BY CHRISTA GLENNIE
Try to trace the history of sponge candy, online, or in library records,
and all roads lead to Western New York. Records
indicate Buffalo has been
enjoying the chocolate
covered honeycomb since
the early 1900s, though
the specific candymaker
credited with introducing
the crunchy concoction to
the region is oft debated.
No matter its hazy provenance, most Buffalonians
(and publications) include
sponge candy when rounding up local food favorites.
For most natives, sponge
ranks right up there with
wings and ’weck.
But if Buffalo is honest, it can’t take credit for
the invention of sponge
candy. It may be near and
dear to every WNY heart,
but it requires only a little creative Googling to
uncover the candy’s ubiq-uity. Instead of sponge
candy, try searching “
cinder toffee,” “hokey pokey,” “golden crushers,”
“sea foam,” “angel food,”
or “puff candy.” Each of
those names refers to a
familiar confection made
of a crisp, caramel-flavored
candy coated in chocolate.
And this confection can be
1896 is the date on the
recipe card bearing New
Zealand’s earliest written record of Hokey Pokey. Penned by William
Hatton, it’s currently preserved in the New Zealand
archives. The Kiwis use the
term Hokey Pokey interchangeably for the sponge
and the chocolate-covered
sponge, and both seem to
be equally popular with
one notable exception.
More sponge candy venues
Family Chocolate Shoppe, Clarence;
Family is the only shop still owned
and operated by the Fowler family.
Fowler’s Chocolates, multiple
Fowler’s has been in business since
1910. Tour the Fowler’s factory if you
want to see just how hard it is to make
sponge candy’s unique honeycomb interior.
Henry’s Candy & Gifts,
Did we ever think we’d drive to Alden
just for sponge candy? Nope, but it was
worth it. Henry’s is one of the most
charming candy shops in WNY and we
really liked its sponge candy.
King Condrell’s, Kenmore;
Well-known for its old fashioned scoop
shop, it might be hard to remember that
Condrell’s also sells a fair amount of
Ko-Ed Candies, West Seneca;
Owned by Gary and Sandy Whitt for
many years, Ko-Ed was recently purchased by Platter’s Chocolates. Ko-Ed
has been in business since 1947.
Park Edge Sweet Shoppe, West
A favorite of many of our testers, Park
came close to making the top three for its
dark and milk chocolate sponge.
Parkside Candy, Buffalo;
We love this shop so very much, especially since it’s gotten a little architectural tender loving care. The Natural even
filmed a scene here. To be honest, its
sponge candy is the only thing we’ve ever
had here that we didn’t care for.
Platter’s Chocolate, multiple
The folks behind both buffalosponge-candy.com and spongecandy.com, you
can also find Platter’s for sale in many
places throughout the region.
Wahl’s Candies, Cheektowaga;
People really love Wahl’s orange chocolate, but our reviewers had radically
varying opinions about its sponge candy.
Yia’s Yia’s Chocolates, West
Seneca; find them on Facebook
Unfortunately, the sponge here just
wasn’t for us.
Quality and integrity of ingredients is, again, the first
consideration. It’s also important that the bitterness
of the dark chocolate and any of its inherent flavor
notes should play up the molasses essence found in
a good sponge. However, the chocolate must also be
mellow so it doesn’t diminish the sponge’s delicacy
or sweetness. So the approaches for milk and dark
sponge candy are fundamentally different, or at least
they should be.
But Watson’s hits this one out of the park—just
like it does the milk chocolate sponge—again getting
that balance just right. Here we see that the uniformity of its pieces, its ethereally delicate sponge, and
the high gloss of its chocolate make Watson’s dark
chocolate sponge candy as uncommonly delicious
as its milk chocolate sponge candy. Given Watson’s
eight locations, we can’t help but wonder why you’re
still sitting here, reading.
5981 Transit Rd., Depew, 684-2376 or
Antoinette’s was founded by William Morris, who
immigrated to the US in 1910. He’d worked in a candy store, saved enough to open a small shop on the
East Side, and, later, in 1934, with winnings from
an Irish sweepstakes, established Antoinette’s. Morris, his family, and the shop moved to its new Transit
Road location in 1958, earning attention with signature creations like its unparalleled hot fudge sauce.
Customers still clamor for the warm ice cream topping, but the shop’s sponge candy is right up there
among its favorites, and for good reason. The sponge
pieces are uniform in size, but stand only about a
quarter-of-an-inch thick, rather than the cube shape
we found almost everywhere else. The top coating of
chocolate is thicker than that which lines the sides,
but it has a real snap to it when you bite down. This,
when combined with the brittle sponge, really works.
The dark chocolate jacket in which each piece of
honeycomb is dressed is glossy and so dark that it’s
almost black, yet it’s surprisingly without bitterness,
making it a delight to eat, especially when paired
with a good cup of coffee.
8301 Main St., Williamsville, 633-8620 or
Great grandmother Alethea would undoubtedly be
proud of the business her family runs today. Located in an old farmhouse on Main Street, Alethea’s is
as popular for candy as it is for its extensive soda
fountain menu (pro tip: the hot butterscotch is hard
to beat). Shelves and shelves of carefully packaged
sweets await shoppers. The luxe-feeling multiroom
shop features anything from individually wrapped
hard candy to old fashioned meltaways and fruit gels.
Its famous chocolate drizzled popcorn is here, too,
along with massive cases of chocolates in varying sizes and types. In a jar on the counter near the register,
you’ll find the sponge candy.
There’s no skimping on the chocolate at Alethea’s,
and the big cubes of sponge boast a thick bittersweet
blanket rendering each piece a luxury. Puffy blonde
sponge adds more to the texture then the flavor here,
but you can’t discount its participation in the overall
harmonious edible experience.