Caramel Candy Corn

I’m working my way through some caramel recipe ideas that have been keeping me awake at night, and it hasn’t been a hardship for me at all; I love caramel! I don’t think I’ve ever met a bowl of caramel corn that I didn’t like, and this is no exception. Of course, I also love candy corn. If you’re not a fan (and I know there are some of you out there) you can substitute something else that screams “Fall” to you. Maybe Reeses Pieces? M&Ms? Black licorice? (Haha, got you there. Black licorice would be gross. I think. Hmm.)

I like lots of nuts in my caramel corn, so I used a generous amount of peanuts. Any nuts would be good, though. They have a tendency to stay at the bottom of the pan, so do try to encourage them to mingle with the popcorn. Of course, if you remember what Cracker Jack was like, the peanuts (all two of them) were always at the bottom of the box. Rebels!

A drizzle of melted white, yellow, and orange candy melts added to the festive autumn theme. Go lightly with melted white chocolate; it can overwhelm the flavor of the caramel, and you wouldn’t want to do that!

I use little pastry bags and melt the white chocolate in a glass of hot water. No mess!

The recipe calls for 4 quarts of popcorn, which may sound like a lot, but believe me—it really isn’t. This stuff has a tendency to disappear before your very eyes, and it stores well in an airtight container. I used mushroom popcorn because I wanted the big, round, fluffy kernels.

Speaking of recipes, do you see how short this one is? That’s because this is EASY. And oh, so satisfying. Do it! Seriously, just do it!

Caramel Candy Corn
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Ingredients
  • 4 quarts popped corn
  • 1 cup peanuts (or any nut you like)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup butter
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup candy corn
  • 10 each: white, yellow, and orange candy melts (optional)
Instructions
  1. Grease a really large pot or bowl. (I use coconut oil.) Put popcorn and nuts in the pot and stir to combine. Set aside.
  2. Lightly grease a 12x18x2" cake pan - or two 9x12" pans. Set aside.
  3. Heat oven to 225 F.
  4. In a large saucepan combine brown sugar, butter, honey, water, and salt over medium heat. Stir constantly until mixture comes to a boil. Drop heat to medium-low. Adjust as necessary to keep mixture gently boiling for 5 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat.
  5. Stir in the vanilla and baking soda and pour over the popcorn and nuts. Stir well.
  6. Scoop into the prepared baking pan(s) and place in the oven. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and stir in the candy corn. Dump out onto a piece of parchment or foil and allow caramel corn to cool completely.
  8. Melt each color of candy melt separately - either in small dishes in the microwave or by putting candy in small pastry bags or zip-type bags in a glass of hot water. (Don't let water touch the candy or it will seize up.) Drizzle over caramel corn. Let the drizzle harden before storing or serving.

Putting together the ingredients for the caramel.

Boil for 5 minutes without stirring

The baking soda will foam up. Just give it a few good stirs and pour it over the popcorn and nuts.

Stir hot caramel into popcorn

Spread into greased pan and bake.

I got this in just under the wire because tomorrow is October and I’m moving on . . . to maple. No pumpkin spice here, folks. We’re going for Maple Madness!

Lorinda

 

Caramel Rose Pecan Cupcakes

Celebrate fall with these luscious cupcakes filled with caramel, pecan, and cream cheese. Adding a drizzle of caramel and an elegant caramel rose will create a perfect dessert for the upcoming holidays.

The cupcakes are delicious, but let’s not pretend that they’re the focus here. It’s the rose. It’s all about the rose!

Believe it or not, the roses are very simple to make. All you’ll need is a bag of caramels, a sturdy rolling pin, a small round cutter, and parchment paper. I was blown away by how easy it was to work with caramels. They aren’t sticky, they don’t dry out when you’re playing with them, and they stretch and curl obligingly when you want them to. They stay pliable and . . . well . . . edible, unlike gum paste or candy clay.

And the cake itself is very basic. If your inclination is to reach for a boxed mix, I understand. But if you’d like to try your hand at making a cake from scratch, this would be the recipe to use. You’d have to add eggs, butter, and water to the mix; why not add just a few more ingredients, make the cake from scratch, and avoid the additives that are in packaged mixes?

Compare!

