Honey Pumpkin Caramels with Toasted Pepitas


Honey Pumpkin Caramels

With Lucas extending his China trip to finalize tooling at the factory, I’ve been home alone for nearly two weeks. Just me, two extra snuggly kitties, a pound of honey pumpkin caramels, and season one of Transparent (Have you discovered this show yet? I’ve renamed Amazon Prime Instant Video: “Procrastination Station”). Also, should I be telling a bunch of strangers on the internet that I’m home alone? Potential creepers, I’m here with TWO FEROCIOUS HUNTER CATS who I’m pretty sure file their nails into razor blades while I sleep.

By “hunt” I mean: stare at the wall and mew until a human handles the situation. They’re basically arachnid sighthounds. Without a husband to do to the exterminating, last week’s prey nearly killed me. No joke. Aioli spotted the largest, furriest, scariest house spider crawling on the ceiling right above the couch. Surely coming to get me.

Pumpkin Spice Caramels

Can we just pause for a second to acknowledge that the ceiling is just about the most terrifying place to try to kill a spider? One wrong move and you’ll have a spider falling on your face. Or worse: into the blankets on the couch, where you can now never comfortably sit again.

But I’m almost thirty, I can handle a measly goodluck spider. So I pulled our flimsy plastic bar stool into the living room and worked up the courage to attack the spider with a crumpled paper towel. I smushed, turned, and squished, certain the spider was done for. When I pulled the paper towel away, the very-much-alive beast rappelled directly toward me, now obviously pissed off. The momentum from my gut-wrenching squeal teetered the bar stool out from under me and I went crashing to the hardwood floor. Note: Get sturdier bar stools.

In case you’re wondering, I eventually captured the spider. Though he put up a good fight, using scare tactics to inflict tennis ball-sized battle wounds on my knee and the top of my foot in the process. Plus dark purple bruises on the inside of my impacted toes. Well played, spider.

Honey Pumpkin Spice Caramels

While we’re on the subject of spiders: a couple of years ago, my dad and I were in the backyard doing some work on my childhood playhouse when I spotted a black widow on the wood he was sawing, about 2 feet from me. He insisted I stay put, while he took a large swing of his hammer, with utmost confidence he wouldn’t miss. When something bounced off the wood and hit my leg, you can’t even imagine the pitch of my scream.

Guts, guys. BLACK WIDOW GUTS. On my bare leg.

Pumpkin Caramels

These honey pumpkin caramels have absolutely nothing to do with spiders (thankfully), but if you’ve recently had a run-in, a pound of these caramels will surely ease the stress. Each caramel is filled with robust honey sweetness wrapped up with a hint of spiced pumpkin pie and a dollop of cream. A fancy version of a traditional nut & chew, with crispy pumpkin seeds subbing in for nuts. Honey caramels are smoother with much deeper flavor than their traditional corn syrup counterparts. Use clover honey for a more subtle flavor or organic wildflower honey if you want to give the honey its time in the spotlight.

I’m most definitely wrapping up a combo pack of these honey pumpkin caramels and some salted honey lavender caramels to give as Halloween treats to my friends. Oh how I wish I could pass them out to trick-or-treaters.

Pumpkin Caramels with Pepitas

Got a sweet tooth? Try these other caramel flavors:

