9400 Main Street, Clarence NY 14031
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"To the best of our knowledge, packs of the peppermint, white chocolate, and other versions of sponge candy are unique to Palace of Sweets, and certainly merit a visit."
Until recently, we had no idea that white sponge candy existed. We - and other Western New Yorkers - have been eating the milk and dark chocolate versions for decades, and people who have enjoyed this honeycomb-filled chocolate treat for decades longer than us had never heard of a white version, either. Then, one weekend, we came across a Clarence store called Palace of Sweets, which bore a sign dating its origins back to 1895. Lo and behold, we discovered white chocolate sponge candy alongside a dozen other flavors inside. Here are the details.
The Story: By the standards of Alethea's or Watson's, the Clarence location of Palace of Sweets - opened in 2000 or 2001, and originally from Batavia - looks more like an adjunct to a gift shop than a complete candy store; it sits in a small room alongside larger rooms stocked with everything from stuffed animals to umbrellas and wind chimes. There is a glass bon bon counter, reasonably stocked with individual pieces of chocolate, truffles, and prepackaged fudge; there are also small displays of non-chocolate candy on shelves, including jarred, flavored rock candy sticks and oversized lollipops. What caught our eyes were wicker baskets filled with both familiar and unfamiliar candies: one with large bags of peanut brittle, and several with different flavors of sponge candy.
Highs: We were genuinely impressed by the variety and quality of Palace of Sweets' sponge candy. Cherry, peach, peppermint, double dipped milk or dark, white, lemon, peanut butter, and many other flavors came pre-packaged in plastic bags, six for $2.40, so we grabbed some for sampling.
Our favorite was the peppermint, which infused the milk chocolate with a mint flavor that was just right - not overwhelming or chemical, but not subtle, either. Palace of Sweets had left the crunchy inner sponge apparently untouched, adding the accent only to the softer chocolate exterior. We also really liked the white chocolate version, which as with most white chocolate rendered the milk and dark classics with a lighter, less cocoa-rich flavor, enabling the sponge inside to further stand out.
A couple of other sponge candy versions, Irish Cream and Kahlua & Coffee, both carried detectable but not aggressive levels of their respective beverage flavors. We liked both of them, but thought they'd be lovable with stronger mixes.
Another fantastic item was Palace of Sweets' peanut brittle, served in big bags for around $5. Wonderfully fresh, crunchy, and light - with none of the chemical taste of the canned brittle - we've re-visited the shop as much to pick up a second bag of this as to try different flavors of sponge candy.
Lows: We weren't as impressed by the packaged, flavored fudge, which in our view doesn't hold a candle to the fresher versions sold at other local shops. Sold in small packages for around $2, we tried the Jack Daniels' Chocolate Bourbon flavor, and found the alcohol flavor artificial and harsh - a disappointing contrast to the authentically flavored Kentucky Bourbon Cherries we've loved for years at Alethea's.
The selection at this Palace of Sweets also feels relatively limited compared with other local candy shops; it feels as if it's designed to take up a corner of a larger store, rather than being worthy of standing alone. We'd come here specifically for the specialties, such as the flavored Sponge Candy, but we'd pick Watson's or Alethea's first for a wider selection.
The Verdict: Even after enjoying plain jane Sponge Candy for years, there's no doubt in our minds that we'll be visiting Palace of Sweets with some frequency to pick up packs of the peppermint, white chocolate, and other versions - to the best of our knowledge, they're unique to Palace of Sweets, and certainly merit a visit. Who would ever have guessed that a century-old candy shop could ever have kept delicious secrets like these for so long?