There are three sure signs that autumn is fast approaching: the leaves begin to change color, pumpkins start showing up everywhere, and Halloween candy hits the stores. Perhaps the most ubiquitous of all seasonal sweets is Candy Corn.
Candy Corn dates back to the 1880s, and was the brainchild of George Renninger, an employee of the Wunderlee Candy Company in Philadelphia. The shape and colors are meant to resemble actual kernels of corn, though size-wise the candy is about three times as large. Candy Corn was originally made by hand and contained sugar, corn syrup, confectioner’s wax, fondant, and marshmallows. The mixture was warmed and poured into buckets, before being transferred to kernel-shaped molds by men called “stringers.” It took three passes, one for each of the colors (white, orange, and yellow). The process has since been automated, but the recipe is largely unchanged.
As popular as Candy Corn is – Brach’s sells between 9 billion and 15 billion kernels every year – it’s also one of the more reviled candies, ranking poorly in some consumer research polls. My own family would seem to back this up: neither my wife nor daughter are fans, though I love the stuff. You can find more information on our National Candy Corn Day post from last October.
Different variations of Candy Corn are available year-round these days. Over the past few years, new seasonal flavors have been added, including caramel apple and green apple (2011), pumpkin spice and S’mores (2013), and caramel macchiato and apple pie (2014). We decided to review a handful of these newer flavors, settling on caramel apple, pumpkin spice, and apple pie.
Results were a mixed bag (pardon the pun). None were as good as the original. Why mess with perfection?
All three varieties had the same chewiness and “mouth feel” as regular ol’ Candy Corn, but diverged from there. The caramel apple were the worst. They lacked any discernible flavor, making the effort of eating them pointless. Rating: 1 Knife. Don’t waste your time.
The pumpkin spice, at least, had plenty of pumpkin spice-y flavor – a little too much, IMHO. I don’t blame Brach’s for jumping on the pumpkin spice flavor trend; we can thank Starbucks for that, with the explosive popularity of their seasonal pumpkin spice lattes. These had the same flavor profile, and definitely woke up the senses. And dammit, they smell just like autumn. Rating: 3 Knives. OK in small doses.
The best of the bunch, by a long shot, were the apple pie. Believe it or not, they taste exactly like their namesake: you get clear hints of apple, cinnamon, and brown sugar. I was tempted to warm them up and add a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Candy Corn à la mode, anybody? Rating: 4 Knives. The resemblance to real apple pie is uncanny.