I think the hardest thing about this recipe is unwrapping the caramels, but if I can do it YOU can do it! Speaking of caramels, do you remember when Kraft had chocolate caramels, too? They’re back. Hard to find, but I just ordered some online. I’ll bet they’d make lovely roses too.

An 11-ounce bag will give you about 40 caramels. You’ll use 22 for the roses, and the remaining 18 for the filling. (Good grief, don’t sweat it if you’re short a caramel or two. You have to check to make sure they’re fresh, right?)

So, you’ll start out with the filling, then make the cake batter. You can create the roses while the cupcakes are baking, and make the frosting once they have cooled. And you know the drill: boxed cake, canned frosting, leave out the filling . . . anything goes. Simple chocolate cupcakes with fudge icing would look great with the roses too. Just make sure you make the roses!

First, the cupcake recipe:

Caramel Rose Pecan Cupcakes
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Makes approximately 18 cupcakes.
Ingredients
  • FILLING:
  • 18 unwrapped caramels
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • ½ cup cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ cup chopped pecans (toasted for the best flavor)
  • CAKE:
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1½ cups cake flour (all-purpose flour may be substituted)
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • Buttercream icing (or icing of your choice)
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan on low heat, melt the caramels and cream, stirring often. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese and brown sugar thoroughly. Add egg yolk and beat well.
  3. Once the caramel is lukewarm but still fluid, add to cream cheese mixture. Beat well. Stir in chopped pecans. Set aside.
  4. Heat oven to 350 F. Place 18 paper liners in cupcake pans.
  5. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy - at least 2 minutes.
  6. Mix in vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly and scraping the sides of the bowl between each egg.
  7. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  8. Add half of the flour mixture the butter mixture. Beat well and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add half of the milk. Beat well and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Repeat.
  9. Fill cupcake liners halfway. Don't add too much; you need to leave room for filling. If you have extra batter, make another cupcake or two.
  10. Using a tablespoon, place a scant spoonful of filling in each cup, using the spoon to make a small depression in the batter before scooping the filling into the center. The filling will still show on top, but this will help some of it to sink into the cupcake.
  11. Bake for approximately 24 minutes, until golden brown around the edges. Test with a toothpick, making sure to insert on the side of the cupcake, away from the gooey center.
  12. Cool thoroughly before icing and decorating.

Just follow the instructions; you can’t go wrong!

I’m going to cut right to the caramel rose directions.

  1. Use a large piping tip, or a cap from a bottle of water or a milk carton—whatever you can find that’s round and approximately 1 inch across—to cut out the caramel circles.
  2. I found that working with one caramel at a time is easiest. Place it between sheets of parchment and roll out thin. You should be able to cut 4 circles out of it with a reasonable amount of leftover scraps. (Pile them up and roll them out later.)
  3. In the picture below, the pieces of caramel in the background are round. That’s because I put each one in a tortilla press. It made it a little easier to roll out that way but isn’t necessary at all. And I’m still scratching my head about the fact that I put a square caramel in the press (between sheets of parchment) and it flattened the caramel into a perfect circle. WTH?
  4. Cut one circle at a time and pop it out of the cutter. If you let them stack up in there, they’re a real bear to separate. I know this for a fact! This would be a fun activity for kids to do and allow you to go right to the fun part of forming roses. It takes 9 rounds to make a rose.
  5. Set your finished roses on the counter (uncovered) or in a mini-tart pan for a little more support. If the rose flattens, just fluff it back out.

Cut out 1-inch circles. (The rounds in the background still need to be rolled out.)

Roll one circle to make the center. Overlap 3 petals around the center. Overlap 5 petals for the outside layer, pulling edges thin and curling down if desired. Petals can be shaped and enlarged before wrapping or after, whichever is easiest. (If you want to have enough caramel for a few leaves, you can cut some of that stem off and add it to the scraps.)

They’re your roses; make them 7 petals instead of 9 if you want. Play with the shapes of the petals. Make some big ones, some small. Play with your food! If you have any leftover caramel, a few leaves make the cupcake even prettier.

Use your favorite icing. I made a basic buttercream for this batch.

I had so much fun making these, and I’ll bet you will too. The roses would be perfect on individual brownies. Or chocolate cookies. Or . . . well, I’ll leave something to your imagination.

