Sponge Candy is to Buffalo as:
BBQ is to Memphis
Cheese Steak is to Philly
Beignets are to New Orleans…
You get the picture.
There are several theories on how, when and why Sponge Candy became one of Buffalo’s many claims to fame, but one thing’s for certain – there’s a ton of BuffaLove for the airy, crunchy-yet-creamy, sweet confection that Buffalonians have called their own since the early 1900’s. And since love is in the air, and soon thousands of WNYers will be celebrating said love with the delightful combination of sugar, cocoa and milk, it just feels right to pay homage to our beloved Sponge Candy.
As a self-proclaimed Sponge Candy aficionado, I was excited to taste my way through some of the best chocolatiers in town. Here’s what I learned along the way:
All Sponge Candy is not created equal. It comes in all different shapes, sizes, styles, textures and flavors. Pretty much every shop that sells Sponge Candy offers the standard milk, dark and orange chocolate – so that’s where I started. My classic milk chocolate personal favorites were Fowler’s and Antoinette’s Sweets. Fowler’s (The chocolatier said to have started the Sponge Candy craze) offers traditional-sized sponge candy as well as bite-sized pieces. Antoinette’s Sweets‘ take on milk chocolate Sponge Candy is nothing short of decadent, with a perfectly light and crispy candy sponge coated by an extra thick, creamy milk chocolate shell.
Watson’s Chocolates was hands down, my favorite dark chocolate variety, and the only way I can describe Parkside Candy’s Orange Sponge Candy is like being wrapped inside a velvety, orange milk chocolate blanket of goodness. I know, right?
Bella Mia Candy, on Hertel Ave. in North Buffalo also offers the milk/dark/orange trio, so I decided to buy all three and promptly devoured them all before I drove the 3 miles home. Delicious.
You CAN think outside the “chocolate box.” Yia Yia in Depew is infamous for their peanut butter sponge candy and I quickly realized why. Think melt-in-your-mouth, hand-dipped peanut butter and chocolate, coating a crisp candy sponge. At The Palace of Sweets in Clarence, let your imagination run wild with peppermint, banana crème, Kahlua & coffee – just three of more than 15 varieties of Sponge Candy available. A quick chat with one of the owners of The Palace of Sweets revealed that one their secrets is to flavor the sponge, instead of the chocolate for a more intense flavor.
Sponge Candy conversations are intense. Forget religious and political controversy. Sponge Candy debates take on a life of their own at parties and family gatherings. Some will swear by Park Edge Sweet Shoppe in South Buffalo or Village Sweet Shoppe in Hamburg, NY. Others insist upon Condrell’s Candy and Ice Cream in Kenmore. One of my friends even swears by her own style of eating sponge candy: Chocolate first, then tackle the sponge. It’s best to just nod and agree with them all – which leads me to my next point.
There is no bad Sponge Candy. Each chocolatier takes an incredible amount of time and care in perfecting their recipes. From the actual sponge-making to secret chocolate recipes, to hand vs. machine-dipped. There’s careful method to the deliciousness.
Chocolate = Happiness. Okay, so maybe this is obvious, but as I traveled from shop to shop, one common theme consistently emerged: People who buy and sell chocolate are genuinely happy people. Maybe it’s the endorphin boost or the antioxidants. I don’t know. But what I DO know is that I wrapped up my tour, pants a little tighter, smile a little brighter with gifts of Sponge Candy for the people I love.