Hard Caramel Decorations


Ella Henry

Above are all 6 kinds of decorations.

Ella Henry, Food & Culture Editor

Half of the fun of baking is making something that not only tastes delicious, but looks beautiful as well. Hard caramel decorations are tedious and can take practice, but they end up looking elegant and professional if done correctly. There are countless ways to utilize hard caramel; however, I will only be going over six: cages, spirals, spun sugar, various shapes (heart, triangles, or whatever else you want), dipped spikes, and shards. 





Lemon juice 


Directions for Caramel

Before you start, remember that if you get hot caramel on your skin, quickly rub it off with a dishcloth and put it under cold water! 

Add your desired amount of sugar to a saucepan, and only one tablespoon at a time, add enough water for the sugar to just barely get wet. There shouldn’t be any clumps of dry sugar! Make sure there isn’t any sugar around the sides of the pan to prevent crystallization (this will make your caramel cloudy). Place over medium-low heat and wait until it is bubbly. Put a small amount of lemon juice around the edges of the pan or anywhere that looks cloudy to ensure a clear and glossy end product. Instead of mixing the caramel as it cooks, once it begins to get dark, pick up your pan and swirl it around in quick motions. This will ensure that it colors evenly. Caramel gets dark very fast, so don’t walk away! Once it is the color you want it to be, remove it from heat. 


Sugar Cage

Grease a smooth bowl or clean round surface with oil or cooking spray. Either pour your caramel over it or make cross hatches using a spoon. When it cools completely, carefully remove the caramel by lightly pulling it back and forth until it comes loose. These are extremely fragile, so be careful!



This is by far the most satisfying and easy decoration. Simply pour your caramel in a greased pan or a pan with a Silpat and wait until it cools completely. Then take whatever object you want (I prefer a knife) and stab or hit it so that it shatters, creating abstract and uneven shards. 



On a Silpat or greased surface, use a spoon to pour the caramel into different shapes and patterns. When it cools completely, peel them right off, and break off unwanted threads of caramel. 



Wait a couple of minutes until the caramel becomes a bit more flexible (it should not be dripping quickly when you lift your spoon). Grease a knife sharpener, or a different cylindrical object. Take a spoon, dip it into the caramel, and “pull” the sugar around your object, creating a spiral. It should slide right off once it cools. You can carefully stretch out the spiral so that it becomes more elongated. Always place these on your dessert last minute or they will end up melting. 


Dipped Spikes

Wait a couple of minutes until the caramel is more flexible. Take a dried fruit or nut of your choosing and poke a toothpick into the bottom (it shouldn’t poke through the other side). This is just so you dip it into the caramel without burning your fingers. Dip it into the caramel and pull it back out. Hold it so that the caramel drips down, creating a long spike. Don’t pull on this strand; just break it off once cooled so that you can choose the length of your spike. Take the toothpick out. 


Spun Sugar 

Wait a couple of minutes until the caramel is more flexible. Dip a fork into the caramel and quickly move it back and forth over a medium bowl. The edges of the bowl should catch the end of the fine thread as you move back and forth. The thread should look a little bit like the unwanted string that results when hot glue dries up too fast. Once the caramel is completely cool, gather up the spun sugar and lightly form it into a sphere, being careful not to crush or smoosh it.