A candy soldier is a small figurine made out of candy that is shaped to resemble a soldier or person in military attire. Candy soldiers are a popular treat around the holidays and are especially common around Christmas time. They are made by pressing melted candy into molds shaped like soldiers. Once the candy hardens, the figures are popped out of the molds and wrapped up as festive treats.
What are Candy Soldiers Made Of?
Candy soldiers can be made from various types of candy depending on the recipe. Some of the most common candies used to create candy soldiers include:
- Chocolate – Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, or white chocolate melted and poured into molds.
- Fondant – A dough made from sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, and glycerin that can be shaped and molded.
- Marzipan – A paste made from almonds, sugar, and egg whites that can be sculpted.
- Gum Paste – A pliable dough made from powdered sugar, cornstarch, and gum tragacanth that dries hard.
- Coconut – Shredded coconut moistened with sweetened condensed milk and pressed into shapes.
The most popular options tend to be chocolate, fondant, and marzipan since they have a nice sheen and glossy appearance when hardened. The candy chosen affects the final texture and flavor of the candy soldier.
History of Candy Soldiers
Candy soldiers have been around since at least the late 1800s when European confectioners began making molded chocolate and sugar figurines. Their popularity grew in the early 20th century. Candy soldiers were even sent to soldiers fighting overseas during World Wars I and II to boost morale.
Some key moments in the history of candy soldiers include:
- 1870s – German chocolate makers start producing molded chocolate bunnies, Santas, and soldiers for Christmas.
- 1910s – Candy soldiers gain widespread popularity in Europe and the US around Christmas and other holidays.
- 1940s – Candy soldiers are sent in care packages to troops in WWII to lift spirits.
- 1950s – Manufacturing advances make mass production of candy soldiers easier and more affordable.
- 21st century – Candy soldiers remain a staple treat around the holidays, often with nostalgic appeal.
Though originally made by hand, most candy soldiers today are mass-produced in factories using casts and molds for consistency.
Common Shapes and Designs
Candy soldiers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and designs. Here are some of the most common forms candy soldiers take:
- Standing solider – A soldier standing at attention with hands to the side.
- Marching soldier – A soldier mid-march with one leg raised.
- Mounted soldier on horse – A soldier riding a horse.
- Drummer boy – A young soldier playing a drum.
- Saluting soldier – A soldier doing a salute.
- Nutcracker soldier – A soldier with a large mouth and jaw for cracking nuts.
Candy soldiers may come plain or decorated with extras like:
- Candy cane striped uniforms
- Licorice whips as swords or guns
- Chocolate hats
- Candy button or piping details
- Colorful candies adhered on
How Candy Soldiers Are Made
Making candy soldiers is a multi-step process that involves:
- Preparing the candy – The chosen candy, often chocolate, fondant, or marzipan, is made according to recipe instructions. Tempering is required for chocolate.
- Melting the candy – The prepared candy is then melted slowly and gently to avoid burning. A double boiler is often used.
- Filling molds – The molds are filled or injected with the melted candy mixture.
- Cooling – The filled molds are cooled either at room temperature or in the refrigerator so the candy hardens.
- Unmolding – Once set, the cooled candies are removed from the molds.
- Decorating – Details like stripes, dots, and insignia are hand-painted on using edible paints or added with small candies.
- Wrapping – Finally, the finished candy soldiers are individually wrapped in plastic, foil, or cellophane.
This entire process is done carefully to ensure the details on the molds transfer cleanly onto each candy soldier figure. High quality chocolate or candy paste should be used for best results.
Uses and Occasions
Candy soldiers have a few primary uses and occasions when they commonly make an appearance:
- Christmas – Candy soldiers are a traditional part of Christmas celebrations in many cultures. They are given as gifts or used as edible tree decorations.
- Easter – Along with chocolate bunnies, candy soldiers are popular around Easter basket time.
- Birthdays – For a child interested in the military, candy soldiers can be fun birthday party favors.
- Patriotic holidays – Candy soldiers help celebrate patriotic holidays like Independence Day, Veterans Day, etc.
- Gifting – Candy soldiers make unique edible gifts year round for military families, history buffs, etc.
Their small size makes them perfect for decorating gingerbread houses, cupcakes, cakes, and other desserts during the holidays as well.
