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Sponge candy: Buffalo tradition or Buffalo invention?

Looking back at the history of a Queen City favorite.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — This weekend, many Easter baskets will no doubt have a bit of Buffalo history in them, or at least tradition. Science has discovered many answers, but there are still many mysteries that remain unsolved; Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, how were the pyramids built, and of course, who invented sponge candy.

Some say the British invented it first with their cinder toffee. Others might say Cadbury's Crunchie bar was the first. But Platters Chocolate Owner Joe Urban says here in Western New York, we know better. 

"That's what they say but I've never seen a piece of sponge candy out of Europe it looks like ours," Urban said. "Some people in New England will have this thing called sea foam they say it's like sponge candy but it really isn't, Buffalo sponge candy is very unique."

Urban says since it started popping up in candy shoppes across Buffalo in the 1940's, sponge candy has been as much a local staple as chicken wings and beef on weck. 

"The crispness and the tightness of the bubbles in the sponge candy, as opposed to the big crusty crumbles in your mouth. This is just kind of, it's crisp and the it melts," Urban said.

Urban took 2 On Your Side's Pete Gallivan into the candy lab to show him how the magic happens. 

The formula? Twenty-six pounds of corn syrup, 30 pounds of sugar and a gallon of water. It is all boiled down into a caramel-like consistency, then baking soda is added and that is when the magic happens. It then rises, is cut up, and down the line it goes for, not one, but two showers of chocolate.

This is their busiest time of year. Platters puts out about 150,000 to 200,000 pounds a year. 

So while the unknown story of the birth of sponge candy will remain, well, unknown, this Queen City confection is no doubt, a Western New York tradition. 

"Sometimes it gets emotional, I've been in the business since I was four years old. I grew up in the business and to see where we're at now and how many people are our brand advocates around the country that love Platters and love sponge candy, it's emotional. We're not just a candy company, we're a part of a tradition," Urban said.


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