Divinity is the Devil

Karo Syrup.

Go on. Say it with me.

Kaaaaay-rooooow suuuuur-up.

Drag it out. It sounds better that way.

Why are we talking about Karo Syrup? Because without Karo Syrup we wouldn’t have one of the absolute level best products of the Southern kitchen — Divinity. Sounds like a purely heavenly treat doesn’t it? Don’t be fooled. While the name makes this homemade candy sound, well, purely divine, it’s the very devil to make.

If you do plan to cook up a batch of Divinity, you have to have a nearly humidity-free day, which is often hard to come by in the South. That’s because the final product is nearly pure sugar which acts like a sponge that soaks in all the moisture from the atmosphere creating a gooey, sticky mess. No moisture; no mess. You also need a reliable candy thermometer. This is not one of those things you can just wing.

It also involves incorporating some of the boiling hot sugar syrup into beaten egg whites a spoonful at the time while monitoring the remaining sugar syrup as it boils to a higher temperature. You basically need three arms and three eyes and a healthy dose of courage because the likelihood is great that you will burn or otherwise maim yourself at least a little bit. I’ll never understand how anyone ever made divinity without a stand mixer.

Speed is of the essence, because once it gets “right” you’ve got to spoon spoon spoon it out onto the wax paper quick! Otherwise it goes from creamy and beautiful to craggy and crumbly in the blink of an eye. You can salvage the remainder, but again, you’ve got to work fast and add more hot, boiling water.

So when the stars align and you have your lucky rabbit’s foot in your pocket and the horseshoe is still hanging upright on the wall and you’re holding your mouth right and you have gotten down on your prayer bones and said a few words over the eggs and Karo Syrup and pecans and you feel that all’s right with the world and then some, go on! Give it a try! You’ll be rewarded by a candy that’s so good, you’ll feel like you’ve died and gone to heaven.

Or you won’t. And you’ll swear that Divinity is the work of the devil.

This recipe is one of the many good things that comes from my Southern Sideboards cookbook. It calls for mixing a cup of chopped pecans into the candy, but I don’t do that. I like to place one perfect pecan half on the top of each piece. It looks prettier.


  • I cup boiling water
  • ¾ cup light Karo Syrup
  • 3 cups sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pecan halves


  • Cook water, Karo Syrup, sugar, and salt to the soft ball stage (234° on your candy thermometer.
  • Add ½ of the syrup, a tablespoon at the time, to well-beaten egg whites beating constantly. If you have a stand mixer, this whole process is about a million times easier than trying to do it with a hand mixer.
  • Continue cooking remaining syrup until it reaches the crack stage (270°). Take a moment to pat yourself on the back for getting a candy thermometer because now you see why it is crucial to this whole process.
  • Pour sugar mixture into egg mixture and continue beating until high gloss changes to dull.
  • Fold in vanilla and drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper pressing a pecan half into the top of each piece. You’ll have to go pretty fast because it will start setting up.
  • Have some boiling water ready so that if it does start to set too fast, add 2-3 drops so that it stays creamy.

Makes about 4 dozen pieces.

2 thoughts on “Divinity is the Devil

  1. 40+years ago I tried using a hand mixer. The darn thing literally exploded! Little pieces of wire flew out, smoke, it was terrible! Of course, I cried and then bought a good mixer. We have to have a little Divinity at Christmas, don’t we?

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