Hokey pokey

July 14, 2011 § 10 Comments

How many of you started humming the song after reading the title?

Don’t worry though, I won’t make you dance the hokey pokey while on rollerskates, which, if you were curious, is one of my more obscure talents thanks to a local roller rink (that has since closed) featuring it at every birthday party and skating night of my childhood.

As exciting as the dance on rollerskates may be, culinarily speaking hokey pokey is, according to Nigella Lawson, the Cornish term for honeycomb candy, a delightful sugarbomb of a confection that doesn’t contain any honey. Perhaps the candy is named for honeycomb because of the air pockets in it?

My dad is from Cornwall so I asked him if he’d ever heard of hokey pokey, and he said he knew of the dance, but not the term for the candy, so perhaps it’s a term that predates World War II — my dad said that the hokey pokey dance was brought to Cornwall by US GIs during the war and I speculate that the catchiness of the tune pushed the candy nickname out of favor. It is also known as treacle toffee and by many other poetic names worldwide, such as sponge candy and sea foam.

While hokey pokey is fun to eat, it is arguably even more fun to make. It is culinary entertainment at its best: it engages all the senses, from watching the candy transform from sugar clumps to fizzy froth thanks to a chemical reaction between the sugars and baking soda, to hearing and feeling the oddly satisfying crunching of shattering honeycomb, to tasting the candy shattering gummily in the mouth. If you have older children this might be a fun beginning candymaking/science project, though as always be extremely careful around melted sugar.

Nigella Lawson recommends serving it atop vanilla ice cream, but it is equally delicious plain. If you are feeling especially decadent, however, try dipping it in chocolate. No matter how you serve it or what you call it, hokey pokey is incredibly delicious and fun to make, and really, that’s what it’s all about!

(For my eagle-eyed readers, I know I previously promised some daikon pickles, but as I forgot to take pictures I’ll revisit them later on this month. Forgive me for the oversight, and for the seriously terrible-yet-irresistible joke of the previous paragraph.)

Hokey pokey

Adapted from Nigella Express

Makes approximately two cups


  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • Four tablespoons dark corn syrup (or golden syrup)
  • One and a half teaspoons baking soda

1. Stir together sugar and corn syrup in a saucepan. Note that this is the only opportunity to stir in the candymaking process, so take advantage now.

2. Over high heat, melt the mixed sugars (while you cannot stir, if necessary you may lift the pan off the heat and swish your wrist to move the contents of the saucepan very gently) until they become viscous and then begin to froth and form bubbles, which will take approximately three to four minutes.

3. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Being extraordinarily careful with the boiling sugar, stir in the baking soda. Once it has foamed up and turned the color of a palomino pony, pour out the mixture onto greased aluminum foil/parchment paper, or a reusable baking mat such as Silpat.

4. Leave the candy to cool until it is set completely, about thirty minutes to an hour. Grab a rolling pin or something similarly heavy and smash the hokey pokey until it shatters into glittering shards and fragments. Hokey pokey keeps about a week or two in a tin at room temperature, though I’ve yet to see it last that long…

Note: please, please, please be careful when working with boiling sugar. Keep young children and pets out of the area while preparing the candy. If you do have older children helping/watching, ensure that it is the adult who pours and handles the melted candy. However, the hammering part is loads of fun so if you are feeling generous let the children take care of that one.

Also, for easy cleanup, fill the saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Any sugary bits left on the edge can be soaked off in hot water. If you use a stainless steel spoon for scooping out the liquid candy onto the greased foil or silpat, that too can be boiled inside the saucepan. Let the entire saucepan/water/spoon combination cool before pouring out the water, and then wash as normal.


Lawson, Nigella. “Hokey Pokey.” Nigella Express. New York: Hyperion, 2007 (281).


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