This classic divinity recipe takes a little patience and elbow grease, but the delicious result is so worth it!
Let’s talk about divinity. Allow me to begin this post with this statement: “I’m not a divinity expert”. The recipe I’m sharing today is an old one, and you can find dozens of slight variations of this recipe online and in old cookbooks. My point in this particular post isn’t to share something new and undiscovered, but instead to focus on tips and tricks for getting your divinity to come out just right. Because, let’s be honest, unless you’ve been making divinity your whole life and know exactly what works for you (aka your environment, mixer, etc), this candy is tricky. If you usually use the “Jump to Recipe” option in my posts, I would suggest reading the whole post this time if you’ve never made divinity before.
Divinity is a moody candy. The old tale of, “Never make divinity when it’s humid or raining”, is true. That’s not to say no one has ever had success making divinity on a rainy day, but it is definitely not recommended, especially here in the South. Any candy making can be more difficult on a humid day, as the candy absorbs moisture from the air and makes it less inclined to set up nicely. Due to the texture of divinity, it is particularly susceptible to moisture. Try to make it on a rainy day, and you’ll likely end up with a gooey mess that has the consistency of glue and will end up all over your kitchen despite your best efforts. (I say this as someone who has experienced it and spent 45 minutes of my life trying to scrub that stuff off of my dishes, counter tops, and the floor.)
If you’ve never heard of divinity before, you’re probably sitting there thinking, “Why would I want to try something like this? Next…” If you did grow up eating divinity around Christmas every year, you’re saying, “Oh, but it’s SO worth it.” I have to concur with the latter. 🙂 Even though I didn’t have divinity very often when I was growing up, it is definitely worth the effort and the two or three tries it may take before you get it right the first time.
Homemade candy seems to be a dying art. It’s something that everyone remembers their grandma doing, but most people in my generation (at least that I know of) don’t make homemade candy very much. I think that’s kind of sad. For me, candy is definitely a splurge and I only make it around Christmas time, but I think it’s a great skill to have and the taste definitely beats anything store bought. I generally have little interest in store bought candy (unless it’s very dark chocolate) and rarely eat it, but set some homemade fudge, peanut brittle, truffles, or divinity in front of me and I can’t resist.
I have a rack of my grandma’s chocolate candy sitting in the kitchen right now and am having to control myself each time I walk by so that I don’t eat any. Haha. (Recipe coming soon.)
Anyway, that aside, I have some tips and tricks for making divinity. I’m actually going to make this into a printable so that you can print it out and reference it if you like.
- Plan ahead and watch the weather. If you’re wanting to make divinity around Christmas time, have the ingredients already on hand and keep an eye out for a low humidity, clear day. That way when the perfect day (or part of a day) shows up, you won’t be rushing to the store to grab something you forgot. If you’ve lived down South for awhile, you can probably tell when there’s a low humidity day. If you just recently moved and aren’t sure what classifies as low humidity when it all feels ridiculously hot/sticky, it’s easy to check humidity levels online or to use a weather app on your phone. Seriously. High humidity will very likely result in a sticky divinity that doesn’t dry out properly. Ideally, the humidity should be less than 50%, and if it’s lower than that, even better. If you live in an area where the humidity is always low, lucky you, and you don’t have to worry about this step as much. 😉
- Suppose you don’t get a good day? I live in Florida, where low humidity is about as scarce as hens’ teeth. I was able to cheat it a little by picking a cooler day and cranking up the heat in the house. We usually keep the heat on about 66 during the winter, and while making divinity I turned it up to 72 and kept all the doors and windows shut. This dried out the house a little and helped the candy to set.
- Make sure all your utensils, mixing bowl, and saucepan are very clean. Any oil residue can have an effect on the outcome of your candy, especially when whipping the egg whites.
- Have all your ingredients measured and ready to go before you start. You don’t want to be looking for something last minute, and timing is important when making candy.
- Use fresh, room temperature eggs. If you have a couple cartons of eggs in your fridge, and one is about a week old and the other was just purchased yesterday, use the newer ones. Also, make sure that you don’t get any yolk in your egg whites. For clarification, “stiff peaks” means that when you pull the beaters up out of the egg whites, the whites will be fluffy and stand on end without falling over and folding back into each other. If they sink back into the bowl, they’re not done. Beat them on medium-high speed until they stand up straight without falling and then stop. (Don’t over beat.) This takes about 6 minutes with my mixer. Note: It is best to beat the egg whites while the candy is boiling in order to time it right. 🙂
- The main variation that I see in old fashioned divinity recipes is in the ratio of water to sugar. Each person swears by their recipe and I’m guessing it has something to do with where they live, because not every variation works for every person. The recipe I share below calls for 1 cup of water, but if you live in a lower elevation area with higher humidity, I would try reducing the water a tad. (I will probably do that the next time I make divinity actually, as mine set up but wasn’t quite as dry as I would have liked.) If you live in a higher elevation, drier area, the 1 cup water should work. You may have to make a couple of tries before you figure out exactly what ratio works for you.
