Flavor Cookies, Cakes, and Custards with Syrupy, Sweet . . . Mushrooms?

Turns out, they aren’t just for savory dishes. With their unique maple-like flavors, candy cap mushrooms are the perfect addition to your sweets.
By and

Published Feb. 6, 2023.

Wait. Stick with me.

When you think of cooking with mushrooms, you might imagine sautéing them for a side dish or putting them in risotto, bisque, pasta, or even a galette. I know that’s what I think. 

Then a few months back, Senior Content Editor Alyssa Vaughn asserted that I just had to try mushroom shortbread cookies. Cookies?

She went on to tell me about a local shop that sells only mushroom products, including sweets baked with a unique type of dried mushroom called candy caps.

Intrigued, I went to try them myself. 

Now readers, these fungi-flavored cookies were truly amazing.

Courtesy of the mushrooms, the shortbread smelled wonderfully of warm maple syrup and tasted sweet, buttery, and lightly caramelized. 

And you can put these mushrooms in anything you want. 

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What are Candy Cap Mushrooms? 

Also known as curry milk caps, these mushrooms are native to the Pacific Northwest where they grow on the moss of pine and oak trees. 

Their distinctly maple syrup-esque quality is due to high concentrations of sotolon, a chemical compound that is found in fenugreek, curry leaves, and natural and artificial maple syrup. Their fragrance is faint when the mushroom is fresh, but after drying, they have a potent aroma.  

Candy caps are largely sold dried and unlike other mushrooms, they aren’t typically consumed on their own. Instead, they’re used as flavoring, similar to vanilla

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Why Should You Use Candy Cap Mushrooms?

As documented, I am a huge fan of anything and everything maple.

But, I have found that when using maple as a flavor the two options can be limiting. Artificial maple flavor often tastes butterscotchy and can be sickly. While true maple syrup, though delicious, is easily overpowered and can be hard to detect beyond a general sweetness.

Candy cap mushrooms are the perfect solution for this problem because they add a distinct maple-taste without any artificial flavor or added sugar.

How to Use Candy Cap Mushrooms

When Associate Editor Erica Turner added them to cookies and custards, tasters noted strong maple flavor and aroma with subtle nuttiness—like eating pancakes and waffles, some said. 

She discovered that besides putting them in these applications, you can also add them to spice rubs or any baked good you desire.

You can even infuse crème brûlée! The candy cap mushroom shines in this creamy, sweet treat. We found the best way to add the fungi to this dessert is to steep the whole mushrooms in milk or cream. The fat in the dairy dissolves their flavor compounds, and the strained milk can then be used in different applications. 

Be aware that it's best to use the candy cap mushrooms in relatively plain-tasting applications where their unique flavor won’t be overshadowed by more potent ingredients. Also note that the mushroom’s maple-y taste and aroma will be more muted when used as a dry powder than when steeped. 

For baked applications or spice rubs: Grind the candy caps and add about 1 tablespoon of the powder to your recipe.

To add candy cap essence to custards such as crème anglaise, crème brûlée, and pastry cream:  Bring 4 to 6 grams whole mushrooms per cup of dairy to a simmer, and steep off heat for 30 minutes. Strain before using.  

Where Are Candy Cap Mushrooms for Sale? 

You can find them at local specialty shops or online.


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