Gone Candy Cane Makin’

This summer our family sent in massive amounts of postcards to Nelson’s Candy Kitchen in the hopes of winning the Candy Cane Workshop lottery. Every year, Nelson’s Candy Kitchen in Columbia draws postcards for the opportunity for a few groups to come in and learn to make candy canes from scratch. Of course, because of the danger of working with molten sugar, the guests only get to twist and shape the candy… not actually boil or stretch it. But you do get an up close view of how it’s done and you can ask as many questions as you like during the process.

Only about 16 groups are invited to participate in this special event each year. And this year, we were one of those lucky groups! My parents won the lottery and invited: the three of us, my older brother and his daughter (my niece), my younger brother and his sweet girlfriend, my cousin, my grandmother, and our neighbor’s family of three.

The best part is seeing all the old candy equipment that they still use every day. Most of the equipment is over 100 years old! Just incredible! The giant copper pots and the original Columbia marble tables were just a wonder to look at. It was also great to hear that most all of the candy makers are from the original Nelson family. One gentleman that was showing us around was a fifth-generation candy maker! Now that is a profession I can get behind.

If you want to put your name in for next year, all the information you need can be found on the Nelson’s Candy Kitchen website. Nelson’s was named USA Today’s Top Ten Candy Shops for their homemade candies (which are beyond delicious). If you are ever near Columbia State Historic Park in Columbia, California, stop by! I guarantee it is worth it.


Pouring the cooked sugar onto a slightly-cool table that has its temperature controlled by warm and cool water underneath the metal. Built in the 1860’s.

Divided the sugar and colored 1/3 of it red for the stripes.

Folding and lightly kneading the plain batch to cool it evenly.

Stretching the plain batch, similar to taffy, in order to incorporate air making it white and then adding peppermint oil for flavor.

The red sugar is added to the main block in stripes and it is all wiped down with a bit of natural beeswax to keep moisture from ruining the candy canes. This machine keeps the candy block warm and pliable and also stretches the block out so individual candy canes can be snipped off with giant scissors. This machine just had its 100th birthday a year or so ago.

We each received our own candy cane cutting and rolled it to make those distinctive swirls. Then we shaped our candy. Some of us made traditional canes and some of us made hearts.




Candy makers for an hour!

9 thoughts on “Gone Candy Cane Makin’

  1. That’s awesome! Growing up my grandma taught me how to make hard candies and suckers which if I still had my molds I’d still be making them. They were aluminum shapes with a clasp to hold the stick in. I’d sell them in school and give them as gifts. I miss making them after reading this post. Looks like you guys had a blast! An amazing memory for sure!

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