Abby Slutsky has a bakery business, and loves experimenting with recipes and learning about food.
Homemade Candy Corn
Candy corn is most commonly associated with Halloween, but candy corn lovers can purchase it all year long. Although it primarily comes in vibrant orange, yellow, and white, you can also find ones that are orange, brown, and white around Halloween. It is a triangular, chewy candy that has a smooth, satisfying sweetness.
While picking up a bag or two at the store is an easy way to indulge, making your own can be a fun activity that will help you get in the spirit of the holiday.
Despite the long shelf life of commercially made candy corn—three to nine months depending on whether the bag is opened—the freshness of your homemade candy is likely to surpass what you buy in a store. Try this recipe to taste the difference.
How to Make Candy Corn
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 3/4 tablespoon of powdered milk
- Pinch of salt
- 1/3 cup of granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup of corn syrup
- 1 1/2 tablespoon of butter
- 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla or lemon juice
- Yellow and orange food coloring
- Combine confectioner’s sugar, salt, and powdered milk, and sift them. I like to sift twice because powdered sugar tends to clump, and you want a smooth dough. Use a fine sieve, if possible.
- Place the sugar, corn syrup, and butter in a medium-sized pot. Turn the stove on a medium setting, and cook the mixture until the sugar dissolves and melts. Stir the mixture occasionally.
- Continue to cook the sugar mixture until a candy thermometer indicates it is approximately 250 degrees Fahrenheit. It is okay if it is a few degrees below.
- Remove the mixture from the flame. Add the vanilla or lemon juice, depending on your desired flavor.
- Add the sifted ingredients to the mixture, and stir it until it is a thin, clay-like dough.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment, and place the dough on it. Let the dough cool for about 10 minutes or until it is cool enough to handle yet still malleable. It will become a firmer consistency as it cools. If the dough seems a little thin, knead an extra tablespoon of confectioner's sugar into it.
- Separate the dough into three sections, and tint each section with the desired food coloring. If you plan on a white section of the candy corn, you will only need to tint two sections.
- Pinch off a small piece (about 1/2 inch) of each color, and roll it into a thin rope. Then stack the ropes next to each other in the order that you want the colors to appear. Traditionally candy corn usually has yellow on the bottom, orange in the middle, and a small tip of white at the top.
- Put a piece of parchment paper over the ropes, and roll a rolling pin over the ropes to flatten them. (You can use a clean wine bottle if you do not have a rolling pin.)
- Cut the dough into small triangular pieces.
- Let the candy rest for several hours before eating it. When you first cut them, they will be soft, but they will become firm after the pieces sit for several hours.
- Wear vinyl gloves that are safe for food preparation to prevent your hands from becoming stained from food coloring.
- As someone in the baking business, I know that some food coloring brands bleed when dark colors are put next to light ones. I highly recommend the Ameri-Color food coloring because their colors do not bleed. The Ameri- Color Junior Food Paste Kit has enough colors for this project.
- This food coloring is more intense than what you will buy in a craft or grocery store. Apply a small amount at a time using a toothpick. Mix the dough with your hands, and gradually add more color until you get your desired shade.
- When you cut the candy corn, cut it so that every other tip faces you. The wide ends will vary in color, but there will be minimal dough waste.
On most commercial packages, the serving size is between 19 and 21 kernels. Unfortunately, this small number is not likely to make you feel satisfied. On the plus side, it contains little fat. However, it is far from healthy as it is usually between 140–150 calories for a small serving and has about 27–29 grams of sugar per serving.
Candy Corn Alternatives
Once you make the basic recipe, it is very versatile. It is easy to change the flavor by adding different extracts instead of vanilla or substituting orange or lemon juice. Just add the flavoring of your choice by substituting it for the same amount of vanilla in the recipe.
Other Holidays to Celebrate
Since it can be tinted any color, you can make it for virtually any holiday or event.
- St. Patrick’s Day: Dark green, sea green, and white.
- July 4th or Memorial Day: Red, white, and blue.
- Christmas: Green, red, and white.
- Valentine’s Day: Red, pink, and white.
Color and Shape Alternatives
You can also customize candy corn for a sporting event. Make it the colors of your favorite professional, high school, or college team.
If you are hosting a birthday party and plan to use the guest of honor’s favorite color as part of the theme, try making it in different shades of that color. Just tint each layer more heavily with the same food coloring to get the desired shades.
