Filed Under:

In 'Sponge Candy Crescent,' Addicts Hoard 'Heaven'

Play associated audio

The eastern shore of Lake Erie is known as the "Sponge Candy Crescent." During the region's long winter months, this crunchy, chocolatey candy is a mainstay — especially for large gatherings and holidays. But come hot weather, you can't get the temperamental treat.

Ko-Ed Candies sells a lot of chocolate Easter bunnies, candy bars and other sweets, but co-owner Sandy Whitt says her customers mostly crave sponge candy.

"It's crunchy, crispy in the center, melts very quickly in your mouth," she says. "It's got a little bit of a molasses flavor to it, even though that's not really an ingredient. It's just good."

But heat and humidity melt the outer layer of chocolate that coats each piece of flaky, yellow sponge. So production ceases in warm weather. Sponge candy addicts have to plan ahead.

A few months ago, customers formed a line out the door of Ko-Ed. All sponge candy was priced to move. Teri Campbell stocked up for summer.

"It's heaven — heavenly. As you can tell, my basket is full. I even freeze it. It comes out fine," she says.

The flavor of the sponge comes from boiling sugar and corn syrup in a copper kettle until slightly burnt. After adding gelatin and baking soda, the sponge is hard as a rock.

Candymaker Dennis Turpin whittles down a 45-pound sponge block with a 32-inch Craftsman crosscut saw.

"You could use this for cutting wood, but it serves our purpose really well," he says.

Next, the sponge pieces ride a conveyor belt under a cascade of chocolate. They're carried into a tunnel of cool, dry air and emerge in front of Mary Lou Cyna. She seals the sensitive candy in airtight bags, but not without trying a few pieces first.

"We have to test for quality control. Make sure it tastes OK. We all do that," she says. "It's a good thing [the owner] doesn't weigh us when we'd leave, or we'd be in big trouble."

The business has been in co-owner Gary Whitt's family for more than 60 years, serving the same neighborhood families for generations. Still, he says, loyalty goes only so far.

"When we run out of sponge candy, they'll come to the door and say, 'No sponge candy?' And then they'll walk out of the door without anything," he says.

Whitt is trying to bring this regional treat to the masses. He sends hundreds of orders a year all over the country — mostly to locals who have moved away. But because of weather, Whitt refuses to ship sponge candy after Easter or before Halloween.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Major Bambi: Meet The Marine Who Was Disney's Famous Fawn

A gritty Marine, Donnie Dunagan fought in the Vietnam War and earned decorations for his service. But all his life, there was one thing this commander could never escape: He was the voice of Bambi.
NPR

Humans Aren't The Only Ones To Go Ape Over Diets: Chimps Detox, Too

A group of Ugandan chimps has found a great way to boost their mineral intake and neutralize bitter compounds in their diet: by eating clay.
WAMU 88.5

The Politics Hour - July 31, 2015

Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

NPR

In Michigan, A Testing Ground For A Future Of Driverless Cars

Automakers and researchers are using a 32-acre fake city at the University of Michigan to simulate a real-world environment for autonomous vehicles. How will such cars affect urban planning?

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.