Leading up to Halloween, the National Retail Federation predicted Americans would buy $3 billion worth of candy in preparation for full-on trick-or-treating traditions and pandemic-modified methods for celebrating the spooky holiday. Ghost, ghouls and goblins aside, that’s a scary amount of candy. We can’t possibly eat it all before the candy canes and chocolate gelt arrive for the winter holidays, can we?

Oh sure, the most popular items in the Halloween candy bowl as determined by Candy Industry News – Reese’s Cups, Skittles, M&M’s, Starburst, Hot Tamales, Sour Patch Kids, Hershey Kisses, Snickers, Tootsie Pops and Candy Corn – will disappear quickly as the kids scouring the neighborhood in costumes know what they like. As do their parent who raid Halloween candy bags once the kids are in bed. One year, my son noticed a pattern of one peanut butter cup and one “fun-sized” Snickers bar going missing nightly from his plastic pumpkin bowl sitting atop the refrigerator. I could not convince him a ghost was eating them.

One solution to the “problem” of leftover Halloween candy? Bake with it. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

But what about the oft-shunned Almond Joy bars, the rejected Whopper malted milk balls and the spurned Butterfingers left in the bottom of the bowl? After Halloween, the quantity of these candies in households may be high, but the actual percentage of chocolate in them is not. Chocolate snobbery aside, chucking leftover candy in the bin only contributes to America’s food waste problem.

The answer for any cook who participated in Halloween, has leftover candy and doesn’t want to eat it out of hand lies in the upcycle. Upcycling is the processes by which “old” products get a second life as they get turned into “new” products. In the kitchen, upcycled ingredients can be repurposed into dishes that are more impressive than the term “leftovers” connotes.

If you’re trying to please kids’ palates, the upcycle is as easy as swapping out the chocolate chips in your go-to cookie recipe with the contents of a couple of “fun-sized” bags of M&Ms. You can add Junior Mints or York Peppermint Patties to boxed brownie batter to change it up a bit. Or fortify a simple layer cake with an outside wall of Twix or Kit Kat bar soldiers. But since many parents are already rationing their kids’ trick-or-treat loot to avoid sugar highs and tantrum-filled sugar crashes, a more useful upcycle for leftover Halloween candy is turning them into desserts better attuned to adult sensibilities.

Think dark coconut and chocolate Bundt cake, malted milk bread pudding, and dark chocolate truffles. No one needs to know the main ingredients in those desserts are Almond Joy bars, Whoppers and Butterfingers, respectively.


The trick to turning these products into dessert ingredients is breaking them down. Candy with crunchy innards – like Butterfinger, Fifth Avenue, Heath, Kit Kat and Whoppers bar – should be crushed. This makes these ingredients better suited for being sprinkled into batters, fillings and toppings. Since Halloween candy packaging is made to be sturdy, using a meat mallet to crush it while it is still in the wrapper keeps the mess to a minimum.

Softer-centered “fun-size” bars – Snickers, Milky Ways, Paydays, Mounds and Almond Joys – are best chopped into about eight pieces. This gives each piece of your ingredient a chance of having all the recognizable components of the bar – chocolate coating, crunchy peanuts and gooey caramel – still in the mix. You can then use these ingredients to make cake fillings, brownies toppings and milkshake mix-ins.
Once you’ve reduced your leftover Halloween candy into pantry ingredients, it’s best to freeze them. Place them in clearly labeled airtight containers, and they will hold in the freezer for up to a year, or until Halloween rolls around again. Use these crushed or chopped candies in most recipes straight from the freezer.

Most Halloween candy is made with milk chocolate and therefore tends to be more sweet than sophisticated. To deepen the chocolate flavor of the candy-enhanced dessert you’re making, look for ways to add a touch of bitterness with cocoa powder, coffee or whiskey.

Individually sized (Fun sized?) Whopper Bread Puddings. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Whopper Bread Pudding

Bread pudding is a versatile vehicle for using up both sweet and savory leftovers. In this version, Whoppers combine with whiskey for a grownup, post-Halloween treat.