Salted Honey Lavender Caramels

Honey Matcha Green Tea Caramels

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Honey pumpkin caramels
Yields: 40-50 caramels
  • ¼ cup pepitas, lightly toasted
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I use Rodelle Organics)
  • ¾ cups sugar
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1½ tablespoons butter
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger
  • pinch cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  1. Read all the directions before getting started. Stuff happens so fast and you want to make sure you're prepared for what's coming next. The times in this recipe are estimates and will depend on the size of pot you're using, so use the temperatures as your guide. Also, make sure that you have an accurate candy thermometer - 5 degrees off will drastically change the texture of your caramels from soft and chewy to more like sugar daddies. Here's a handy article on how to calibrate your candy thermometer.
  2. Butter a glass 8x4-inch baking pan and line the bottom and edges with parchment paper, cutting slits in the corners so it will lay flat. Butter the parchment paper, as well. (I used a glass bread dish for one batch and another smaller baking dish for a second batch. If you only have an 8x8 pan, double the recipe.) Evenly sprinkle the pepitas on the bottom of the glass baking pan.
  3. Measure out the butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and salt into a small bowl and set aside.
  4. In a small saucepan, heat the heavy whipping cream, pumpkin purée and vanilla over medium heat until it just begins to simmer. Reduce the heat to low to keep it warm while you prepare the rest.
  5. With just a couple of stirs, combine the sugar, honey, and water in a separate small saucepan.
  6. Clip a candy thermometer to the edge of the pot. Without stirring, heat the sugar, honey, and water over medium heat, until the sugar dissolves and it starts to boil, about 4 minutes. (I recommend between a 1.5-quart and 2.5-quart saucepan; any larger and you'll have a hard time using the candy thermometer as it won't full submerge in the caramel).
  7. Let the sugar boil without stirring at all, until it turns amber reaches 302°F, about 3-5 minutes (watch carefully so that it does not burn - if your thermometer is off, it might burn before it hits this point). While it boils, grab a clean wooden spoon or rinse and dry the one you were stirring with before.
  8. Quickly add the butter and spices, and slowly stir in the warm whipping cream. Be careful, as it will react and sizzle quite a bit when you start adding the cream. The temperature will also drop when you add the cream.
  9. Keeping a close eye on the thermometer, continue stirring until the temperature is back up to 248°F. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and pour the hot caramel into the prepared pan. DO NOT scrape the pot or you'll end up with crispy bits in your caramels.
  10. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool until fully set, at least 5 hours (I kept mine overnight).
  11. Use the parchment paper to pull the caramel sheet out of the pan and place it on a pastry board or cutting board. Peel the parchment paper down from the edges. With a large sharp knife, cut the caramels into bite-sized squares and wrap them tightly in wax paper or parchment paper squares. The caramels will keep wrapped for up to one month.

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  1. These look absolutely delicious! and perfect for a home-alone treat!

  2. Gahhhhh your spider story has me itching in my seat! They are so gross. These pumpkin caramels, on the other hand – look SO good! They would surely comfort me after such a traumatic event like killing a spider :)

  3. Veronica says:

    Oh No! Sorry to hear you fell! The honey pumpkin caramels look so good and I know they will ease the hurt!

  4. Gahhh..spiders can just go die. I was recently down South and I had NO idea how disgustingly HUGE the spiders were down there—I even had an event sorta like yours. haha! I was trying to squish this ginormous spider on the wall and then it fell on my (bare) leg. — I think I scared my family half to death with my screams. LOL.
    And these caramels? One word. WANT. Seriously, pumpkin and caramel is such an awesome combo and I’m loving all those gorgeous pumpkin seeds!

    • Oh my goodness – I don’t think I could handle huge spiders (this one SEEMED like an enormous spider in the heat of the moment, but it couldn’t have been larger than a penny – legs and all). Officially creeped out again! (Thanks, Sarah! I’m currently obsessed with pumpkin to the max)

  5. Your pictures are gorgeous Sarah!! I think I drooled on my computer, oops!

  6. You know what they say is the cure for all spider-induced yuckies?
    Eating ALL the Honey Pumpkin Caramels.
    That is, If I don’t eat them before you do ;) RACE YOU.

  7. Oh my goodness. I’m well into my thirties now and still am not grown enough to handle a spider. Even the tiniest of them send me squealing like a little school girl. I can’t do it, I just can’t.
    These caramels sound delightful. I love the addition of pumpkin seeds. Pinning!

  8. Love this recipe, do not love all the spider-talk! Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. My favorite method for dealing with scary, hairy jumping arachnids is to scream like a girl until Dan comes to the rescue. If he’s not around, I go with the “drown spider in a gallon of poisonous shampoo then scoop it up and flush it down the toilet” method.

  9. I just recently learned what pepitas were! And nobody likes spiders. Two weeks alone is too long. Hope he gets back to save you from this loneliness before too long! :)

  10. Sheri says:

    I once knew a little girl with a long blonde pony tail who could sit for hours just watching spiders, the only little girl I knew who wasn’t deathly afraid of them…hmmm, I wonder what happened to her? On the subject of caramels, these look amazing and I can’t wait to sample them as I surely will sometime during the holidays, right? These would make a great stocking stuffer! :)

    • Listen, I have ALWAYS been terrified of black widows. Bugs? I’m totally down with bugs.

