Cotton Candy Machines

Written by Ingrid Chen
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Cotton candy has long been a staple in any visit to festivals and street markets. The colorful, sweet and edible ball of sugar has fascinated children and adults alike for over one hundred years. The early version of cotton candy production was a fork dipped in melted sugar and "whipped" into threads over a turned-over bowl. This labor-intensive dessert was especially popular in fifteenth century Italy as accompaniment to gelato.

It wasn't until 1897, however, that Tennessee candy makers William Morrison and John C. Wharton invented and patented a cotton candy machine that automatically spun melted sugar into threads that could easily be collected and sold individually. This machine effortlessly allowed for great quantities of production.

How a Cotton Candy Machine Works

The modern versions are not too different than the first machines. The machine is essentially a heated bowl that spins inside of a larger bowl. Sugar and food coloring are poured into the smaller bowl, which spins quickly in the center of the machine. With the centrifugal force of the spinning, small holes in this bowl force the melted sugar into the larger bowl. The operator then collects the spun sugar in between the two bowls with a long paper cone. Thus is produced the big, colorful and puffy mass you see at festivals and fairs.

Despite the massive appearance of a single serving of cotton candy, each serving contains a relatively small amount of sugar. This is beneficial for both the producer and the consumer. Production costs are low because sugar and food coloring are inexpensive, plus a limited amount of sugar is needed to create each serving. Although cotton candy is obviously not a "healthy" snack, parents need not worry too much because of the small amount of sugar in each cone.

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