WFSU Local
6:54 pm
Fri December 21, 2012

Shirley The Elephant Gets A Handmade Candy Treat

This 3 foot tall candy cane is a gift for an elephant who lives in Georgia.
Credit Regan Mccarthy

A local candy maker in Tallahassee, Florida is making one giant candy cane. It’s three feet tall and weighs eight pounds, making for a pretty big gift to fit in someone’s stocking. But, the recipient of this particular treat has some pretty big feet—it’s going to Shirley the elephant, in Valdosta Georgia, who apparently has something of a sweet tooth.

Well apparently all elephants do, I didn’t know that. Horses like sugar cubs, which is essentially hard candy. So and I didn’t know that elephants like peppermint. But if you think about it, peppermint is a natural plant, elephants are herbivores. I would be surprised that elephants like peppermints. I know I do. And I like elephants. And if A equals B and B equals C then peppermints like things that I do,” said Lofty Pursuits owner Gregory Cohen.

Lofty Pursuits is a combination toy store, soda shop and candy spot in Tallahassee. In fact, Cohen said it’s one of the only stores in the country that still makes hard candy by hand, the old fashioned way.

“But the candy cane is a tradition and from the best I can tell, there are between maybe eight and 10 places in the country that make candy canes. Some of them you’ve heard of like Disneyland. But we’re one of the few that make it in front of customers. But we’ve been making thousands all season long and interestingly enough we’re making a giant one today,” Cohen said.

Today a group of students from Rose Academy in Tallahassee watched Candy Master Wesley Raley make Shirley’s treat. Raley said it is the biggest piece of candy he’s made yet, and he’s excited to be able to brag about it.

“Kids always ask me, ‘what’s the biggest candy can you’ve ever made and I’ve never been able to give them an impressive answer until…now I can,” Raley said.

Raley makes this candy cane in the same way he makes the thousands of smaller ones Lofty Pursuits sell during the season. It starts with every day normal sugar like you’d put in your coffee in the morning. That’s heated up to about 300-degrees. Then Raley adds color and a peppermint flavoring that smell so strong it takes over the room.

Next he cools it down to about 200-degrees—still, he said, much hotter than a pot of boiling water. So he has to be careful and wear special gloves.

“And at that point it acts like silly putty and you can mold it and shape it and so as it continues to cool you would take parts you dyed red and make stripes out of it and then take the entire mass of sugar and mold  into a candy cane,” Raley said.

The molding process involves a lot stretching, folding, rolling and snipping with what looks like an oversized pair of scissors. But it’s when Raley puts the bend in the cane that when things get trickiest.

In all the finished candy cane is about as tall as a yard stick and as big around as a baseball bat. The world’s biggest candy cane is more than 50 feet long, but is very thin – and probably wouldn’t be so great for an elephant to hold in her trunk. And store owner, Gregory Cohen is pretty happy with his confectioner’s outcome.

“This is clearly not the largest candy cane in the world ever made, maybe just for us, but this is clearly the largest customer for a candy cane. So we’re very excited about that,” Cohen said.

Shirley’s care takers at Wild Adventures in Valdosta said they’re planning to give the treat to Shirley as an early Christmas gift this year.

Click here to see a picture of Shirley and her holiday treat.

For more news updates, follow Regan McCarthy on twitter @Regan_McCarthy