How to Make an Ice Candle

ice candle

The Finns may have invented it, but Minnesotans perfected it.

Each winter, when the temperature plunges and the daylight hours grow short, the Minnesotan instinct is to do one of two things: cuddle up under the blanket with a cup of cocoa and wish for warmer weather; or get out there and enjoy the frozen beauty.

And, if you’ve got a bucket, a running tap, and a favorite candle, you can do your part to make that frigid landscape even more beautiful. Plus, it’s a fun activity the whole family can enjoy, one that helps defeat cabin fever.

It’s a tried-and-true Minnesota masterpiece, a winter wonder, and a very cool (pun intended) craft. Here’s how to make your very own ice candle!


Step 1 - Choose your moment

Pick a day when the temperature plunges. Below freezing is the bare minimum for this to work, of course, but things get easier the lower the mercury dips.


Step 2 - Get yourself a bucket

The classic five-gallon model will do nicely. But feel free to experiment with other sizes, as long as the bucket is plastic. Expanding ice will wreak havoc on metal containers.


Step 3 - Fill said bucket with water

Leave a few inches of space at the top so the expanding ice has someplace to go. Then place the bucket outside on your deck or lawn.


Step 4 - Be patient

Depending on the temp, it’ll take at least eight hours all the way up to 24 for your masterpiece to freeze up. You’re looking for a solid frozen top, ice walls of an inch thick all the way around, and water in the middle.


Step 5 - Warm it

You can either let the bucket sit inside for about fifteen minutes, or run it under hot water just enough to free up the sides.


Step 6 - Tip it

Pick a safe spot, staple spot outside and carefully upend the bucket. Then tip the mold over to empty out the water that didn’t freeze, leaving a void in the middle. You may have to shave around the edges of the opening to get a smooth appearance.


Step 7 - Light it

Any candle will do — except tea lights with metal bottoms, which conduct the candle’s heat and will burn a hole through the bottom of your new frozen beauty. Stick the candle inside the opening and light it. Then stand back, put your hands on you hips, and go “Ooooooooo!”


Tips and Tricks

  • Add food coloring to the water before freezing to create colored ice candles.
  • Swap out the candle and string LED lights into the opening.