sealPurdue News

November 1996

Purdue students put the 'happy' back into birthday candles

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: A color photo of the students with the candles is available from Purdue News Service, (765) 494-2096. Ask for the photo called Soybean Candles/Schweitzer or download here.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Now you can have your cake and eat the candles, too, thanks to three Purdue University students who have created an edible birthday cake candle that uses hydrogenated soybean oil instead of petroleum-based paraffin.

The peppermint-flavored candles don't drip and have a slightly shorter flame height. Christened "Flavor Favors" by their student inventors, the soy-based candles burn an average 25 seconds longer than commercial candles.

The candles took first place in a universitywide undergraduate student competition sponsored by Purdue's Department of Agronomy and the Indiana Soybean Development Council. Inventors Amy Khal of Iowa City, Iowa , Rahul Nair of Jackson, Miss., and Adam Watkins of Goshen, Ind., all students in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, split a $5,000 prize.

The composition of the candles is 83 percent hydrogenated soybean oil; 16 percent glycerol, a sweet emulsifier; about 1 percent coloring; and a bit of concentrated peppermint oil for flavoring. A combination of fully and partially hydrogenated soybean oil gives the blue, red and yellow candles form and texture; the glycerol makes the candles slightly softer and easier to chew. The peppermint oil could be replaced by other flavors as desired, Khal said.

Watkins, who was the designated candle eater for the team, says he wants to continue work on replacing the cotton wick with something tastier. Watkins is maintaining a World Wide Web page for the project at

CONTACT: Chris Sigurdson, agricultural communications, (765) 494-8415; home, (317) 497-2433; e-mail,

To receive the full text of a news release about the edible candles, send an e-mail message to that says "send punews 9604f41

Photo caption:
Purdue agricultural engineering students Adam Watkins, Amy Khal and Rahul Nair have invented edible birthday cake candles that use soybean oil, an earth-friendly renewable resource, in place of petroleum-based paraffin. Their invention won them $5,000 as the first-place entry in a Purdue contest for new uses for soybeans. (Purdue News Service photo by David Umberger.)
Color print, electronic transmission , and Web or ftp available. Photo ID: Schweitzer/Soycandles

* To the Purdue News and Photos Page