is technically a difference, they are used interchangeably.

A concentrate has a cloudy appearance which won’t give you a clear product (important to keep in mind).

An extract on the other hand is alcohol-based and has a clear color, so will produce clear candy threads

Using extracts and concentrates is extremely easy and you also don’t even need to use a ton. Furthermore, there is a much wider range of flavor options for these forms—both savory and sweet!

If you can think of a flavor, there is probably an extract or concentrate for it. Online is a great place to start looking and it is also much more convenient.

What You Will Need to Make Colored Sugar

Now, while this article does focus on creating different flavors of cotton candy, we’ve decided to also briefly cover for to make beautiful colors. It’s just as easy! All you need is food coloring gel or powder.

Each of these will work well and you only need a tiny bit to color a ton of sugar. And, you also get thousands of shades and colors in each of these forms.

Again, it is better to use white sugar instead of brown granulated sugar. This is because brown sugar has a, well, brown color. This color is much harder to cover up or change as compared to white colorless sugar. 

When coloring brown sugar, stick with darker colors. But, you may still have a brownish hue to your cotton candy that cannot be covered up.

How to Make Flavored Sugar for Cotton Candy

So, as we have mentioned above, all you need for flavored cotton candy are the following ingredients:

cotton candy
  • Granulated sugar (preferably white)
  • Flavoring extract or concentrate (preferably extract)
  • Food gel coloring, optional

There aren’t quantities to this technique. The exact quantity depends on how packed you want the flavor to be and how bright you want the color to be. So, we recommend experimenting and making notes on quantities:

  1. To start, place some granulated sugar in a glass bowl. Do not use a plastic bowl or a bowl that you care about. The extract and coloring will stain and ruin the bowl. Glass is the least affected by these ingredients, so we highly recommend using a glass bowl.
  2. Then, add a drop of concentrate or extract. Literally only a drop! Trust us, the flavor is extremely prominent and you don’t want to overdo it instantly. You can always add more later.
  3. Then, using a metal spoon, stir the sugar mixture for about a minute. Make sure to mix all of the sugar so that the flavor molecules can properly mix with the sugar granules. This is also where you can add and mix in your food coloring powder or gel if you are adding any.

And that’s it! Easy, right? Now, you can make any flavored cotton candy—flavors you have been dreaming of!

Expert Tips for Making Flavored Sugar

  • When adding the flavoring extract or concentrate, the mixing process will be much easier when also adding food coloring gel or powder at the same time. The gel or powder color will make it easier for you to know when the flavor has been properly distributed throughout the sugar.
  • As we have mentioned many times before, using white granulated sugar is the best option for making flavored and colored cotton candy sugar. You can use either regular coarse granulated sugar or caster sugar if you only have that. Do not use powdered (icing) sugar.
  • Extracts and concentrated work the best. Avoid using flavoring essences. And, also make sure that the coloring and flavoring are safe to eat!
  • Make notes about the quantity of sugar, flavoring, and coloring you are using. Even mention the brands! This will help you easily re-create the candy floss and achieve consistent results that you love.

How to Store Flavored Sugar for Candy Floss

The best way to store flavored and colored sugar for making cotton candy is in a plastic container, glass jar or container, or re-sealable bag. Just make sure that the container or bag has an airtight seal. 

This will help prevent any moisture from coming into contact with the sugar and causing it to clump.

Also, make sure to store the sugar in a cool dry place, like a food cupboard or the pantry. Do not store the sugar inside of the fridge or freezer. The moisture will cause the sugar to clump and become unusable.

Storing the sugar in the pantry will help keep it away from foreign objects and heat. Heat build-up causes condensation inside the container or bag, which again, can cause the sugar to clump.

When properly storing flavored and colored sugar, it can last up to 1 year! This will also make it possible to make larger batches, label them, and use them throughout the year.

This further aids consistency in flavor and color, and makes your prep time much shorter!

How to Store Candy Floss

When making cotton candy at home, chances are that there are going to be some leftovers. But, fear not, because we have the best method for storing it. 

You can use an airtight container or ziplock bag. Anything airtight will prevent moisture from coming into contact with the fine sugar threads. Because the sugar threads are so thin, they will melt almost instantly.

And, do not store candy floss inside of the fridge or freezer where there is a lot of cold air, aka moisture. 

Making Cotton Candy Without a Machine

Now, unfortunately, not everyone has a cotton candy machine at home. Or maybe you just want to make it once without investing any money in more equipment.

Luckily, you can still make cotton candy at home without a cotton candy machine.

It will just take a while to make it by hand and a bit more work. But, it is still definitely worth a try!

Essentially, what you will be doing is making a sugar syrup and spinning the syrup over parchment paper to create these fine threads. You can also flavor and color the sugar syrup, so you can still get a unique treat.

When flavoring the sugar for this technique, you can either flavor the sugar granules themselves using the technique we have covered today.

However, you can also flavor the syrup after all of the sugar has melted. Neither one of these methods is better than the other.

  1. To make the sugar syrup, first, melt together one part sugar and water. Once the sugar has been completely dissolved, bring the mixture to 320°F, also known as the clear liquid stage.
  2. Dip the tines of a form into the syrup, then quickly drizzle the strands over a piece of parchment paper. You can drizzle the syrup back and forth or in circular motions. You will see a large nest of spun sugar forming which will start to set quite quickly.

Just like that, you can cotton candy! You can shape this nest into small balls or shape it around a stick for serving. 

Cotton Candy Uses

Cotton candy is more than just a treat on its own. It makes any dish a lot more fun and whimsical! And, because you can now flavor the cotton candy any way that you would like, it opens the door.

Flavored cotton candy can be used to garnish delicious drinks like sparkling wines, cocktails, and gins. You can pair the flavor of the candy with the flavor of the drink.

You can also use homemade cotton candy to garnish cakes, cupcakes, milkshakes, and other confections. This is also where shaping cotton candy can be a useful technique, as you can create relatable shapes and figures.

Furthermore, cotton candy is always a fun treat at birthday parties or events like Halloween. It’s fun and fluffy, and no matter what age you are, it is irresistible!

Related Questions

Now that we’ve gone over how to flavor sugar for a cotton candy machine, let’s take a look at a few related questions on the subject!

What Is Floss Sugar or Flossing Sugar?

Floss sugar is pre-flavored and dyed sugar that big candy floss manufacturers use to make the treat. There is nothing special about the sugar otherwise. 

You can also easily buy fluffing sugar online in smaller quantities, but we prefer making our own. This way you know which flavor you are getting and can easily adjust it to your liking.

How Much Flavored Sugar Should You Put inside of the Cotton Candy Machine?

Usually, each cotton candy machine comes with a custom-sized scoop. This scoop will be able to fill the chamber to the correct amount. Only add one scoop at a time, unless the manual states otherwise.

If you overfill your cotton candy machine, it may cause it to break. The same goes for underfilling it.

Why Is My Cotton Candy Sticky?

Sticky candy floss is caused by a lot of moisture in the air. This happens when it is very humid or on a very hot day.

This makes it very difficult to work with and even unpleasant to eat. You can try using a dehumidifier in the room to help solve this problem.

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