Candied Citron and the Promise of Earl’s Cake

I am not going to sugarcoat what happened here.  I had a lot of issues. 

The recipe I found advised to cook the citron cubes at a light simmer for roughly thirty minutes until they turned translucent.  After well over an hour, opaque citrus bits were still bobbing in the pan. No lucidity to be had. 

I also knifed my way quite blindly through a Buddha’s hand citron.  With its bumpy canary yellow fingers protruding spindly out, it’s a pretty intimidating fruit to cut. Not to mention the entire candying process ended a little later than expected.  11:40 PM on a Wednesday night to be exact.

And, in the midst of things, a certain someone came home and said, “what are ya doing?”  Sounds innocent enough.  But I know this comment. 

It gets said from the other room if I’m cooking a steak and the sizzling gets too loud.  It gets said if I am making beans and I mindlessly dump out the cooking liquid.  It gets said if I attempt to truss a two pound bird.

It’s not really a question.  More of a statement.  The translation: “you're doing it wrong.”  

But this comes with the territory when you happen to date a very talented chef.  In this case—thank heavens—it caused some recipe adaptations that produced lovely crystallized citrus bits, while also allowing me the luxury of getting to bed before midnight. A win-win.

Especially with the candied citron.  After letting it rest overnight in a cookie sheet full of sugar, the outer bits hardened to a light, sparkly sugar coat while the inner flesh stayed soft.  A garnish destined for a dessert plainly called “Earl’s favorite cake” from the blog Julie Takes Photos (previously titled Always with Butter).

It's is an heirloom recipe taken from a family that I have no ties to.  But when you see great grandpa Earl holding out his cake in a little saucer garnished with sugary fruit, twinkle in his eye, you’ll see why I was moved to candy citron.

Who knows how the cake recipe will turn out.  Some recipes shine.  Others never quite make it.  The ones that work for me are what you see posted here. 

Overall, I try not to blame recipes too much.  Ingredients, kitchens, and cooks are all different.  There is no one way of doing anything.  

As a result, today I happen to have candied citron.  And later—if I’m lucky—I’ll have some of Earl’s favorite cake.

Candied Buddha's Hand Citron
Adapted loosely from David Lebovitz


2 buddha’s hand citrons
3 cups of sugar, plus additional sugar for tossing the fruit into
1 tbsp light corn syrup


Wash and dry the citron fruits and cut them into ¼-½ inch rough cubes (I cut only the pieces of citron that touched rind, which meant I discarded some of the all white center).  Place the citron pieces in a large saucepan and cover generous with water so that the pieces bob about.  Simmer for over 1 hour or until the pieces just start to turn translucent (mine never fully turned).

Drain the citron.  Place 3 cups of sugar, 2 cups of water, and the corn syrup into the large saucepan.  Place the citron back into the pan and cook the sugary citron mixture on medium heat until the temperature reaches 230 degrees (or until the syrup is very thick and almost gone).  As the citron gets close to being done, stir the pot occasionally to ensure the citron pieces don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.  (The citron should turn completely translucent during this stage, which took about an hour.)

Once done, turn off the heat and let the citron sit in the syrup until it cools (20-30 minutes).  Strain out the citron using a slotted spoon and place the bits onto a sheet pan with sugar tossed in it.  Roll the citron around in the sugar, breaking it up into bite size pieces if the citron starts to clump.  

Let the citron dry out overnight (uncovered) in the sugar and then place the candied citron pieces into airtight containers. (Dust off any excess sugar first.)

Makes about 4 cups

-The yield may vary a bit depending on the size of your citron.

-These make wonderful last minute gifts.


  1. I love it when a recipe doesn't end up you expected and yet still turns out to be wonderful. Candied citron does sound like a lovely Christmas gift!

  2. Haha, such a great story. I have to admit, I've definitely pulled the "what are you doing?" move, but only on my sister.

  3. I spent yesterday candying citron as well! I used the Chez Panisse Fruit recipe, which requires blanching the fruit three times and omits corn syrup. It also called for more sugar, so maybe that accounts for the difference? I barely watched it and turned it off once it began boiling over. I worry the blanching may have reduced some of the flavor--hope not. I did bottle plenty of leftover syrup for festive cocktails, so that's a nice bonus.
    I was planning on gifting some and making panforte, but I'll have to check out that cake recipe too--thanks!

  4. I love the “what are ya doing?” comment!
    I know it all too well! :-)

  5. Glad to see I'm not the only one who has experienced the "what are ya doing?" moment. ;)

    Valhalla-I'll have to check out that Chez Panisse recipe, thanks for the tip!