A cotton candy machine uses sugar, a heated pan, centrifugal force and tiny holes to create the popular treat at carnivals and other events. To briefly explain the process: First, the operator of a cotton candy machine pours pure sugar and food coloring into a centralized plan. As the sugar melts, centrifugal force from this spinning pan forces threads of sugar through a mesh screen.
The hot sugar threads cool down in the open air and are flung against the round outside wall of the machine. Then, the operator then twirls a paper cone around the perimeter, causing individual sugar threads to stick to the cone and to each other. The result is a large pile of spun sugar originally called “Fairy Floss,” or more commonly known as cotton candy
The original idea behind cotton candy dates back nearly to the medieval times to a cooking method called 'spun sugar'. As sugar melted in a small container, the cooks would gather some of the hot syrup on a fork and fling it across a larger container. When the heated sugar cooled, light threads would form and chefs bundled them together to form a dessert. But this dessert was difficult and time consuming to make, a fact which made it impractical until the invention of the cotton candy machine.
The first commercial cotton candy machine was invented in 1897 by two candy makers from Tennessee named William Morrison and John C. Wharton. The machine used an electric heating element to melt crystallized sugar and a motor to force the threads through a mesh. Instead of using paper cones, the first batches of Fairy Floss were served in wooden boxes.
At the time, the treat itself was very expensive, selling for an exorbitant 25 cents a box. (a ticket for admission to the 1904 World's Fair itself was only 50 cents.) Despite the high costs, the new treat was a hit and its popularity grew. Yet, at times, this success was overshadowed by the tendency for the machines to breakdown.
Around 1949, improvements were made to the basic cotton candy machine. The Gold Medal Company developed a more reliable mechanism for heating and distributing the sugar which eliminated much of problems that earlier machines were suffering from. Consequently, the majoring of the cotton candy machines in use today at fairs, carnivals and charity events are still being manufactured by Gold Medal Products of Cincinnati, Ohio.
The demand for the availability of this machines have prompted rental stores to keep cotton candy machines on hand as well as the special “floss” sugar needed to make it for use at schools and fundraising events. Also, in recent years, a home version of the cotton candy machine has also become available through selected specialty stores though these models tend be less durable and subject to breakdown.