Despite its popularity today, candy corn wasn’t always associated with Halloween. It was created in the 1880s and gained popularity in the 1920s after being marketed as “chicken-feed” candy with a rooster on the box. Its harvest-time colors took it into trick-or-treat territory by the 1950s; soon, it was the king of Halloween candy.
With Halloween right around the corner, I set out to create a cake to honor the iconic treat. The frosting would be striped in the colors of candy corn, with yellow on the bottom, orange in the middle, and white on top. An easy decision.
My first approach to the cake itself was a whimsical one. I folded orange and yellow sprinkles into vanilla cake batter for a confetti look. The cake tasted great and looked nice, but it didn’t pop the way I wanted it to. I stepped back and had a think.
Halloween is a holiday that allows us to embrace being scared. But while it’s a day filled with spooky ghosts, demons, and gory slasher flicks, it is also filled with bobbing for apples, pumpkin carving, and revelry. I decided to play on the idea of good and evil, darkness and light, and to bring the good old devil into the mix: dark, chocolaty devil’s food cake. With the first cut into the cake, I knew I was onto something: The bright colors of the frosting popped against the chocolate cake. But the cake wasn’t dark enough. If this was going to be a Halloween cake, I wanted the chocolate to be witches-at-midnight dark. A quarter teaspoon of black gel food dye in the cake batter did the trick (see the final result on the left). The dark cake contrasted stunningly with the bright yellow and orange frosting. The sinister interior was the trick to the bright, cheerful exterior’s treat.
Inspired, I set out to create frosting colors with even deeper color saturation, and again, gel food dyes were the answer. It was easy to get an intense golden yellow, but orange proved to be trickier. After some experimenting, I found that adding just a little bit of red would give me true candy corn colors. I completed the cake with a ring of actual candy corn; at that moment I knew I had a cake that celebrated not just candy corn but also Halloween.
While developing this cake I discovered that the taste of candy corn is pretty divisive. When I asked coworkers about their feelings, it was either absolute love or deep hatred. But regardless of their stance on the candy, folks flocked to the cake with childlike excitement. Maybe it’s because it evoked memories of a time when what was of the utmost importance was how much candy could fill a pillowcase.