Serves 4


2 cups torn day-old bread

3/4 cup coarsely chopped malted milk balls (about 45 Whoppers), plus extra for garnish

1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

1 cup whole chocolate milk

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 large eggs


1/4 cup malted milk powder

1/4 cup bourbon

1 tablespoon butter, softened

Whipped cream for serving

Place bread and chopped malted milk balls and chocolate chips in a large bowl. In a blender, combine the chocolate milk, cream cheese, eggs, malted milk powder and bourbon until smooth. Pour the liquid over the bread. Let the mixture stand for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Coat four (8-ounce) ramekins with softened butter. Divide the mixture between the prepared ramekins. Bake until the tops are slightly browned, and the pudding is set, 25-30 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before serving with whipped cream and chopped malted milk balls.


Butterfinger Truffles.  Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Butterfinger Truffles

This same recipe can also be used to upcycle other crispy, chocolate treats such as Kit Kat, Fifth Avenue and Heath bars. These truffles can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. They are best served at room temperature.

Makes 1 dozen truffles

5 ounces dark (70% cacao) chocolate, chopped

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/2 cup heavy cream


1 cup finely chopped Butterfinger bars

4 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Place the chocolate and the butter in a medium bowl. Pour the cream into a small saucepan, place it over medium heat and bring it to a simmer. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate mixture. Let stand for 1 minute, then stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in 3/4 cup of chopped Butterfingers. Cover and chill for 2 hours.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with a silicon mat. Form heaping teaspoons of the chocolate mixture into balls. The warmth from your hands will make them smooth. Place the balls on the prepared baking sheet.

Combine 3 tablespoons of the remaining chopped Butterfingers with the cocoa powder in a small bowl. Roll the truffles in this mixture and place them back on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle a pinch of the final 1 tablespoon crushed Butterfingers on top of each truffle. Chill until firm.

Almond Joy Bundt Cake turns chocolate for children into a grown-up treat. Derek Davis/Staff photographer

Almond Joy Bundt Cake


I’m pretty sure no Trick or Treater has ever willingly taken an Almond Joy from a bowl. My husband will eat a few, but there is always a need to find a way to upcycle them. This cake is a good one, as it has a better ratio of chocolate to coconut than the candy bars do.

Serves 12


1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 egg yolk


2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup sweetened coconut flakes

5 Almond Joy bars (1.61 oz. each), chopped


1 cup (1/2 lb.) unsalted butter, more for preparing the pan


½ cup cocoa powder, more for preparing the pan

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1½ cups granulated sugar

1½ teaspoons baking soda


1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup cold coffee

2 eggs, lightly beaten

½ cup Greek yogurt


1 cup dark chocolate chips


⅔ cup heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons toasted coconut

2 tablespoons chopped toasted almonds

To make the filling, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar, egg yolk, flour and vanilla. Stir in coconut and chopped candy bars. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12-cup fluted tube pan and dust with cocoa powder.

To make the batter, melt 1 cup butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup cocoa and salt, whisking until smooth. Remove from heat; stir in the vanilla. Cool for 5 minutes.


In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar and baking soda. Slowly whisk the melted butter mixture into the dry ingredients to form moist crumbs. Gradually add the milk, coffee and eggs, beating well after each addition. Stir in the Greek yogurt.

Pour 2/3 of the batter (about 4 cups) into the prepared pan. Spoon the filling into the center of the batter all the way around the cake, taking care not to let the filling touch the edges of the pan. Pour the remaining chocolate batter over the cream cheese filling and smooth it to cover the filling.

Bake until a wooden pick inserted into center of the cake comes out clean, 45-55 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for about 20 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and finish cooling on the rack.

To make the glaze, place the chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl. Pour the cream into a small pan and place it over medium heat. When the cream begins to simmer, remove it from the heat and pour it over the chocolate. Let the mixture sit for 2 minutes and then whisk until smooth. Let the mixture thicken slightly for 10 minutes at room temperature. Pour the chocolate glaze over the top of the cake, allowing some to drip down the sides. Sprinkle the top of the cake with toasted coconut and almonds.

Serve the cake at room temperature, but store leftovers in the refrigerator.

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