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How to make fondant from table sugar

Making fondant is much like making hard candy. You boil the sugar in as little water as possible and keep a close watch on your candy thermometer. But unlike hard candy, you take the syrup off the heat when it reaches 234°F and then you knead it like bread.

If you are new to this, the first thing to do is go back to my previous posts and read the general guidelines for cooking with sugar. First read “How to make hard candy from table sugar.” For information on candy stages, calibrating your thermometer, and cooking at high elevations, see “Notes on cooking sugar syrup.”

Fondant is softer than hard candy. In fact, it is squeezable and pliable like dough. Many beekeepers believe that fondant is easier for the bees to eat than hard candy. Although I personally do not share that opinion, I do believe it is important for the beekeeper to what he or she feels is best. That said, fondant is more work than hard candy, which is more work than granulated sugar out of the bag. I had a much different opinion of the amount of work when I had fourteen hives than when I had one—and this may happen to you too.

After you’ve boiled your syrup to 234°, you pull the pot off the stove and cool it down to about 200°F. At this point you can try to knead it with gloved hands (maybe—it is still egregiously hot). Better yet, pour it into a stand mixer and beat the syrup slowly with a paddle attachment. Continue beating the mixture until it turns white and has a smooth and silky texture. Divide it into molds and you are done. Once it cools, wrap it and store it in a cool place.

Fondant

Serves: 4-5 hives
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Dietary: Gluten Free, Vegan
Meal type: Main Dish
Misc: Freezable, Pre-preparable, Serve at Hive Temperature
Occasion: Winter

Ingredients

10 lb granulated sugar
1 quart water
1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice
5-8 drops essential oil (optional)

Note

If you are extremely picky, you can wipe down the inside of the pot with a wet pastry brush while the mixture comes to a boil. This will keep any errant sugar crystals from forming more crystals as the mixture cools. I don’t do this because the bees don’t care.

Before you begin to knead the fondant you can add a few drops of essential oil, if desired. I like to add anise oil because the bees seem to find the food faster. You can also use tea tree, spearmint, lemongrass, peppermint, or wintergreen.

Directions

  1. Prepare molds in advance. You can use paper plates, pie pans, or take-out boxes. Spray lightly with oil and place on a flat, heat-proof surface.
  2. Measure the water and the vinegar (or lemon juice) into a large pot and bring to a slow simmer.
  3. Pour in the sugar, stirring until it dissolves completely. Keep stirring until you feel no “grits” in the water. If the sugar won’t dissolve add more water, little by little, until all the crystals disappear.
  4. Once the sugar is completely dissolved, you can gently turn up the heat to medium high and stop stirring. Insert your candy thermometer. (Because the crystals are gone, there is nothing to settle on the bottom and burn; the sugar is in solution.)
  5. Boil the mixture until the thermometer reads 234 degrees F, then remove the pot from the heat. If you wish, you can test the candy at this point. Place a drop of syrup into a glass of cool water. Reach in and get the drop. The drop of candy should flatten and run down between your fingers.
  6. Set the pot aside to cool to about 200 degrees F. You can set the pot in a sink of ice water to speed up the process, but it is not necessary.
  7. When the fondant reaches about 200 degrees F you may add a few drops of essential oils, if desired.
  8. Pour the fondant into a stand mixer with a paddle attachment and slowly beat until the mixture turns light-colored and smooth. Alternatively, you may knead the fondant with your hands, but be careful of the heat.
  9. Divide the mixture into 8 or 10 paper plates and then allow it to cool completely.
  10. Once cool, wrap the fondant in plastic wrap or wax paper. You can store the fondant for several weeks in a cool place, or for long periods in the freezer.

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite

Comments

Nick Holmes
Reply

I actually found that I could buy bakers fondant straight from the bakery cheaper than buying the sugar and doing it myself. Just saying people might like to have a chat to their friendly local baker 🙂

Rusty
Reply

Now that sounds like heaven. I have found it here, but it wasn’t cheap. Maybe I’m not looking in the right places.

Nick Holmes
Reply

Known as “baker’s fondant” it is the stuff they put on iced buns in the UK. I think I paid about $16 for 12.5kg, I dont know if that is cheap for you or not.

Anna
Reply

Doesn’t the baker’s fondant that you buy off the shelf have preservatives and additives in it?

Rusty
Reply

It depends on the manufacturer. You have to read the ingredients list.

nick holmes
Reply

Sugar is a preservative itself in that kind of percentages, but yes be careful. If it is from an actual bakery it is less likely to be ‘contaminated’ than if you by it from a supermarket.

bill castro
Reply

My method is what I call sugar cakes…no cooking involved. Pour cane sugar into a pan to the desired amount for a single colony. Then pour 2:1 sugar syrup onto the dry sugar, only enough to wet the dry sugar. Allow to dry and become hard, about a couple days. Then place sugar cake on the top of the inner cover. The bees will take as much as they need and the rest can be re-used to make syrup in spring. Early spring brooding is when colonies starve out from nectar-less pollen flows that trigger colonies to start raising massive brood chambers…don’t forget to feed at this critical time if the bees are visible near the inner cover!!!

