A Candy Cake Recipe


The bees are clustering at the top of hives now, so it’s time to give them some candy cakes. Welcome to the The Candy Cake Trilogy, Part 1: The Recipe.


The honey bees in our two Langstroth hives were wrapped for winter about two months ago. It hasn’t been much of a winter so far, wet and soggy with temperatures hovering around freezing (0°C). Only in the past week or two have we had any kind snow accumulation, as can be seen in this photo I took earlier today (yeah, I know, my little backyard looks like a junk yard; it gets that way this time of year). Anyhoo, it’s still a relatively light sprinkling of snow and it doesn’t get much colder than -5°C (41°F). Both hives seemed heavy the last time I lifted them about two weeks ago, so they should have plenty of honey to get them through the rest of the winter. I wasn’t planning on feeding the bees again until near the end of February — pollen patties and then sugar syrup a few weeks later. But the colonies in both hives are clustering at the top now (as far as I can tell from watching this video from last week). Clustering at the top of the hive can indicate they’re running low on honey. So, as usual, I’m not sure what’s going on. I checked them again earlier today, shining a flash light in the upper entrance again, and this is what I found:


There are about 20 times more bees at the top of the cluster than can be seen in the video — and it looks like they’re still clustering at the top of the hive. So to play it safe, I’ve decided to add some sugar cakes to the hives. I could go with candy boards, too, but sugar cakes seem easier to make and less of a hassle to install.

I plan to follow a variation of a recipe I got from Honey Bee Suite that goes something like this:

● Boil 700 ml (3 cups) of water in a large pot with a solid bottom.
● Slowly dissolve 6.8 kg (15 pounds) of granulated sugar in the boiling water and stir constantly. (Passing on the cream of tartar and corn syrup.)
● Add 15 ml (1 tablespoon) of apple cider vinegar (to prevent mould growth).
● Add a splash of pure vanilla extract to make it more attractive to the bees (I couldn’t find any Anise oil).
● Continue to boil until the temperature on the candy thermometer reads between 112-115°C (234-240°F).
● Remove from heat.
● Stir vigorously until the temperature drops to about 93°C (200°F) and then pour into paper plates sprayed with a bit of cooking oil so they’ll pop out easy.

That’s the plan for tonight. I’ll post photos and maybe a video of it tomorrow in Part 2 of the trilogy: Making Candy Cakes. Stay tuned!

UPDATE (August 11/11): In St. John’s, I was able to find pure anise extract at the Bulk Barn.

DEC/ 16/13: I only made candy cakes once because it’s just too messy, too time-consuming and too much work. I use the Mountain Camp Method for winter feeding now because it’s quicker and easier than any other method I’ve tried.

PHOTOS NOTE (OCTOBER 2015): The photos in this post may not display properly because they were uploaded through Google’s Picasa online photo album service, a service I no longer use because certain updates create more work for me instead of streamlining the process. I will eventually replace the photos with ones hosted on the Mud Songs server. This note will disappear when (or if) that happens.

4 thoughts on “A Candy Cake Recipe

  1. I’m cooking it up now. This is crazy. It’s filling my big pot and it’s about as thick as concrete. How long does it take to boil this stuff down? Melting 15 pounds of sugar in 3 cups of water. This is nuts.

  2. I was almost done and then I added the apple cider vinegar and within minutes it all crystallized. Everything is grainy again. It’s weird. There’s no way I could pour it the way it is now.

  3. Well, I’m done. I have two things to say: It better work. And I’m never doing this again.

    I can’t imagine doing this for 25 hives. It think I got about a dozen plate-sized cakes out of it — if they harden properly.

    I don’t mind hard work, but it was like mixing concrete.

    Then when I added the apple cider vinegar, it’s like the whole thing lost all its moisture. I had to add some extra water then to bring it back to a liquid state so I could stir it again.

    After that I kept boiling it and stirring until it finally reached the proper temperature — 112-115°C (234-240°F).

    Then I removed it from heat and stirred vigorously until I couldn’t stir it anymore because it was simply too thick, even though the temperature wasn’t as low as it was supposed to be — 93°C (200°F).

    It was extremely thick by this point. It was only partially liquid. I couldn’t pour it. I scooped it out of the pot and mashed it down into the plates with a ladle.

    If I have to feed my bees this early again next year, I’m going to follow the Mountain Camp method instead. Cooking up sugar like this has way too much potential to go wrong — at least when I’m at the wheel.

    It better work and the bees better love it.

  4. Once my cnady reached 225°F I took it off and poured it right on to my board. In 30 seconds in would barely pour. In 5 minutes it was solid. I made one candy cake along with the sugar board, but the candy cake was not added to the hive. I’ll use that later when I open it up in march month.

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