Lorinda

 

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Dessert

column5 088Dump cakes are new to me. Whenever one would pop up on Facebook, I’d just move along because why would anyone want to eat something with the worddump” in it? Seriously, can you think of a single positive connotation? Besides that, they use a boxed cake mix, which I try to stay away from.

Then I ate a pumpkin dump cake at a club meeting, and was smitten. The flavors, the crunch. (Cue erotic moaning here.)

When I was experimenting with homemade make-ahead cake mixes for my October Food for Thought column (which will be up on October 2) the logical thing to test it on – besides a cake –  was a pumpkin dessert. I wheedled the recipe from the lady at club, added pockets of cheesecake to the recipe and used lots of pecans. I also may have topped the warm dessert with a scoop of maple nut ice cream.

And I was, for once, speechless. It was beyond good. My personal preference when it comes to desserts is for something plain. A slice of angel food cake. A brownie. A bowl of ice cream. I have no problem with making complicated recipes – the harder and more involved it is, the more I enjoy the process – but I  would rather eat something simple, and this was just so…busy looking.

Honey, let me tell you – looks aren’t everything. The complex flavors will make you weep.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how to make the filling for pumpkin pie, right? You just grab a 15 oz. can of Libby’s solid pack pumpkin and follow instructions. Or you buy the pre-made kind in a can. Or you follow your grandma’s recipe with condensed milk or whipping cream and brandy.

The foundation of this dessert is a batch of pumpkin pie filling. Covered with dollops of cream cheesy goodness. Suffocated with a thick layer of dry cake mix. Drizzled with melted butter. Adorned with pecans. What’s not to love?

If you must use a boxed white cake mix, that’s OK.  If you would like to make yours from scratch, here’s a small version of my cake mix. You’ll use about 1/2 of this (my cake mix is a little more generous than the packaged kind). Save the rest in an airtight container for your next dump cake, or check out the October Yummy column for the full cake recipe.

White Cake Mix

3 cups cake flour
1/2 cup dry milk powder
1 3/4 cups sugar (I use superfine, but regular is OK)
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Thoroughly whisk together all ingredients. Use half of this recipe for topping a dump cake and store the rest in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 months.

Here’s how it all gets put together:

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Dessert
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Serves 12 A scoop of ice cream is lovely over this warm dessert.
Ingredients
  • Pumpkin pie filling for one pie
  • 1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 package white cake mix, DRY!
  • ¾ cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup (or more) chopped pecans
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 F.
  2. Grease and flour (I use Baker's Joy spray) a 9x13 cake pan or casserole dish.
  3. Spread the pumpkin pie filling evenly in the bottom of pan.
  4. Cream the cream cheese, powdered sugar, flour, vanilla, and egg together well.
  5. While beating, slowly add the milk a little at a time. You may not need all the milk - it depends on the size of your egg. I use jumbo eggs and 2 tablespoons was just right. The goal is to have the mixture the texture of thick pudding.
  6. Drop the cream cheese mixture in rounded tablespoons over the pumpkin. Take a knife and pull it through gently. You don't want to mix the pumpkin and cream cheese...you just want to have it evenly distributed. Another option would be to put the cream cheese filling in a zipper bag, cut the tip off, and pipe it all over the pumpkin.
  7. Cover completely with dry cake mix.
  8. Drizzle evenly with melted butter.
  9. Sprinkle with pecans.
  10. Bake for approximately 1 hour. Let it cool on a rack and eat it when it's barely warm.
  11. Refrigerate leftovers.

 

Globs of cream cheese mixture, covered with dry cake mix.

Drop globs of cream cheese mixture over the surface OR use a zipper storage bag with the tip cut off to squeeze it evenly over the pumpkin.

(Yes, I know. I didn’t pull a knife through the cream cheese before I covered it with cake mix. I learn as I go!)

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Drizzle with butter

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

I always get excited about new recipes (I wish I could be that passionate about housework) but this one has really stolen my heart. It is my new go-to Fall “company vittles” dessert, and will probably take the place of pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.

Now that I shared my new addiction with you, may I ask for a favor? Pretty please? I’m one of the top 13 finalists for Blogger Idol, and just finished my first assignment which will go live at noon on Wednesday, October 2nd. Would you please check it out and vote for me? Thank you, Foodie Friends!