Since the dough is malleable, you can mold it into any shape you desire. Try creating small pumpkins, black bats, or white ghosts for Halloween. For Christmas, tint the dough green and shape it into small fir trees. Use your imagination to make your unique.
In addition to modifying the color and flavor of the dough, if you have sugar dietary restrictions, you can also make it sugar-free candy corn. Follow the recipe above, but with the following substitutions.
- 1/2 cup of sugar substitute instead of the sugar
- 1 cup of Truvia confectioner's sugar in place of regular confectioner's sugar
- Sugar-free maples syrup in place of the corn syrup
Note: The dough will be slightly darker than the regular recipe because the sugar-free maple syrup is dark.
Your dough will be a similar consistency to the traditional recipe; if it is a little thin, add additional Truvia confectioner's sugar, as needed.
How to Make Candy Corn Cobs
Candy corn cobs are a special way to showcase your homemade candy corn, and they can be fun to eat. Keep in mind that a candy corn cob may contain a lot more than the standard recommended serving (19–21 kernels), so you are unlikely to want to indulge in an entire ear. If you are not sure how to make them, here is a quick guide. They can be perfect for Halloween, Thanksgiving, or April Fool's Day.
Pro Tips for Making Candy Corn Cobs
- Make your homemade candy corn with a layer of yellow dough at each end. No matter which direction you are cutting the triangular piece, you will have a wide end of yellow for your corn cob.
- Make one cob at a time. That way, the cob will stay firm and not get sticky.
- Make cobs when you are not rushed. The process can take up to an hour (depending on how many ears you make) since you need to insert each kernel individually into the cookie dough cob.
- Packaged or Homemade Candy Corn, preferably with yellow bottoms
- Packaged Cookie Dough (Check the package at the store; many prepared cookie doughs in the slice and bake refrigeration section are safe to consume raw.)
- Create a short log of cookie dough about one inch thick and the length of a third of an ear of corn. Freeze the logs for 45 minutes. Then take the logs off the cookie sheet, and refrigerate them.
- Place the cold cookie sheet on a counter. Then line it with a fresh piece of parchment. Place one log on the cold cookie sheet. Pour some candy corn on the parchment.
- Create rows of ‘corn’ by inserting the white tip of the candy corn into your cookie log. Work horizontally across each row to give each cob the best appearance. As you finish each cob, return it to the refrigerator before creating another one.
|Reasons to Like Candy Corn||Reasons to Dislike Candy Corn|
It's customizable for any occasion.
It may be too sugary and sweet.
It can be used as candy or a decoration.
You may not like the taste.
It's fat-free and a good option for people allergic to chocolate.
It was historically, known as "chicken feed."
History and Controversy
I know few people who get excited over a bag of candy corn, including myself. Nevertheless, is it really the most hated candy?
It appears in stores year after year, so someone is buying it. Not only do stores sell it during Halloween, but you can occasionally find it in other holiday colors for Christmas and Valentine's Day.
When Was Candy Corn Invented?
The candy has an interesting history, and its existence since the late 1800s suggests that there are quite a few fans. According to An Oral History of Candy Corn, the Most Polarizing Confection of Them All, an employee of Wunderlee Candy Company named George Renninger was the first to create candy corn in the 1880s. Back then, it was made by hand. Originally, the sugar syrup clay was poured into molds to get its shape. Today, the process is completely automated with special candy-making machinery.
In the early 1900s, agriculture and farming were a way of life, and candy corn was packaged in a box that had a rooster on it, and it was called “Chicken Feed.”
Whether You Eat It or Decorate With It, Candy Corn Is a Winner
Despite some negativity about candy corn (including the chicken feed nickname), I would argue that it does have its place. It is fat-free, and some people are allergic to chocolate, which makes it a good alternative for those who want to indulge in a Halloween treat.
Even better, it can be customized for any occasion and has weathered the test of time. Even if you do not want to eat it, you can put it in jars with a pretty holiday ribbon or sprinkle it in the middle of a table to create a festive appearance. You might indulge in a few pieces around the holidays and enjoy a touch of sweetness.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Abby Slutsky
Abby Slutsky (author) from America on June 18, 2021:
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and reading.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 18, 2021:
I had no clue you could make so many different things with candy corn, Abby. I don't really every eat candy corn, but I sure did as a child. Thanks for all the interesting ideas with simple directions.