A cotton candy machine works by rapidly spinning and flinging threads of hot sugar syrup through small holes in a cone that sits in the center of the machine. The cooled sugar threads accumulate in an outer bowl, and the candy maker gathers them onto a cone.
A sugar reserve bowl at the base of the center cone holds a mixture of sugar, corn syrup, food coloring, water and flavorings, and an electrical heating element around the top edge of the bowl melts the ingredients into a syrup. Once the machine starts to spin, the hot syrup is thrown against the cone walls, which are perforated with hundreds of very tiny holes. This causes the syrup to form itself into threads. Almost immediately, the threads cool and land inside the larger, outer bowl. As the candy accumulates, the candy maker collects it into a fluffy, even bundle by spinning it onto a long paper cone.
William Morrison and John C. Wharton patented the first electrical cotton candy machine in 1899. The confection was originally called "fairy floss" and was prepared by melting sugar over a flame and flinging the hot syrup with a fork. A cotton candy vending machine, introduced to the United States in 2009, is the latest development in cotton candy technology, as of 2015.