One of the most enduring of Halloween icons, candy corn is now over 130 years old.
Back in the early 1900s, when the little striped treat was one of a variety of fondant novelties crafted into shapes like turnips, chestnuts and leaves, workmen had to run buckets of hot, sugary slurry back and forth across molds to make it. Today, companies like Jelly Belly and Brach's produce over 35 million pounds of candy corn — most of it around Halloween.
"One of the reasons candy corn has remained so popular is that it's a 'limited edition.' This is really the only time of year you can easily get it, and that limited availability makes it attractive," says Susan Whiteside, spokeswoman for the National Confectioner's Association.
Candy corn has become not only a staple of the trick-or-treat bowl, but an inspiration for seasonal decor.
Whether you're setting a festive scene or just indulging a nostalgic affection, there are lots of ways to use candy corn. You can even make some yourself — both edible and non-edible versions.
Candy corn kernels have more visual impact en masse than individually. An array of clear lidded jars filled to the brim looks wonderful. Dump a bag or two in the bottom of a hurricane or large vase; add a pillar candle, Halloween ornament, or twisty branches painted black or gold and you've got a great centerpiece.
Woman's Day magazine suggests hot-gluing kernels to Styrofoam balls for colorful bowl fillers. (www.womansday.com )
Candy corn topiaries can be made by studding foam or paper cones, adding stems, and placing in pots. Wreaths made of rows of candy, hung with a black ribbon, look striking.
And while you've got the glue out, consider adding a few candy corns to twigs to create candy "blossoms." Or, if you're patient, try stringing kernels into a garland for the mantel or door frame.
Making faux candy corn is easy, with a few craft materials in the signature colors of orange, yellow and white. Wool retailer Lion Brand provides free online patterns to crochet stuffed toys and little carry bags (www.lionbrand.com).
Get out the paint pots and paint the top and base of orange traffic cones for clever Halloween-night driveway markers. Better Homes & Gardens' website offers instructions to make a door decoration by cutting a foam cone in half lengthwise, painting it and adding dried fall plant material. Spray paint gourds and pumpkins for more entryway decor. (www.bhg.com )
Ready-made decor with the candy corn motif is easy to find; look for string lights (www.lightsforalloccasions.com), votive holders (www.pier1.com), throw pillows (www.wayfair.com) and fabric. (www.bugfabric.com)
Finally, if you're up for making your own treats, Food Network star Alton Brown has a recipe online. (www.foodnetwork.com) Evoke the idea of candy corn by creating tricolor gelatin or sherbet parfaits, and topping pretzels or cupcakes with tinted icing.
Nabisco is selling a limited run of Oreos with candy-corn-colored filling. (www.target.com)
Jamie Lothridge, a middle-school teacher and avid baker in Toledo, Ohio, who blogs about her passion at www.mybakingaddiction.com, has already repurposed the Oreos by turning them into truffles.
"As a recipe developer, new ingredients get my creativity flowing. I've long been a candy corn fanatic, and autumn is my favorite season, so making a recipe with all my favorite things is kind of a dream come true," she says.