While one would think that Halloween would be National Candy Corn Day, it’s not. National Candy Corn Day actually falls on October 30th is National Candy Corn Day. Get ready to celebrate!
Candy corn was originally created in the 1880s by the Wunderlee Candy Company. By 1900, it was being produced by the Goelitz Candy Company – now Jelly Belly. That’s right, the people who bring you buttered popcorn, jalapeno, and margarita flavored jelly beans are responsible for the most recognizable of Halloween candies.
Candy corn came by its name because each piece is roughly the shape of a kernel of corn. In the beginning, the kernel shape made these popular with farmers, but it was the fact that it had three colors, which at that time was incredibly innovative, that drew most folks to this confection.
Today, most candy corn comes in the traditional white on top, orange in the middle and yellow on bottom arrangement. It is possible to find corn in other color combinations. These include brown, orange and white at Thanksgiving. That combination is usually chocolate flavored. There is also green, red and white for Christmas, pastel colored for Easter and Pink, red and white for Valentine’s Day. The white, orange and yellow is the iconic candy corn.
Originally, candy corn was made primarily from sugar, corn syrup, fondant and marshmallow. The mixture was cooked together to the proper temperature. Then the hot mixture would be poured into cornstarch molds to set up. Once they set, the candies would be turned out. The cornstarch would fall away and then pressed into fresh molds. When it was first made, workers would have to pour the mixture one color at a time into molds. When a color started to set, the next color could be added. In the beginning, the candy would only be available from March to November. Today, the whole process is automated and candy corn is available year round.
The original recipe has changed over time. Few brands contain fondant or marshmallow. Most recipes today are sugar, corn syrup, gelatin and vanilla. Some brands, like Brach’s, include honey in the mix. (The actual list of ingredients for the Brach’s Brand is Sugar, Corn Syrup, Salt, Honey, Confectioner’s Glaze, Gelatin, Dextrose, Artificial Colors, Sesame Oil and Artificial Flavor. A serving of candy corn has about 22 pieces and contains 140 calories and 36 carbs. Despite having sesame oil in the recipe, the makers claim it contains no fat.)
I prefer the taste and texture of Brach’s Candy Corn to other brands. I’m not a great aficionado, but I do find that the addition of honey adds a depth of flavor missing in many other brands. I also like the texture of Brach’s which seems softer and creamier than many others. It doesn’t have the gritty feel of some other brands.
I like the ritual of candy corn more than I actually like the taste of candy corn. For me, the ritual involves laying out a few pieces in a single layer. I then eat each individual kernel starting at the pointy end. I try to eat off all of one without eating any of the next color. In this way, each perfectly eaten piece of candy corn requires three bites to consume.
Because it is small, uniform and colorful candy corn is great for crafts. I use it with little children. We stick the pieces to paper using white glue and make flowers. I use candy corn on cupcakes to make Dracula’s fangs. You can leave candy corn in whatever tri-color combination they come in, or you can draw on them with markers. If you plan to eat them, make sure you are using food grade markers. If you are gluing the candy corn to paper, it’s okay to use any craft marker. I find permanent marker works best. If I am coloring candy corn, I will make sure to hold each piece with a set of tweezers to keep from getting marker on my fingers.
You can thread candy corn on embroidery or dental floss for a candy necklace. Do not use markers on candy corn jewelry as the colors will bleed. If you are not planning to eat the candy corn beads, you can spray them with a shellac to give them extra shine and make them last.
For friends who hand wreaths on their doors, I will make a wreath by tying up packets of candy in plastic wrap. Then I pin the little packets to a Styrofoam wreath. I will add in silk leaves, gourds, dried Indian corn, silk leaves and dried corn husks. This can be left on a door for the season, or used as a Halloween centerpiece. To make it more Halloween-like, I will add plastic spider rings, gummy eyeballs or mini-pumpkins colored with jack-o-lantern faces. The final touch, for me, is to have a gummy rat running across the top of the wreath. Once Halloween has passed, I can use the same base for Thanksgiving with the creepy bits removed.
Candy corn has history. It has ritual. It has its own holiday. Take a few moments this year to figure out how to celebrate this tasty and versatile icon of the season. Just imagine, an at home contest – Iron Chef with the secret ingredient – Candy Corn.