Candy corn is a controversial treat, Halloween’s yellow, orange, and white-headed stepchild. A simple concoction of honey, wax, sugar, and corn syrup, it originated in Philadelphia in the 1880s. But now, of course, we live in the future. And as someone who really loves candy corn, I was curious to see how far it’s come—that’s why I taste-tested eight novelty flavors from Brach’s, a long-standing Illinois candy company.
It got ugly. Really ugly.
Of course there is pumpkin spice candy corn. Of course there is. Pumpkin spice candy corn looks an awful lot like garden-variety candy corn (this may be the first time “garden” and “candy corn” have been mentioned in the same sentence), but the strong scent of cinnamon lets you know right away that you’re in for something different.
It starts out tasting like a candle, an impression that isn’t helped by the confection’s characteristically waxy texture. But I like it more and more as I chew—it’s somehow Christmas-y, like spice cake or molasses. Brach’s should dump a barrel of brown food coloring into their molten sugar slurry and rebrand this as gingerbread candy corn in December.
This is far from the worst pumpkin spice product I’ve tried. Pair with Uggs, brunch, and a well-worn DVD copy of The Notebook.
Sea Salt Chocolate
The seductive smell of brownie batter wafts out of the bag of sea salt chocolate candy corn (“sea salt chocolate candy corn” is a literal and figurative mouthful), but quickly darkens into something like burnt brownies. This feels ominous.
I hate this. I hate this perversion of everything candy corn stands for. It’s genuinely upsetting how bad it is; chocolate clearly wasn’t meant to be represented in this medium. The candy melts in your mouth in the worst way possible, coating the entire surface area like a sickly-sweet chocolate syrup—or what I imagine chocolate syrup might have tasted like during wartime, when all the good things you needed to make it were being aggressively rationed.
I’d suggest we burn the world’s supply of sea salt chocolate candy corn to the ground, but god knows what those vapors might do to the atmosphere.
Rating: [Zero pumpkin emoji]
This stuff smells amazing, almost exactly like the caramel corn from those gift tins that someone always seemed to give my parents around the holidays. I huff it from the open bag for about a minute before I remember that I’m supposed to taste some.
I’m a little embarrassed by how much I like the caramel macchiato candy corn: the slight bitterness of the coffee (yes, you can actually taste the coffee, kind of!) effectively cuts the otherwise overwhelming sweetness.
One of my coworkers suggests this tastes like a stranger’s day-old Starbucks latté, and while he’s not wrong, I’m just so, so happy that I’m not eating chocolate candy corn anymore. Find a way to caffeinate these, Brach’s, and you will all be billionaires.
Happy Fourth of July, here’s some candy corn! This variety is strawberry, vanilla, and blueberry-flavored, and the smell is really appealing: it’s not like food, exactly, but it is like Lip Smackers, the intensely flavored lip balms hoarded by preteens in the ’80s and ’90s. Unfortunately, it also tastes like Lip Smackers, waxiness and all. I can’t differentiate between either of the super-synthetic fruit flavors, which are about as loyal to their supposed inspirations as ice pops or Slurpees.
America deserves better on her birthday.
Here, too, the cinnamon and nutmeg aroma is straight out of the Yankee Candle Company. The flavor isn’t terrible, but it certainly isn’t good. It’s a frighteningly sweet, distinctly chemical applesauce with a deceptively acceptable aftertaste. Another coworker described apple pie candy corn as a half-heartedly fruit-flavored flouride.
Oh, no—the chocolate’s back, with the same burnt brownie smell. Though they’re advertised as s’mores, all I taste is that terrible disgusting nightmare chocolate, which this time is somehow crustier and dryer. I try a second, targeted bite of just the brown and white segments, and they’re okay! I don’t get the graham cracker, but the marshmallow (and an alarming amount of sugar) does come through.
The birthday cake candy corn looks beautiful, like an overachieving baby shower detail you’d see on Pinterest. Though the packaging claims this is meant to embody chocolate birthday cake, the flavor is pure vanilla. Artificial vanilla from outer space, but vanilla nonetheless.
It tastes a bit like very dry frosting, maybe scraped off that slice of your fifth birthday cake you’ve been inexplicably saving for decades, and a bit like Barbie shoes. Overall: not the worst?
Peanut Butter Cup
I’d been saving this candy corn for last as a treat, because peanut butter is my dessert fetish, but the horrible truth that peanut butter cups are made of chocolate has long since dawned on me. Now the brownie batter smell is mixed with a sour, funky caramel.
This time, I don’t even bother taking a bite of the chocolate segment, because I love myself too much for that. The peanut butter flavor makes me think of an old-fashioned Mary Jane, and also of Play-Doh. I would rather eat literally any other kind of peanut butter candy, but at least this is identifiably a peanut butter candy.
If you’re feeling disheartened by these results, don’t worry: here’s how to make your very own batch of candy corn at home!