As any watcher of the Food Network can tell you, you eat with your eyes first, so good presentation is key. These candied citrus zest curls are a great beginner’s decoration to work your way up to the elusive tempered chocolate, fondant work, and sugar sculptures.

Baking has many appeals, but for me, the highlight is decorating the finished product. An elegant garnish like these curls is sure to bring my well-piped cupcake or glazed pound cake to the next level.

Candied Citrus Zest Curls

  • Prep Time:10 minutes
  • Cook Time:1 hour 35 minutes
  • Total Time:1 hour 45 minutes
  • Servings:5-10 curls
  • Medium


  • 1 lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 10 oz water
Photo by Aimee Moses
  • Step 1

    Preheat the oven to 175 degrees.

  • Step 2

    Zest fruit peels with the large hole of a zester, trying to make strips around 5 inches long.

    If you don’t have a large option on your zester, you can use a vegetable peeler around the width of the fruit and cut the wide zest into narrow strips. Or you can be precise and follow the directions here.

    Photo by Aimee Moses
  • Step 3

    Dissolve 1 cup of the sugar in the water in a saucepan over low heat, stirring regularly. When the sugar is fully dissolved, you shouldn’t feel any crystals on the bottom of the pan.

    Photo by Don Moses
  • Step 4

    Add the zest and let simmer, uncovered, for 30-45 minutes, until the peel is translucent.

    #SpoonTip: To candy grapefruit zest, first boil the zest in 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil 2-3 times with fresh water each time. Boiling eliminates the bitterness of the zest.

    Photo by Aimee Moses
  • Step 5

    Drain the mixture and toss the zest in the remaining sugar. Then, curl the zest around wooden skewers or toothpicks.

    #SpoonTip: The sugar-water is now a flavored simple syrup. Save it in an air-tight container in the fridge for iced tea or other baking uses.

    Photo by Aimee Moses
  • Step 6

    Place the skewered curls on parchment paper, careful not to let them touch each other, and bake at 175 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour.

    Photo by Aimee Moses