Sponge candy: Buffalo tradition or Buffalo invention?

A look back at the story of a Queen City favourite.

BUFFALO, NY — Many Easter baskets this weekend will no doubt contain a bit of Buffalo history, or at least tradition. Science has discovered many answers, but there are still many unsolved mysteries; Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, how the pyramids were built, and of course, who invented sponge cake.

Some say the British first invented it 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 outside of Europe, it looks like ours,” Urban said. “Some people in New England will have this thing called meerschaum, they say it’s like sponge candy, but it really isn’t, Buffalo sponge candy is very unique.”

Urban says that since they first started appearing in Buffalo candy stores in the 1940s, sponge candies have been as much a local staple as chicken wings and beef on weck.

“The crispness and tightness of the bubbles in the sponge cake, as opposed to the big crispy crumbs in your mouth. It’s just sort of, it’s crispy and it melts,” Urban said.

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

The formula? Twenty-six pounds of corn syrup, 30 pounds of sugar and a gallon of water. Everything is reduced to a caramel-like consistency, then baking soda is added and that’s where the magic happens. He then gets up, is cut up, and down the line he takes not one, but two chocolate showers.

This is their busiest time of the year. Platters produces about 150,000 to 200,000 books per year.

So while the unknown story of the sponge candy’s birth will remain, well, unknown, this Queen City confection is undoubtedly 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 are now and how many people are advocates for our brand across the countries that love Platters and I Love Sponge Candy, it’s moving. We’re not just a confectionery company, we’re part of a tradition,” Urban said.