The Scoops of Sugar in Cotton Candy

When my children and I encountered a cotton candy booth in action, we crowded around to see and pestered them with questions. I was still wondering--how much sugar is there in a bag of cotton candy?

Here's the process.

1) Pour a scoop of sugar mix into the cotton candy maker.

2) The sugar gets melted and spun out of holes, creating floss that collects against the edges of the machine. It's centrifugal force in action!

3) The worker watches the candy accumulate, then gathers it up into a long skein, rather like a skein of wool. About four of these are packed in a plastic bag.

So how much sugar gets used? According to the cotton candy maker, one scoop of sugar makes about 4 or 5 bags. That's a lot of volume from one little scoop! (Since I wasn't carrying around measuring cups or a kitchen scale, I can't tell you how much sugar was in each scoop. One of the bags, when we weighed it later, turned out to be nearly half a pound. More than you want to eat in a single sitting, or maybe ever, but less than you might think for a bag that size.)

For more information, here's a nice article from HowStuffWorks about cotton candy and how it's made. Page five includes a nutritional breakdown, comparing it to other sweet treats. The key is density--although cotton candy is pure sugar, it's so spun out that one doesn't have as much sugar as you might think. Of course, you can eat quite a lot without realizing it if you down the whole bag!

Candy Experiments book advance copy

I just got my first copy of Candy Experiments in the mail, and it's beautiful. Can't wait until January, when everybody will be able to see it.

Chocolate Cookies vs. Chocolate Cereal: The Breakdown

As school starts up again, it's time to think about nutrition of cereals, snacks, and treats. So I really enjoyed comparing this chocolate cereal with chocolate sandwich cookies.


Here's the ingredient list, and the answer to the cookie/cereal quiz. The label on the left, even though it lists filling as the first ingredient, is actually the label for the cereal. The label on the right is for the cookies.

So how do the two compare?

Sugar: 30 grams of Krave contain 10 grams of sugar, making it 33% sugar by weight. This is actually a little less than some others, like Cocoa Puffs (37% sugar) or Golden Crisp (52% sugar). But compare it with Dare chocolate cookies: 40 grams of cookie (that's two cookies) contains 12 g of sugar, or 30%. The cookies have less sugar by weight than the cereal!

Oil: Both treats also contain oil, which adds calories. The cereal contains about 12% fat, while the cookies contain 25% fat.

Calories: 40 grams of Krave contains 160 calories, less than the 200 calories you'll find in 40 grams of cookie.

It's hard to which one sounds more like dessert, the cereal or the cookies. Certainly neither of them go in a healthy breakfast. But if you're choosing a sweet treat for your children, keep this in mind: Krave has vitamins added, which may interest you, and a bowl of Krave might take a little longer to eat than two cookies. All the air bubbles in Krave cereal (honestly, the stuff feels about as heavy as Styrofoam) spread out the sugar, giving you less sugar per bite. So if you're choosing a dessert that your children can savor for a longer period of time, the cereal might be a better choice!

Sports Drinks and Teeth

This news report details how the sodas and sports drinks teens are drinking daily are actually causing them to lose tooth enamel. The same thing would happen to somebody who regularly consumes acidic candy.

Pop Rocks Fireworks Ice Cream

Too bad I didn't see this in July--it sounds like a great activity for the 4th! A fellow blogger, at her daughter's suggestion, tried putting Pop Rocks onto ice cream to make Fireworks ice cream. Read more about it at

Quiz: Chocolate Cookies vs. Chocolate Cereal

It was a present my husband bought me: a box of Kellogg's cereal Krave. Not for me to eat, he assured our astonished relatives, but for me to marvel at. I pulled out a box of chocolate sandwich cookies to compare them with. Here's the quiz: which ingredient list comes from which box?

Citric Acid close up

At a recent art fair, I met a photographer who's getting closeups of things I've only ever seen as powder. One of my favorites was citric acid, which adds sour flavor to many kinds of candy. It is also used in Pixy Stix, which is why the Pixy Stix work so well for the acid test--when you pour the powder into baking soda water, it fizzes like soda. Pixy Stix work especially well because they're made with powder that dissolves quickly, as opposed to a solid candy like a Lemonhead.

You can see some of these beautiful photos at Lee Hendrickson's website, Side Street Photographics. Here are some photos of citric acid: