I eat popcorn almost every day and most days I eat it with just a little melted butter on it. Sometimes I’ll get fancier and top it with melted coconut oil. If I’m feeling like a kick, I’ll add a sprinkle of cayenne, cinnamon, or a pinch of ginger. Other days I like the cheezy flavor of nutritional yeast. There’s really no wrong way to eat popcorn and the variations and combinations are endless.
One variation is caramel corn, but this is not just any caramel corn.
It’s caramel corn that’s made with vanilla cake mix so it tastes like caramel corn that met a vanilla cake on the way to the party.
On the way to the party that’s going to take place in your mouth.
You’ll know what party I speak of after you try a handful of these highly addictive kernels.
On the way to that party, the caramel corn picked up it’s buddies, Sprinkles and White Chocolate Chips.
The expression, “Once you pop, you can’t stop” applies here.
I’ve had tens of thousands of kernels in my day, and these kernels take the cake
batter. Pun intended.
This caramel corn is not quite as crunchy as your average store-bought Crunch ‘n Munch or Cracker Jacks because the caramel coating is thicker and the white chocolate chips melt on the kernels making them very coated and candy-like.
What the caramel corn slightly lacks ever-so-slightly in the crunch department, it makes up for in flavor. Vanilla cake batter, butter, brown sugar, vanilla extract, and white chocolate chips are always good friends that I like to have at parties.
Vanilla Cake Batter and White Chocolate Chip Caramel Corn (With Vegan and Gluten Free Suggestions)
Makes approximately 8 cups of caramel corn
6 tablespoons popcorn kernels, unpopped (6 to 8 cups popcorn, popped)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup white cake mix (or vanilla, yellow, funfetti, or similar)
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup Light Karo syrup (red label; or light-colored corn syrup)
pinch of salt, optional to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup white chocolate chips (or more)
1/2 cup peanuts (or more), optional
sprinkles, semisweet/milk/butterscotch/peanut butter chips, toffee bits, M&M’s candy, Reese Pieces candy, optional add-in’s to taste
Preheat oven to 250F and prepare a baking sheet by lining it with a Silpat or parchment paper (do not make this if you don’t have a Silpat or parchment; aluminum foil that has been sprayed extremely well with cooking spray is the third option. You will have a hot mess on your hands and cleanup will be a nightmare). Pop the popcorn using whatever method you prefer. I put 3 tablespoons in a brown paper bag (no oil or anything else, just plain kernels in the bag) and place the in the microwave and cook on high for 90 seconds, or until popping sounds become less frequent than every 3 seconds. Pour the popped kernels in a large bowl and repeat with another 3 tablespoons of popcorn in the brown paper bag in the microwave. After approximately 6 to 8 cups of popcorn is in a large bowl melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan on the stovetop. After the butter has melted, add the cake mix, sugars, Karo syrup, salt and cook for 3 to 4 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly. Do not let the mixture boil. It’s okay if it bubbles, but avoid boiling it. After 3 to 4 minutes and mixture is smooth and has thickened, remove it from the heat, wait at least 30 seconds, and add the vanilla extract, using caution because the vanilla could cause the mixture to bubble up. Stir in the vanilla and then pour the mixture over the popcorn, tossing it to evenly coat the kernels. After tossing and coating the popcorn, spread the popcorn into a flat, even layer onto the baking sheet and bake for 18 to 24 minutes. The coating mixture may thin out and appear to “drip” on the bottom of the baking sheet and that’s okay. The popcorn will not get brown and if it begins to brown, remove it from the oven immediately. After removing the baking sheet from the oven, toss the kernels with a spoon or spatula and “put back” any caramel coating mixture back onto the popcorn that has dripped off while baking. Sprinkle chocolate chips, sprinkles, and any other add-in’s over the top and they will melt slightly. Allow the popcorn to rest and cool on the baking sheet and it will harden as it cools. After it has cooled and hardened, if desired, break large clusters apart by hand. Serve immediately; or store in an airtight container or gallon-sized plastic bag for up to a week on the countertop, using common sense and knowing it will lose crunchiness as time passes.
Note: If you want gooier and thicker-coated caramel corn, use 6 cups of popped popcorn; for less heavily-coated caramel corn, use 8 cups of popped popcorn. To keep vegan, use margarine, vegan cake mix, and vegan white chocolate (or omit) or use dark chocolate. To keep gluten free, use gluten-free cake mix. Read all labels in any ingredients used to ensure they are suitable for your dietary needs.
It’s a snap to make. Make the caramel sauce on the stovetop.
Pour the sauce over popped popcorn. I do this in the micowave in a brown paper bag as noted in the recipe.
Bake for 20 minutes and you’re golden.
Your kernels will be golden, too.
If you could take something that is pretty plain on it’s own like popcorn, but ultimately make it taste like a caramel-flavored cake, this is how.
If you ever want to butter someone up, make them a batch of this caramely, cake-flavored, buttery goodness and hand them a baggie of this. They’ll be putty in your hands while double-fisting the caramel corn in theirs.
This would also be a perfect to put on a party buffet table spread or to eat mindlessly while watching mindless tv.
If you have a weakness for caramels like I do, try one of these Caramel Recipes
Caramel Apple Bars (GF with Vegan adaptation)
Or these Caramel and Chocolate Gooey Bars. There are no words.
Do you like popcorn? Caramel corn?
I have a few other popcorn recipes you may enjoy if you’re a popcorn fan.
Chocolate Coconut Oil Protein Popcorn (chocolate protein powder gives this popcorn a protein boost)
What do you like to top your popcorn with?
Cinnamon and sugar, or cinnamon and stevia, with melted butter or coconut oil, and a few chocolate chips thrown in is a favorite combination of mine.
Have a great week and enjoy the Oscars if you’re watching them, and make this to munch on. I have too much work to do at my desk so no time for Oscar-watching, but I’ll have some caramel corn at my desk to help make my computer work more fun.
Thanks for the Personalized Pens Giveaway entries