      You’re so right, these WOULD make a great stocking stuffer. Wonder how I can tell Santa…? ;)

  11. I just made apple cider caramels to bring with me on my own business trip to China! Wish I had the time to make these too, they look amazing! I actually bought insecticide to deal with my spider problems, so all I have to do to kill them is squirt ’em with it. No chasing or worrying they’ll fall somewhere unwanted.

    • I’ve been dying to make apple cider caramels myself – I wanted to make them last night and was so sad that I didn’t have any apple cider! Pleas say hi to my husband when you get to China! :)

  12. Spiders CAN be a nuisance, yes. But what’s worse is an army of ants!!! Now THOSE get me every time and I’m terrified of them….it’s silly, but it’s thanks to some traumatic events from childhood, haha. But then again, I’ve never encountered a black widow so…..gahhhhh! You’re a brave soul! :D And these are nothing like Korean desserts but they remind me of cute rice cakes or this hard-and-sticky bar of some sweetener, covered in pepitas.

    • OH MY GOSH – ANTS. Don’t even get my started. Lucas will tell you that there are few things I hate more than ants. About this time last year, just in time for one of Lucas’s trips to China, our house became infested with ants. I found ants in my BED. Girl, I can’t. I just can’t. I spent multiple nights sobbing myself to sleep, wondering if tonight would be the night they attacked me. I’m not even being dramatic. As a kid, I kept my candy collection in the bottom drawer of my desk. As an avid, collector, I was very good about saving candy and doling it out as needed, sometimes saving the best pieces for JUST the right moment. One day, I discovered an inch-wide trail of ants going ACROSS my bedroom carpet on into the desk drawer and helping themselves to my loot. I totally lost it. Okay, now that you officially know I’m 100% on the anti-ant bridage….I’ll stop this rant. Haha. Thank you! (Also, please make that hard and sticky bar you talk of – I’d like that please:)

  13. 2 weeks is a long time to be home alone. My husband doesn’t travel for work, so sometimes I wish he would have a trip to go on :) I would make these caramels, and eat all of them without him!

    • Haha – it was nice the first time he went. I got so much work done. We were just dating at the time and I filled his bedroom with balloons that I hid little love notes inside of. Now I’m like, “the house is a mess and there’s no one to help me take the trash out!!” Haha.

  14. These caramels look to die for! I am pretty sure I would devour all of them if my hubby left me home alone because of work ;). Good thing snuggly kitties make for perfect company!

  15. First time here and I’m already in love with these caramels.

  16. Sarah Kat says:

    Wow! They’re so pretty! I try to make candies for my granddad for Christmas (since he says he already has everything else he could want). These look like they would be just perfect! He’s not big on chocolate, but these have so many flavors he would love.

    • Please do let me know if you end up making them for him! I think homemade caramels make the best gifts. It’s what I’ve been making for my mom’s birthday now that she also insists she already has everything she wants.

  17. A pound of honey pumpkin caramels?! Can I come over hehe, your creations always look so good. Will have to see if I can make this with my boyfriend the next time I fly and see him in SLC (so that he can eat the majority of them so i do not feel bad)!!

    And good job on catching the spider! We are getting a ton where I live right now too. How dare they escape the cold into our warm and supposedly safe houses?! I honestly don’t mind spiders but there’s just something about the thought of spiders BREEDING indoors that freaks me out.

    • EEK! Now you’ve given me another fear. You know, normally spiders wouldn’t freak me out so much, but Lucas woke up with SIX spider bites on his leg a few weeks ago that STILL haven’t healed entirely. Now I’m afraid they’ll attack me in my sleep!

      Good call on sharing them with the boyfriend – even if he only eats one of them, it still only counts as though you ate just half because you SHARED. ;)

  18. Gaaah!!! I’m so glad you got the spider and yes, it’s the worst when they’ are on the ceiling!! I would totally need a few or a batch of these caramels after a spider killing session – they look incredible! The trick or treaters are so lucky to be getting these – yum!

    • Alas, the only trick or treaters than will get these are the kids I know and my adult friends. This is when I wish I lived in a small community so people weren’t afraid of homemade Halloween treats!

  19. What a wonderful treat, love all those fall flavors!

  20. The shot with all the caramels in a bowl? Gorgeous. (Both as a photo and as something I would very much like on my kitchen table).