Candy Soldier Fun Facts
Here are some interesting fun facts about candy soldiers:
- The world’s largest candy soldier was over 6 feet tall and weighed 225 pounds. It was made in New Zealand in 2020.
- The original molds for making candy soldiers were carved from wood or made of pressed tin.
- Italy is credited with inventing the first chocolate candy soldiers in the early 1800s.
- Candy canes were first crooked to resemble shepherd’s canes but later straightened to imitate candy soldiers.
- Gingerbread men were also inspired by candy soldiers and designed to look like soldiers.
- During WWII, the Red Cross would send care packages with candy soldiers to raise troop morale overseas.
- Chocolate candy soldiers can last 6-12 months when stored properly in cool, dry conditions.
Buying Candy Soldiers
There are a few places candy soldiers can be purchased, especially around the holidays:
- Grocery stores – Look for candy soldiers in the seasonal candy aisle around Christmas and Easter.
- Discount stores – Stores like Walmart, Target, and drugstores stock candy soldiers with other holiday candy.
- Confectionery shops – Specialty candy shops will carry higher end candy soldiers.
- Online – Order from retailers like Amazon, Candy Warehouse, Oriental Trading Company, etc.
- Craft fairs – Local craft fairs often have vendors selling homemade candy soldiers.
When buying, look at the ingredients to determine the candy quality. Fondant, marzipan, and molded chocolate are best. The packaging should also protect the soldiers from breaking or melting.
How Much Do Candy Soldiers Cost?
Candy soldier prices depend on the quality, size, and quantity you buy. Some typical candy soldier costs include:
- Low-end bulk candy soldiers – $0.25-$0.50 per soldier
- Mid-range boxed assortments – $1-$5 for a box of 6-12 soldiers
- High-end German chocolate soldiers – $5-$10 per intricately detailed soldier
- Large showpiece size soldiers – $50-$100 for soldiers up to 12 inches tall
Handmade artisan candy soldiers from specialty confectioners can cost $10-$25 a piece. Overall, expect to pay average prices of $2-$5 per soldier for good quality candy varieties sold around the holidays.
How to Store Candy Soldiers
To maintain freshness and prevent sugar bloom, candy soldiers should be properly stored by:
- Keeping them in a cool, dry place around 60-70°F.
- Storing in air-tight containers or bags, or original packaging.
- Keeping them away from excess moisture and humidity.
- Avoiding direct sunlight which can melt chocolate soldiers.
- Layering wax or parchment paper between soldiers to prevent scratching if storing loose.
If cared for properly, the shelf life of candy soldiers can be extended 6-12 months past their best by date. Chocolate soldiers in particular can last over a year with proper temperature controlled storage.
Candy Soldier Recipes
Making homemade candy soldiers is easy with a quality mold and these recipes:
Chocolate Candy Soldiers
- 1 pound dark, milk, or white chocolate, chopped
- 1⁄4 cup cocoa butter (optional)
- Candy colors and flavors (optional)
- Soldier shaped candy molds
- Slowly melt the chopped chocolate and cocoa butter in a double boiler over low heat until smooth.
- Optional: Stir in candy colors or flavors like mint, orange, etc. a few drops at a time.
- Fill the soldier molds half full with melted chocolate.
- Tap the molds firmly to release air bubbles. Add more chocolate to fill completely.
- Let the soldiers set up at room temperature before unmolding.
- Carefully remove from molds once hardened and decorate with edible paints if desired.
Fondant Candy Soldiers
- 1 pound prepared fondant or marzipan
- Food coloring gels or pastes
- Candy molds
- Cornstarch for dusting
- Knead food coloring into fondant until desired shade is reached.
- Dust the mold cavities with cornstarch.
- Press the fondant into the molds, packing it tightly.
- Turn molds over and tap out excess cornstarch after a few minutes.
- Flex the molds to loosen soldiers after fondant has hardened. Repeat with remaining fondant.
Get creative mixing colors and experiment with different shaped molds for personalized candy soldiers!
With their nostalgic charm and festive colors, it’s easy to see why candy soldiers have been a staple of the holiday season for over a century. Whether used as edible decorations or given as unique edible gifts, these tiny military-inspired treats delight both young and old. Their small size makes them perfect for adding a bit of whimsy to the holidays. Next time you want to impress your family and friends, take up the challenge of making a batch of candy soldiers.