Both of our honey bee colonies are clustering at the top of their hives, which can indicated they’re running low on honey. So, just to be safe, we’ve decided to cook up some candy to get them through the rest of the winter. Welcome to part 2 of The Candy Cake Trilogy: Making Candy Cakes. In part 1, The Recipe, we introduced the recipe that goes something like this: Boil 3 cups of water, gradually dissolve in 15 pounds of granulated, add some apple cider vinegar and pure vanilla extract (or spearmint or anise oil or another essential oil), let it get really hot, then let it cool and pour it into paper plates (or a candy board). Here’s a video of exactly how that worked out for us.
Here are the photos:
A package of smooth paper plates, 15 pounds of sugar (in the recycling container), 3 cups of water, apple cider vinegar, vanilla and…
…a 7-litre pot (about 2 US gallons), but even larger would be better.
The water was boiled and we began to add sugar.
Then we added more sugar and continued to stir.
It takes a while to dump in 15 pounds of sugar.
Adding the vanilla wasn’t a problem. But when we added the apple cider vinegar, all the moisture disappeared from the goop and we had to add extra water to make it liquid again.
Once all the sugar was basically dissolved, we kept stirring while the mixture got hotter.
The temperature took a while to reach 112-115°C (234-240°F).
But it eventually happened. If we do this again, we’re going use a candy thermometer that clips to the side of the pot. Sticking this one in and waiting for the reading made it difficult to stir the mixture and prevent it from burning to the pot. (We didn’t have it on high the whole time either.)
We were supposed to wait for the temperature to drop to 93°C (200°F) before pouring it into the plates, but it quickly became like concrete after we removed it from the heat.
So we just started glopping it on the plates and mashing it down with a ladle while it was still pliable.
It was way too thick and grainy to pour.
The bottom of the pot was mostly wet sugar.
The last few scoops from the bottom of the pot.
Each cake averaged around 500 grams (about a pound each).
All the cakes hardened almost solid as a rock within 30 minutes. We got about 15 cakes in total. They were easy to pull off the plates because the plates were slightly oiled (and now we can reuse them if we ever do this again). I can’t imagine doing this for a large number of hives. I’ll consider following the Mountain Camp or Dry Sugar method of emergency winter feeding if I have to do it again. Cooking a big pot of concrete-thick sugar stew isn’t for everyone. It takes a good two hours from start to finish, it can get messy if you’re not careful, and your arms will get tired from the constant stirring.
Stay tuned for part 3 of The Candy Cake Trilogy: Placing Candy Cakes in the Hives.
UPDATE (Feb. 14/12): I tried the Dry Sugar method and I like it.
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.