    P.S. Spiders suck. I am so so sorry you were hobbled by that pesky arachnid. :(

  21. I’ve been holding off on pumpkin until it felt like the weather was actually cooling and now I’m ready and I love this use of it; so unique and sounds wonderful.

  22. Oh my gosh Sarah!!! I’m laughing. I’m sorry, I am. Don’t hate me. Although I shouldn’t, because injury in the name of spider vanquishing is something I understand COMPLETELY. And these caramels? Yeah dude.

  23. Okay, I’m laughing too.. Sorry!! Just imagining your scream as a kid and a spider landing on your face. But I know what you mean — I’ve literally walked into spiderwebs with my face before. Truly sucks. These caramels look amazing!!! I’ve only made caramels once before and they came out pretty good. these look way better and so unique! Love those flavors you got going on! I think I still need to come get some meyer lemons, huh? ;)

    • Bahaha – after we were gone for 5 days a few weeks ago a spider built a web IN MY SHOWER. That was a very unpleasant surprise when I stepped in.

      And absolutely. The lemons probably only have a week or two left, so better make it quick! Coffee at my house on Friday morning???

  24. This, I must try! Looks delicious and the photos are beautiful!

  25. Your caramels are so beautiful that it makes me want to whip up a batch! They sound absolutely delicious. Such a perfect gift for the holiday season.

  26. I have to shamefully admit I have never made caramels before. These honey and pumpkin looks so delicious Sarah, you can definitely consider I will be making the recipe – I have a feeling that they would be perfect holiday season gifts too!

  27. These look great! I know from experience that your caramels are always amazing! We actually don’t kill spiders because they do such a nice job of keeping the fruit flies and other little buggers at bay.

  28. Just the kind of yummy chewy bite I like…and making it at home helps control the sweetness:)

  29. I make caramels last year… this is a great twist on the flavor!

  30. Oh my gosh, these caramels looks seriously delicious!

  31. I’ll be waiting for these to be delivered to my house. You have my address, right? ;)

    Sorry to hear about the spider. I can deal with spiders but spider webs are another story. Let’s not talk about how gross it feels to walk into a spider web. The mere thought gives me goosebumps.

    • Actually no. I just assumed you were too afraid that I’d just show up on your doorstep hungry one day;) Also – yes, spider webs are the worst. And then you can’t get them off of you. *shudder*

  32. Nice! These look so cute, and so much pumpkin flavor, would love to give them a try.

  33. What amazing looking caramels! These would disappear in no time at my house!

  34. Annie says:

    I found a pistachio caramel the other day. it had slid to the back and, of course, too high for me to see. like Christmas morning, I tell ya!

  35. These candies look sssooo good. I am a huge fan of caramel, so can you send a few to my house? Oh, and I’m eating pepitas right now! Win, win! :-)

  36. Tash says:

    These were born to be pinned Sarah! They look utterly delicious! How can I be so badly craving something that I haven’t even eaten?! Idk, but I am! You have kind of outdone yourself here. Have a fab weekend!

  37. These caramels look amazing, Sarah!

  38. Nancy says:

    Scott is worse than me at killing spiders in this house. We both hate it. So whoever spots it first, now has to kill it. Unfortunately, it’s mainly me. I cannot STAND when it’s up high in the kitchen or WORST PLACE EVER – the ceiling!!! I will sweat so much trying to figure out a way to kill it without it falling on my face. Or in my mouth. Close the mouth, scream and jump. But my gosh man – sometimes those guys don’t die easily! You reeeeally have to sqish those things in to the paper towel. AND I HATE the crunching noise!!! Good LORD.

  39. Hahahahahaha your spider stories are hysterical. I can totally relate. Our new home is like the central hub for all types of crickets apparently. We’ll just be sitting on the couch watching TV and boom… a cricket. In the bathroom and boom… cricket. Cooking… hey there cricket. And those f’ers are silent when you’re around, so they scare the crap out of you! Asheley is the cricket whisperer though, and always gets them safely outside.

    And these caramels… dope!!!

    • Oh my! I mean, crickets aren’t that creepy, but if I found them ALL OVER MY HOUSE, I think I’d have nightmares. Unless they sang and danced like Jiminy Cricket – then that’d be awesome.

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