Hard Candy

Small Candy Cakes

I like the shape and size of these candy cakes. If I need to add candy in mid-winter, I can just lift the lid or quilt box about one-half inch and slide these into the feeder. It takes about 10 seconds and can be done on a cold or rainy day.

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: Pre-preparable, Serve at Hive Temperature
Occasion: Winter


10 lb granulated sugar
1 quart water
1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice


  1. Prepare molds in advance. I like to use paper plates lightly sprayed with canola oil. Lay them out 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 250 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 hold its shape, but you can flatten it between your fingers.
  6. Carefully pour the mixture into 8 or 10 paper plates.
  7. Allow the candy cakes to cool completely and then pop them out and store between layers of wax paper.
  8. You can store the candy cakes for long periods. Just keep them away from insects, mice, and moisture.


  • 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.
  • When the cooking is done and the bubbling has stopped you can add a few drops of essential oil, if desired. I like to add anise oil because the bees seem to find the sugar cakes faster. If you decide to add an essential oil, it may cause the hot syrup to splatter, so be careful. After adding the oil, give a quick stir before pouring the syrup into the molds.
  • More and more beekeepers are moving away from cooking sugar, especially after it is inverted. Once you invert the sugar by adding acid (lemon juice or vinegar) it is much more prone to producing hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) when it is heated. But even without the acid, some HMF is formed. Now I prefer to use no-cook candy boards or a just a bag of sugar on the top bars.
Hard candy cakes for bees

Once the cakes are hard they can be popped from the plates and stored between pieces of wax paper. © Rusty Burlew.

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