Recipe Collections · The Vintage Kitchen

Homemade Christmas Candies

1920s illustration. Blue bowl sits on a table surrounded by red and green holly. The bowl is piled high with candy of all different shapes and colors. Pink, green, white, and brown squares and rounds fill the bowl.

The candy counter was a popular destination for shoppers. Chocolate Hershey bars, Teaberry gum, and a host of other sweets kept everyone’s sugar-loving tooth happy. For a nickel you could take home a small candy bar, if you made it that far without devouring it. Even so, one of the most popular Christmas gifts continued to be homemade Christmas candies.

Friends and far-flung family alike anticipated the arrival of the yearly candy box. Special homemade Christmas candies such as taffy, fudge, hard peppermints, and even gumdrops nestled happily against one another in the small tin. Some looked forward to the arrival of the tin all year. Homemade Christmas candies were a gift to treasure, and few turned up their noses at such an offering.

This worked to the candy maker’s advantage as well. For the price of a little sugar, chocolate or cocoa, and flavorings (some of which lasted for years on the pantry shelf) a home cook turned out enough candy for the family at home as well as friends and family local and far. A candy recipe makes a huge amount of sugar-laden food for one or two people. Fitting two or three of each kind of candy into a box made a beautiful presentation, and enough filled boxes left the candy maker with just enough of the sweets for home use.

Today I offer some of the old recipes so you can get a start on your home homemade Christmas candies box. Or platter. Or however you want to serve it, send it, or eat it. These recipes for Persian Sweets, Christmas Fudge, Boston Cream, and Frosted Gum Drops are only a few of the candy recipes available.

Note: If you are making candy, and boiling sugar of any kind, you will need a large, deep saucepan. A three to four-and-a-half quart pan should work well. Sugar will boil up and over the top of a pan, creating a burn hazard. The large pan helps to safeguard against this. Please be careful.

Persian Sweets

This recipe is uncooked and easy to throw together if you have the ingredients and a few holes in your candy box. Why this is called Persian Sweets, I have no idea. Other variations of this, with different fruits added, are known as Fruit Rolls. You will need:

  • One cup chopped raisins
  • 3/4 cup chopped dates
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1-2 cups powdered sugar, or enough to cover the candy
  • waxed paper

Mix the raisins, dates, and nuts together. This will be sticky. Knead on a board that you’ve covered with powdered sugar. Knead it until the mass sticks together well.

Roll the candy with a rolling pin, also coated with powdered sugar so it doesn’t stick. Roll until the candy is 1/2-inch thick.

Cut into small squares, no more than 1-inch square. One-half inch squares would make nice cubes, somewhat like Kraft caramels.

Roll the cut squares in powdered sugar until well covered. Wrap each square in waxed paper.

This will keep quite a while if packed in a tin or airtight container. It would be a good candy to send long distances.

Christmas Fudge

This is a chocolate-flavored fudge with a little molasses. It also contains no cream. You will need:

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 rounded Tablespoons butter (each Tbsp would be about 1 1/3 Tbsp, so 2 2/3 Tbsp total)
  • 2 oz unsweetened chocolate, bar form, grated (Lindt and Ghiradelli both offer baking chocolate)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Large, deep saucepan
  • pans for holding the fudge: 8 x 8 baking pan, loaf pans, etc.

Melt the butter in a saucepan, but do not let it brown.

Remove the pan from the heat. Mix in the sugars, molasses, and water.

Boil the mixture 2 minutes. Add grated chocolate and boil for 5 minutes. Always count the time from the point that bubbling begins.

Remove from the heat and add the vanilla. Cool. Then beat vigorously and spread into pans.

Mark into squares. When the mixture is cold, cut the pieces apart with a sharp knife.

Boston Cream

This is reminiscent of the Boston Cream Pie, without the cake.

You will need:

  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup white syrup (Karo or another brand corn syrup)
  • 1 cup sweet cream (whipping cream, whole cream)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
  • 3 oz unsweetened chocolate (Lindt or Ghiradelli baking chocolate)
  • Large, deep saucepan
  • Buttered pans for cooling the candy. A loaf pan would work well, or even several miniature loaf pans.

Boil the sugar, syrup, and cream to a soft ball. In other words, you bring the mixture to a boil. Take a tiny bit on the tip of a spoon and drop it into a glass of ice cold water. The mixture should form a ball in the water but squish when you bring it out of the water. That is a soft ball. It is also 238ºF on a candy thermometer.

Once it reaches soft ball stage, remove the pan from the heat. Beat until the candy is white and smooth. This is going to take a while if you do it by hand.

Beat in the nuts and the flavoring. Turn into deep buttered pans to cool.

When cold, melt the chocolate and pour the chocolate over the top of the candy. Let it stand for several days to ripen.

Cut into slices to serve.

Frosted Gum Drops

These red and green jewels will brighten any candy plate.

You will need:

  • 4 level tablespoons gelatin
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • red, yellow, and green food coloring
  • wintergreen or peppermint flavoring oil
  • clover flavoring oil
  • lemon flavoring oil
  • rose oil or flavoring extract
  • granulated sugar for rolling
  • Large deep saucepan for candy making

Soak the gelatin in the cold water for five minutes. Stir in the boiling water until completely dissolved.

Add the sugar and boil for 25 minutes from the time boiling begins, stirring constantly. If you don’t keep it moving it will stick and burn.

Pour the syrup into 4 heatproof containers. When it cools, flavor and color them. Use a drop or two of lemon oil for the first container. Do not color it. For container 2, use a drop or two of green and flavor with wintergreen. For container 3, use yellow coloring and rose flavor. If you use extract rather than oil, you will need a bit more than a drop. For container 4, use red and flavor with clove.

Pour each candy into a small pan that has been dipped into cold water. Loaf pans or other small pans would work.

Refrigerate overnight. Cut into cubes with a knife dipped in boiling water. Roll each piece in granulated sugar until well coated.

Set aside for two days to crystallize.

Note: These flavor and color suggestions are very vintage. If you’d rather use blue food coloring and blackberry flavoring, do so.

More options

Once you get started, candy making can become an obsession. It’s fun to do and generally popular. Taffy pulls bring people together. For that matter, so does a big plate of fudge surrounded by fresh cups of coffee!

Every candy box has a hole where you can tuck just one more thing. If you find yourself in that position, take a look at this no-cook recipe for Easy Fondant Cream Mints. They were a huge hit at my house.