Cotton candy (American English), candy floss (British English), or fairy floss (Australian English) is a form of spun sugar. Since it consists of mostly air, servings are large. Many people consider eating cotton candy part of the quintessential experience of a visit to a fairground or circus. The most popular color of cotton candy is white, though any color can be made. Eating cotton candy is often considered only one part of its allure; the second part is the act of watching it being produced in a machine.
According to Gourmet magazine, cotton candy was invented in 1897 by William Morrison and John C. Wharton and first introduced to a wide audience at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904 as "Fairy Floss" with great success, selling 68,655 boxes at the then-high $0.25, half the cost of admission to the fair. Fairy floss was renamed to "cotton candy" in the 1920s.
Tootsie Roll of Canada Ltd. has a bagged product called "Fluffy Stuff" that it claims was first introduced at the 1893 World's Fair.
The United States celebrates National Cotton Candy Day on December 7.
The machine used to make cotton candy consists of a small bowl, into which sugar is poured and food coloring is added. The bowl is spun at high speed and heaters near the rim melt the sugar, which is squeezed out through tiny holes by centrifugal force. The molten sugar solidifies in the air and is caught in a large metal bowl. The operator of the machine (or the buyer of the cotton candy) twirls a stick around the rim of the large catching bowl, gathering the candy into portions. Modern cotton candy machines work in very much the same way as older ones.