Mon Pain de Sucre

Does anyone know what this is used for?…


This solid cone of sugar was given to me by a friend. It weights about 2 kilos (4½ pounds) and is from Morocco.

Can’t figure out what to do with it, or what it’s used for. But I don’t think I need to buy sugar for a while, although I can’t really use it for baking. It’s too big to crush in my mortar and pestle.

So what does one do with a Pain de sucre?

Use it for sweetening a big pot of tea?
Is it an edible weapon?

(Easily dissolvable evidence…)

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  • k
    September 17, 2007 4:36am

    In Germany it is often used for “Feuerzangenbowle”, a type of punch. To make it, you mix various spices (anise, cloves, cinnamon), lemons, and oranges with red wine and then light a sugar cone that has been soaked in rum (45%, at least) over the “punch” and let the sugar burn and drip into the liquid.

    Check out the German wikipedia site for pictures.

    The drink comes from a cult film of the same name.

  • Maureen
    September 17, 2007 4:43am

    Gee, what a nice friend!
    I asked my Tunisian nanny what she thought it might be. She has never seen anything like it so I guess it is native to just the west side of North Africa.
    Maybe it is for industrial sized baking like dropping it into a big vat of bubbling something to make cookies or cake.

  • September 17, 2007 5:02am

    It now comes to me that you are young. It’s also known as a sugar loaf. It’s how all sugar was produced and bought centuries back, Colonial days for USians. There are lovely antiques called sugar safes in which it was locked, because it was expensive and hard to get.

    The loaf was grated to produce usable sugar for cooking and tea– they didn’t yet have corn flakes. What we have now is granulated sugar, even if we rarely say it, to distinguish it from this loaf. I suppose nowadays it is just a lovely conceit, but use it anyway before it become ant season again, or buy a sugar safe.

  • September 17, 2007 5:06am

    Judith: Me? Young? Don’t tell me you go back to the colonial days?

    My friend who gave it to me said there’s a big iron snipper they use for lop of chunks, but she didn’t know what for.

  • September 17, 2007 5:32am

    Yup, Feuerzangenbowle!

    It’s lovely and looks spectacular.

    But, k, surely the film was named after the punch, and not the other way round (“Feuerzange” simply means “fire tongs” which you need to hold the sugar cone).

    Recently, it has become popular in Germany to have punch parties in December where people watch the film while getting drunk on Feuerzangenbowle. Which miraculously increases the film’s funniness hugely.

  • September 17, 2007 5:45am

    19th century recipes use loaf sugar … Mrs Beeton is full of them, for instance. Scrape it off, and bash it in that beautiful mortar of yours


  • September 17, 2007 6:50am

    David, buy the safe. It’s clear to me that your research into appurtenances is going to take a while. My MIND often goes back that far or even farther, since the history of food is much less fattening than the food itself. That said, my kid knows about loaf sugar too! And she is young as well. Youth blows out the window one day when you aren’t looking at about 60.

  • September 17, 2007 8:14am

    Looks like a bleached version of panela?


  • September 17, 2007 8:56am

    I think it is beautiful! People in the US who like the primitive/colonial style of decoration buy or make reproduction sugar cones for display. Here is a link to one that gives a little US history (like Judith mentioned):

    Old Homestead Peddler

    Easy to make with brown sugar, vanilla for scent, a scant amount of water and a skillet. Pour into a mold (styrofoam cup would work). After set, roll it in some cinnamon to “grunge” it up. Though I’m guessing primitive isn’t your style…

  • September 17, 2007 9:00am

    Miss Sassy: Thanks for the link.

    Did you see the part where it says:

    “This is for decorative use only.”

    Have never heard of ‘non-edible’ sugar!

  • September 17, 2007 9:23am

    when i go to my favourite north african restaurant, there’s a sugar cone like this on the counter. the boss usually take a little hammer and put the sugar pieces in the pot of tea with a lot of mint too. It does not seem to be so hard to crush, althought i never tried myself. After he had served tea, the sugar cone stays on it’s tray, and his children take some little bits, en passant :) .
    maybe you could melt this huge amount of sugar and make some sugar-skull-heads, for el dia de los muertos ? :)

  • September 17, 2007 10:54am

    loaf of sugar! how fun. looks a little naughty to me.

  • September 17, 2007 11:07am

    Laughed at “edible weapon–easily disposable evidence.: Like the Hitchcock TV show decades ago where the person killed spouse with frozen leg of lamb and then cooked and ate the murder weapon.

  • Malina
    September 17, 2007 11:16am

    It is a sugar cone. It used to be sold like that in the 19th century. I believe people grated it to get the right amount. Grating it would be fun. There are still places where you can get this type of packaging in the US.

  • September 17, 2007 11:20am


  • Steve
    September 17, 2007 11:24am

    Aren’t there some ski resorts and mountain peaks named Sugarloaf? Now I understand where the term came from.

