Divinity is a soft white, whipped dessert with a delicate, chewy bite and mouthwateringly sweet flavor. This beloved recipe is a family tradition for some, particularly in the South, but divinity is also a common staple of county fairs, Amish bake sales, and community potlucks. The fluffy cloud-like candies are sometimes speckled with pecans or hazelnuts, sprinkled with cinnamon, or topped with candied cherries.
The main ingredients of these melt-in-your-mouth treats are whipped egg whites and sugar. Corn syrup, granulated sugar, and water are boiled down to a hardball candy stage and added to stiffly peaked egg whites. The candy solidifies as it’s mixed until it’s thick enough to dollop onto a sheet pan. The air-dried dollops become light as air with an irresistible nougat-like texture.
While divinity can be made by even the greenest of beginners, some technical skills are necessary to pull off a perfectly puffed divinity. We’ll break down some of the trickier steps below the recipe.
Add egg whites to a large mixing bowl and let sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.
Cover two baking sheets with wax paper and fill a small bowl with ice water; set both aside.
Mix corn syrup, sugar, and water together in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium heat. Continue to cook until the candy is in a soft ball stage (see below), then move onto the next step.
Beat the egg whites on medium-high for 5-6 minutes or until stiff peaks have formed.
Once your candy has reached its hardball stage, reduce your mixer speed to medium-low. Remove the candy from heat and slowly add to the egg whites.
Note: It's important to keep the mixer going from here on out. As tempting as it might be to check your progress, let your divinity mix undisturbed for at least three minutes after adding the candy.
After four to five minutes of mixing, add the vanilla extract. Add cinnamon and nuts if desired. Mix until combined.
Spoon a small dollop of candy onto the wax paper. If it holds its shape and doesn't turn into a candy puddle, it's ready to be transferred from the mixing bowl. If the divinity is still runny, continue mixing, testing for doneness every 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Use a greased spoon to scoop out a hefty tablespoon-size dollop of divinity. Using a second greased spoon, push the candy off the first spoon onto the baking sheet. Your dollops don't have to be perfect! Think of them as beautifully mismatched, fluffy clouds of deliciousness.
Let candy set at room temperature until dry to the touch. Store in an airtight container with wax paper in between layers. The divinity will last for up to 5 days.
Light corn syrup can normally be found at the grocery store, but if your local shops are running low, here are some substitutes you can try for an emergency batch of divinity. These corn syrup substitutes might not handle heat as well as the original, so proceed with caution.
For light, fluffy egg whites, begin whisking slowly and gradually increase speed. Whisking the egg whites too aggressively can cause their delicate structure to collapse, resulting in unleavened divinity (a.k.a. sugar gloop). Also, make sure you're actually starting with room temperature egg whites! If you don't have time to let the egg whites sit in the mixing bowl for a full 20 minutes, put the eggs in a bowl of hot tap water for 5-10 minutes before cracking.
Your egg whites should go from an off-white or slightly yellow translucent liquid to white and frothy with large bubbles. Continue whisking until the large bubbles become very small throughout the mixture. Egg whites will be whisked to stiff peaks when they are creamy, opaque, and have a slight sheen. Check the peaks by turning the whisk upside down; stiff peaks will hold their upright shape (they might have a small curl at the very tip).
Try not to check your egg whites more than once. Stopping and starting the whisking process can compromise the whipped egg whites' structural integrity.
Candy thermometers are handy, modern gadgets, but they're not necessary for making perfectly tempered candy. I (and hundreds of thousands of candy-makers before me) use a much simpler method. You can test your candy's temp sans thermometer with just a spoon, a bowl of ice water, and your fingers. First, let the sugar, water, and corn syrup reach a steady, rolling boil for 2-3 minutes.
Drop a small spoonful of the syrup into the ice water. It might be tricky to see since the candy is clear, so make sure your work area is well lit. I use a spoon to move the candy around to help see it better. If the candy is undercooked or in the "threads" stage, it will appear like thin wisps of candy and dissolve when swirled in the water. Continue boiling.
If the candy is in the "soft ball" stage, you'll be able to clump the small wisps of candy together in the ice water. A soft ball candy lump will dissolve or lose its shape when taken out of the water. Keep on boiling! This is the time to start whisking your egg whites; they should be just about perfectly peaked by the time the syrup reaches the right temperature.
Firm ball candy can be formed into a ball that maintains its shape out of the water but can be easily manipulated and squished out of shape. Hard ball candy will form hard, tacky lumps that aren't easily manipulated. Once you've reached this stage, you're done! Continue on to dreamy divinity goodness.
Oh no! You have reached the hard ball stage before your stiff peaks have had a chance to stiffen. Reduce heat and lift the saucepan to slow the boil while the burner cools. Return to heat intermittently as often as necessary to maintain the syrup's consistency. Keep an eye on your egg whites, and add the syrup once the peaks have formed. (Where's that third arm and eyeball when you really need it?)
Alternatively, you could always use a candy thermometer. Boiling candy will reach its hard ball stage at 150-266º F. I recommend trying the ice water method at least once, especially if there are kiddos around. It might be tedious at first, but this age-old trick transforms the candy-making process into a fun, sweet science experiment.