Crispy, Chocolate-Covered Sponge Candy

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The chocolate covered square with a porous inside may be known in other parts of the world as honeycomb toffee, sea foam, or fairy food - but in Western New York, it has one name, and one name only. Sponge candy.

While many chocolatiers in the area make their own version of the confection, it's history in Buffalo can be traced back to Fowler's Chocolates. The 105-year-old business claims they are the original makers of sponge candy.

"We've been the ones who's been here the longest, and our records indicate that we're the ones who started it," said Ted Marks, Fowler's Chocolates. "It's kind of hard to substantiate, but based on our longevity and the history with the product, that's our stated position."

A rather simple confection, sponge candy is comprised of sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, baking soda, and ochocolate. At Fowler's, candy makers first stir the sugary concoction at a very high temperature.  When ready, the gelatin and baking soda is added and the mixture rises. It's then dropped into a square shaped box, where it hardens. Marks says they use a few tools that can be found around the house to cut up the blocks.

"Season's a little bit slower, we do it with a hand saw. When we get busy and we have a lot to cut we typically will fire up a food-grade bandsaw."

The last step is to coat the pieces with chocolate. The result?

"Kind of light and airy and crispy, sweet, but with a little bit of substance to it."

As one might expect, the original maker of sponge candy is pretty busy when it comes to demand. When Marks took over the business in 1993, he said it was the number one seller, and remains so to this day.

"Fifteen to 20 percent of our retail sales, maybe a little bit more. We did roughly 8,000 pounds of sponge candy through the retail stores between January 1st and Easter."

Sponge candy equalling the weight of two cars may sound exorbitant, but to Marks, a Buffalo native who grew up around the stuff, it's just another day at the chocolate factory.

"You know about beef on weck, you know about chicken wings, and you know about sponge candy. It's hard get past your 12th birthday before you've had an experience with each of those things. It's unique."