  • September 17, 2007 11:52am

    When I lived in Mexico they used this for desserts but also for a great drink around the holidays involving brandy and some fresh sugar cane- yum, I miss those days.

  • September 17, 2007 11:53am

    When I was a kid we were taken to the Georgian House in Bristol (Great George St, I believe), where we were shown around a Georgian kitchen and all the old rooms of the house and I remember being given a loaf of suigar to grate and thinking it great (but what tiresome work it must have been! It’s no wonder so many old recipes have honey in).
    If you ever come to Bristol (UK) you can stay in The Hotel du Vin, which is an old sugar house right next to where the boats would have docked before they covered over the river Frome with the centre of town. There is also a proliferation of Tobacco Factories and other businesses left over from our history marred by the wrongdoings of the slave trade.

  • September 17, 2007 1:42pm

    Yup, like all the other people said: Feuerzangenbowle. Set it on fire…it turns beautiful colors. Don’t forget to turn off the lights!

  • Monica
    September 17, 2007 4:22pm

    Hi David,
    Check Harold McGee’s chapter on sugar, you’ll get all the info on the sugar loaf and its historical roots…

  • cj
    September 17, 2007 4:59pm

    Well, I’m not sure what it is used for, but I certainly know what it looks like, if that’s any help.

  • September 17, 2007 5:32pm

    Goodness it looks like it is a plug for something. . .

  • September 17, 2007 7:07pm

    WE have to thank Parisian epicier, Eugene Francois in 1875 for inventing the sugar cube.
    Before only these pain de sucre were available.
    I’ve seen these in Galeries Lafayette.
    But this reminds me most of Rio’s Pico de Azucar – Sugarloaf mountain :)

  • annie
    September 17, 2007 7:51pm

    Yes, I agree with the German flame drink! We had it last ski season and it was not only very tasty, but great fun to watch. P.S. LOVED your salty caramel ice cream recipe!

  • Cathy
    September 17, 2007 9:11pm

    Yes, sugar nippers were used to break off chunks from cones of sugar.
    Also, to King Pippin: many old recipies call for honey because abolitionists in America and England were following a sugar boycott (since sugar was produced on plantations worked by slaves).

  • Saghi
    September 17, 2007 10:12pm

    I know that the cone or something similar is also used in Persian wedding ceremonies…traditionally, two of the flat ends of the sugar are rubbed together over the couple’s head (with a cloth above the couple) during the wedding ceremony.

  • September 18, 2007 12:57am

    Yup, you chip pieces off for mint tea (atay nnanna). “Decorative use only” sounds like a weird disclaimer.

  • September 18, 2007 5:35am

    I could not have that much sugar in my apartment at one time.

  • September 18, 2007 5:57pm

    feuerzangenbowle springs to mind here … happy, boozy memories, perfect for a long winter evening or a dramatic new year’s treat ;-)

  • Joanne
    September 18, 2007 6:15pm

    Looked like an enlarged picture of a suppository to me.

  • Lyn
    September 19, 2007 3:41am

    Take a lick every day and you’ll have 30 years of sugar high moments.. Or maybe even more..

  • Ramon
    September 19, 2007 12:20pm

    In Mexico these are called piloncillo except they are brown, so this seems to be from slightly more refined sugar.

    Rick Bayless from the Frontera Grill in Chicago has a fabulous pecan pie recipe (combining cultures) using piloncillo as sweetener. It’s a pain to lop off chunks with a big knife but then you just melt them into a simple syrup and proceed. And you have little bits of sugar bouncing across the room so it isn’t extremely practical.

    I always thought it much richer than plain brown sugar.

    Surely you’ll find something worthwhile to do with it foodwise, notwithstanding the fun commentary on its shape.


  • Abby
    September 19, 2007 4:57pm

    I saw these throughout India and in the asian markets locally. My friends just chip off of it and add it to a batch of chai.

  • September 20, 2007 5:36pm

    Oh la la la la la la! You can invite me over for tea anytime. Gros Bisous, Ms. Glaze

  • September 20, 2007 11:39pm

    Get a big bottle of absinthe and a very large sieve and you’re in business!

    I love your blog and books!
    Gumbeaux Gal


  • Adam
    September 22, 2007 9:07pm

    In the 17th & 18th centuries, when refined sugar was a luxury reserved only for the most wealthy, such a sugar-loaf was presented to one’s guests at the end of a meal on a special platter ~ the hole in the center of the loaf is for a vertical rod on the pallter ,intended to hold the loaf upright. Specially designed scrapers were used to shred dust from the loaf which was then ued to sweeten tea or other beverages.

    WONDERFUL web-site & blog, by the way. My wife & I are planning Thanksgiving-week in Paris and you’ve provided many terrific ideas.

    Your books are good too ;~)