Rusty
Reply

Bill,

Good advice. I do something similar sometimes. I put granulated sugar into those little trays that grocery store vegetables come in and then spray it with a solution of 2:1 one sugar laced with Honey-B-Healthy and Amino-B-Booster. Once the surface hardens, I put the whole tray in the hive.

Diane
Reply

So what IS the desired amount for a single colony? And I assume you have to wet the sugar all the way through?

Stavros
Reply

Great thread and great blog. So, you put the hardened sugar on top of the inner cover, and not below it (i.e., on top of the cluster frames)?

Rusty
Reply

Stavros,

It can go on the inner cover or on the top bars. I prefer to put it on the top bars because there it gets plenty of moisture from bee respiration and also because the bees don’t have to break cluster to get it. It depends on how cold it is where you are. If it is very cold, I want it as close to the bees as possible. If it is warmer, they are perfectly capable of leaving the cluster to get it.

Joyce
Reply

Bakers fondant purchased in stores or bakeries contain cornstarch. Cornstarch can’t be used by bees and may cause problems.

Ann
Reply

I forgot to put in the vinegar/lemon juice as this was my first time making it and it won’t be fondant but will be hard time candy. It’s temperature is unknown because my thermometer did not work like it should have so my question is should I just discard this round and start again or do you think they will be able to consume this.

Thanks for a wonderful website!

Rusty
Reply

Ann,

Don’t worry about it. The lemon juice helps to invert the sugar but many people don’t use it. I myself forget to put it in about half the time. The temperature doesn’t matter either, as long as you don’t burn the sugar. Basically, the hotter it gets, the more water is driven out, but the bees can eat it as a solid or semisolid. The point is to keep them from starving, not to provide a dining experience. You’re good to go.

sharon
Reply

I tried making the fondant using the recipe above cut in half. I used my mixer and paddle on slow for almost an hour. It never did make it to a “dough” consistency. However, I put it in our hives as a dense sugar syrup on a paper plate…

Where did I make my mistake as far as consistency? I did add quite a bit of extra water to get rid of that “grittiness” on the bottom of the pan. Perhaps that’s where I made my mistake. Any thoughts? Thanks!

Rusty
Reply

Sharon,

A little water goes a long, long way in sugar. I’m sure that is the problem.

Hoosierhiver
Reply

Hi,
My batch turned out too runny, maybe I didn’t heat it long enough. How can I make it solid?

Rusty
Reply

With sugar, the slightest bit of extra water will cause it to go runny. Put it in an oven or food dryer at low heat and let it dry.

Mark
Reply

When I put the fondant on the hive do I wrap it or cover it? Will it dry too hard otherwise?

Rusty
Reply

Mark,

If you make the patties just a little thicker than a bee, you can put it between two pieces of wax paper. This keeps it from dying out, but the bees fit easily between the two sheets. Just cut the paper so it’s roughly the same size as the fondant patty.

Fritz
Reply

Ooops… I forgot to put in the vinegar. Will that hurt the bees?

Rusty
Reply

Fritz,

No, new research shows they are better off without it.

Irwin Venick
Reply

The batch I made yesterday turned out hard. I thought that it would have a more pliable consistency. When I laid it out to cool and cut it, it broke off in chips and large pieces. What is the correct consistency?

Rusty
Reply

Irwin,

Boiling syrup is hard to handle, and just a few degrees can be the difference between soft and hard. If the thermometer is slightly off, it can be enough to make the difference. I used to use two thermometers, and they never read the same.

As far as the bees go, you can do it either way. I prefer hard candy because it doesn’t drip down between the frames when it gets warm or moist. Other beekeepers prefer it soft and pliable.

If it’s hard, the bees are able to eat it because moisture from the cluster of bees condenses on the surface, and where that happens the sugar dissolves and the bees can lap it up. At that point, a new surface is exposed and it also receives condensation.

I’ve used both pliable and rock-hard with no detectable difference. The honey bees gobble it up in either case.

Rusty
Reply

Irwin,

By the way, I never cook syrup anymore due to the formation of hydroxymethylfurfural. I feed granulated sugar moistened with a little water and allowed to harden.

Allan
Reply

I use take-away meal containers to feed the girls fondant. They are filled to the brim and I leave the lid on, but previously I have drilled several holes at the bottom of each end allowing multi bee access. I find this keeps the fondant relatively moist and the bees form warm ” tunnels” throughout.

Hannah
Reply

Hi Rusty. Can you expand on the comment about hydroxymethylfurfural? Thanks.

Lorin
Reply

If I follow the thread correctly are you saying you no longer feed fondant?

Rusty
Reply

Lorin,

Right. Now if I’m forced to feed in winter, I use an no-cook candy board.

Bill
Reply

I was fortunate to be given a pail of bakers fondant recently (son in law’s family own a bakery). There is a SMALL amount of cornstarch in the fondant – it is the last item on the ingredient list for the product. Is this amount of cornstarch likely to be harmful to the bees?

Is there any clear data from research that shows either harm or non-harm from cornstarch?? I have seen writings arguing both sides of this so I am assuming it is still somewhat controversial.

Bill

Rusty
Reply

Bill,

It is my opinion that the cornstarch is harmless. We feed bees soy flour as a pollen substitute, and cornstarch is very similar. I’ve used sugar containing cornstarch as long as I’ve been keeping bees with no issue.

Bill
Reply

Thanks Rusty….puts my mind at ease. Had been leaning that way as it was, but needed the reassurance.
Love the Blog btw…..the info is great for us NewBees

Bill

RJ
Reply

Where can you buy pollen flour?

Rusty
Reply

RJ,

I don’t know. Some health food stores have pollen pellets which you can grind into flour.

Debra
Reply

I’m not a beekeeper but I feed wild bees during fall and winter. I’ve been feeding them hummingbird sugar water, which you said was like nectar to them and was fine, but I don’t want to have to replenish it 4-6 times a day anymore. Can the fondant be used for them? How would I put it out for them to use? Does it need to have a roof on it so rain won’t get to it? Can I pack in cavities in trees?

Rusty
Reply

Debra,

Since you don’t say where you are, I don’t know what kind of winter you have. In areas with cold winters, there are no wild bees around in winter. You can use fondant in the autumn, but it will have to be protected from rain. Also, it will be very attractive to mice, rodents, raccoons, chipmunks, wasps, ants, birds, or just about anything else. All this, of course, depends on where you live.

Debra
Reply

Sorry. I’m in South Carolina, just outside Columbia. In the smack-dab middle of the state. 😉

Stosh Kowalski
Reply

Good morning Rusty,

So my single brood box is back to full strength (after being decimated by varroa and robbers back in Jul/Aug), but there was no time to get on a second box and have the colony fill it out, so I’m wintering with just one box. Getting ready to make fondant to get them through (will be my first time making fondant and have read your and others’ articles), and saw a mention of a technique that intrigued me – “spackling” fondant into empty comb.

Because I had to pull my second box due to population loss and I froze all the frames for two weeks, I have a whole box of perfectly good empty comb sitting around. I’m thinking of putting the second box back on top and filling it with 8 frames of fondant-spackled comb. The strategic idea would be that as they eat the frames/comb empty over the winter they’ll have good, cleaned-out drawn frames ready to start filling in spring as soon as they want. Thoughts? Is freshly-made fondant to thick to spackle like this without ruining the comb, or should I attempt to try to just barely thin it out a bit to make it more pliable?
Thanks!

Rusty
Reply

Stosh,

How you feed your bees is a personal choice. If doing this spackling thing, appeals to you, you should do it. I don’t recommend it for a few reasons. First, I think you may end up damaging the comb, especially if it’s fairly new and delicate. Secondly, if you place the fondant-filled super above the brood box without a queen excluder, you will have brood in it by spring. Your colony will move up to where the food is. Thirdly, it’s too messy and time consuming for me.

Why not just give them a bag of sugar to chew on? In any case, I understand the desire to make beekeeping as complicated as possible, but complicated usually isn’t any more effective.

Just my two cents. If you try spackling, let us know how it worked. It’s really more about the beekeeper than the bees.

Stosh Kowalski
Reply

Ha, I hadn’t seen the bag of sugar article yet. If they’ll take it, I’ll try it. I’ve just always read the sugar needs to have an acid to invert it for the bees and that’s why one made fondant (in whatever form); if that’s a myth, I admit I was taken by it, and happy to throw it aside.

I’m not trying to make things unnecessarily complicated; I just thought the spackling was an interesting solution. So yah, I’m up for setting a bag of sugar up there with some pollen patty. What size bag do you recommend – the standard 4lb baking size, or should I do one or two of the smaller one-pounders?

As far as your second reason, don’t I want the colony producing brood as soon as they feel they’re ready for it? Or do they need some kind of recuperation period after the winter before I put another brood box and the drawn-comb frames back on? How soon can I start putting drawn comb in that top brood box where I put all the sugar for the winter (or should I put in the comb with/around the sugar and see what they do with it?)? Finally, I’m looking forward to making the moisture quilts… always fun to build something new in the shop, plus I have plenty of wood chips and shavings from my own work… just have to figure out if I want my bees to smell oak or cherry 😉

Thanks!

Rusty
Reply

Stosh,

A bee’s saliva contains invertase that instantly inverts sucrose to glucose and fructose. Most nectar is composed mainly of sucrose, so this is what bees do every day. The purpose of the acid was to invert the sucrose, but since the bees do it anyway, what’s the point? Also, both heat and acid increase the formation of hydroxymethylfurfural in sugar which is definitely harmful to bees. That’s why many beekeepers have gone to no-cook/no acid methods of bee feeding.

As for the other point, I just thought you may have wanted to keep brood out of your honey supers. If not, there is no issue. Yes, you want your bees to build up when they are ready.

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