- This recipe requires boiling the candy syrup to reach a temperature of 250 to 265 degrees Fahrenheit on the candy thermometer (hard ball stage). Yes, you need a candy thermometer. Don’t just try to guess. While the mixture is boiling you cannot stir it, so make sure your saucepan is large enough that it won’t boil over. Also, if you boil it to 265 degrees and your candy is bit dry, try boiling it to the lower end of the temperature range next time, and vice versa.
- When you add the hot syrup to the egg whites, be sure to add it very gradually, not all at once.
- I joked in the beginning that this recipe takes a little elbow grease, and it definitely does! It may take 10 minutes of beating for your divinity to set up, or it may take longer than that. If your mixer starts getting warm, switch to a wooden spoon and beat by hand. Don’t give up beating too soon. If you try to put a spoonful on the wax paper and it puddles, it’s not ready. Keep beating until it is stiff enough to hold its shape when you drop it on the paper.
- Ok, so what if you do everything right and your divinity still isn’t turning out? (Because it happens, people. I read the recipes saying, “This divinity never fails!” and I think, “That may be very true for you, but it doesn’t mean that it won’t fail for someone else, even if they follow the directions”.) Divinity really is a science. There are some recipes out there that contain other ingredients like marshmallow creme and may be less inclined to fail, but classic divinity is a little tricky. ANYWAY, if you beat until your arm falls off and did everything else right and the batter is STILL puddling, try beating in some powdered sugar, a tablespoon at a time, until the candy stiffens and holds its shape. Drop onto wax paper as usual and let harden.
- If your divinity has trouble hardening after you drop it onto the wax paper, try placing it in a very low temperature oven, turn the oven off, and leave the door shut for several hours. When I made divinity yesterday, the humidity wasn’t too bad about mid morning, but then it started increasing yesterday afternoon. The oven trick worked to help dry out my candy and keep it from being ruined.
- On the flip side, if your divinity comes out very stiff and you’re having difficulty getting it onto the wax paper before it hardens, add a few drops of hot water and that should help loosen it. Use two spoons to drop the batter, one to scoop and one to scrape. I’ve heard that a cold spoon will help as well, but I haven’t tried that personally. (And like I noted before, if the candy turns out too dry in the end, try increasing the water in the recipe a little or boiling it to the low end of the hard ball temperature range the next time you make it.)
- Lastly, whether it took one perfect try or 20 and you finally have your delicious divinity, make sure to store it in an airtight container. I made the mistake of putting my divinity into a non-airtight container yesterday as it still needed to dry a bit. Overnight the humidity increased and I woke up to my previously dry candy having turned slightly sticky. (Oops. Should have known better.) If this happens to you, try the oven trick as mentioned in tip 11. I did it just this morning and it helped to dry my divinity out again. I then relocated it to an airtight container.
- Once you get the hang of the recipe, feel free to get creative and make divinity of different flavors and colors, or mix in some nuts and dried fruit. (If you choose to add nuts/fruit, fold it in right before dropping onto wax paper. You will need to work quickly at that point.) Personally, I like my divinity plain, in all its creamy, delectable glory. 🙂
- Don’t forget to have fun! Divinity may be challenging the first time, or you may find it super easy (who knows), but it really is fun.
I actually had so much fun making divinity that I’m tempted to whip up another batch before the Christmas season is over. If I do that, I will definitely need to give all of it away so that I’m not in danger of eating it. The next week is looking cloudy though, and the humidity is currently 100%, so we’ll have to see. 🙂
Scroll past the photos to get the recipe below. I tried to make it detailed and easy to follow. Enjoy!
Old Fashioned Divinity
- 1 cup corn syrup
- 1 cup water
- 1 Tablespoon vinegar
- Pinch of salt
- 4 cups refined sugar
- 4 egg whites
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
Prepare all your ingredients and mixing bowl, and line counter tops with wax paper.
In a large saucepan, combine corn syrup, water, vinegar, and salt, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat. Stir in sugar gradually until dissolved. Return saucepan to medium heat and cook, covered, for 3 minutes. Do not stir.
Remove cover, clip candy thermometer to side of pan with tip submerged (but not touching the bottom), and cook the syrup until it reaches 250-265 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not stir while it is cooking! Meanwhile, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
Very gradually add the hot syrup to the egg whites, beating constantly. Add vanilla and continue beating until very stiff. This can take 10-20 minutes. Do not stop beating! If your mixer begins to get warm, switch to a wooden spoon by hand until your mixer cools down. If the candy puddles when you drop a spoonful onto the wax paper, it’s not ready. If your candy absolutely will not thicken, beat in some powdered sugar, 1 Tablespoon at a time, until it begins to stiffen.
Once mixture is stiff, work quickly to drop the mixture onto wax paper before it hardens. Let stand until candy is dry. It should be dry (not sticky) on the outside and soft on the inside.
Store in an airtight container.
For troubleshooting, see tips in the printable above.
~K in the Kitchen