It’s known by a few different names: pull candy, cream candy, cream pull candy, Kentucky pull candy, pulled cream candy and myriad combinations of the aforementioned terms.
The Kentucky treat is made with just a few simple ingredients, like heavy cream, sugar, vanilla and boiling water and dates back to the 1800s.
What it lacks in ingredients, it makes up for in labor: The candy is often a team effort that involves cooking, pouring it on a cold marble, pulling, cutting, creaming and finally enjoying. The result may look basic, but the Bluegrass State delicacy has a unique smooth-crumbly texture that melts in your mouth.
From what originated in family recipe books to then being created in mass production, the candy has a storied history – with three northern Kentucky businesses at the center.
Rebecca Ruth Candy
After gifting chocolates to friends and family during past holidays, substitute school teachers Rebecca Gooch and Ruth Hanly Booe built their hobby into a candy enterprise. In 1919, the two twenty-somethings opened Rebecca Ruth Chocolates in Frankfort, Kentucky, and the business still sells “Kentucky Creamed Pull Candy” in both plain and chocolate-covered varieties. The humble pull candy is often overshadowed by the famous “bourbon ball,” which was later invented by Ruth Hanley Booe.
Ruth Hunt Candies
Two years later, Ruth Hunt of Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, began selling her homemade confections that had become a hit at her local bridge club. The demand for her sweets, which were crafted in her home, became so great that she moved from a small store in her home to a large factory.
Ruth Hunt’s Blue Monday bar, which is the cream pull candy covered in dark chocolate, is the company’s most famous product. They also come in milk chocolate and mint varieties and received their name after a preacher stopped into the store and said he needed one of the sweets to cure his “blue Monday.”
Mom Blakeman’s Candy
In the 1940s, Maxine “Mom” Blakeman began making her creamed pull candy in her home in Lancaster, Kentucky, and became the final well-known, old-school cream pull candy creator. She was encouraged to market her candy by her good friend, Colonel Harlan Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Mom Blakeman’s offers a variety of the candy: bourbon, chocolate covered with pecans, strawberry, peppermint, orange and peanut butter.
These early companies helped expand the prevalence of cream pull candy throughout Kentucky and Appalachia as a whole, and it can be found in pockets throughout the region.
Former Charleston Daily Mail reporter Zack Harold shared a story for West Virginia Public Broadcasting earlier this year about a retired coal miner in Winfield who has made the candy for 36 years.
In author Mark Sohn’s book, “Appalachian Home Cooking: History, Culture, & Recipes,” he lists “cream pull candy” in the top 50 foods associated with Appalachia — along with the likes of ramps, shuck beans, and venison.
The old-fashioned confection may have modest beginnings, but it has certainly grown to have quite an impact — not just on our culture, but on our taste buds, too.