Fudge is a wonderful treat to make up for the Christmas season. And with this foolproof fudge recipe, it’s so easy to make tons of it for your parties and Christmas gifts. The fudge looks great on a dessert tray alongside the Christmas cookies and homemade chocolates. It’s also really pretty in a little box tied up with a red ribbon.
Fudge makes a perfect small Christmas gift for a teacher or co-worker. You can also individually wrap pieces of fudge for a holiday bake sale. Or you can give the fudge as a stocking stuffer along with the traditional candy canes, Christmas candy, and the mandarin orange in the toe of the stocking.
When I was very young, “fudge” was Mom’s homemade brown sugar fudge. In fourth grade, I discovered Scottish tablet when my friend’s mother made it for a party. When we moved to Quebec, I fell in love with sucre à la crème. With all of these vintage recipes to feast on, I never really tried making or eating other kinds of fudge. That all changed when my my kids were in school and I needed easy teacher gifts. I tried a few recipes each year around Christmas and at the end of the year. But never really cared for any of them until I discovered 2-ingredient fudge, aka “foolproof fudge.”
Want to jump right ahead now? You can go right to the recipe or take the scenic route, with a view of the 3-minute fudge timeline and my family’s experience making foolproof fudge.
The History of Foolproof Fudge
The vintage American fudge recipe dates back to the 19th century. It started with a brown sugar fudge recipe that was made popular at Wellesley in the 1880s. Someone later added chocolate to the fudge, and that’s when American fudge took on the form we most often see today.
Foolproof fudge recipes became popular in the mid-20th century. They were publicized by food manufacturers, who printed them on package labels and in women’s magazines. These recipes used more convenient ingredients such as evaporated milk and specialty foods like marshmallow cream to replace fresh cream. This meant fudge-making was now a lot easier. The new recipes didn’t use a candy thermometer. There were no cold water tests to be sure when the fudge reached the soft ball stage. And the cook no longer had to beat the fudge before pouring it into the pan. All of a sudden, it was easy to make fudge!
A collaboration between Marshmallow Fluff and Nestle’s Chocolate Bits promoted a no-fail fudge in 1956. As early as 1961, Carnation marketed its version of the recipe as a 5-minute fudge. That was almost instant, compared to traditional recipes that might take close to two hours to prepare! Today, many recipes are now billed as 3-minute fudge. This is because microwave ovens melt the chocolate more quickly.
Much as food manufacturers and their marketing teams popularized hot cocoa with marshmallows, no-bake cheesecake, or sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallow, they also helped to spread these easier, quicker fudge recipes. But of course, it was the science that made foolproof fudge a favourite all over North America. Adding marshmallow to the vintage recipe helps to slow the formation of sugar crystals. That ultimately means creamy fudge that will melt in your mouth – without the beating!
You can’t overcook no-fail fudge or under-beat it. And with the advent of microwave ovens, the recipe evolved yet again. The contemporary recipe is based on sweetened condensed milk, so there’s no need to cook sugar. The only reason you need to heat the ingredients is to melt the chocolate. With a microwave, it really is almost instant.
Our Experience with 3-Minute Fudge
The year we first tried this particular 2-ingredient fudge recipe, we’d shopped at Overwaitea’s case lot sale so I had a whole flat of sweetened condensed milk just begging to be used. Again at Overwaitea, we found the Chipits on sale a few weeks before Christmas. I went crazy buying bags of all the different flavours and brought them home to make fudge.
We experimented with just about every flavour, as well as with marbled fudge. We even made fudge with a blend of half semi-sweet chocolate and half flavoured chocolate chips. Let me tell you, there was enough fudge for school parties, Christmas gift exchanges, teacher gifts, and more! It’s so much easier to make foolproof fudge, compared to vintage fudge recipes, that I have only made one batch of sucre à la crème in about 5 years now.
Do these almost instant, foolproof fudge recipes replace the real deal? Honestly, no. You aren’t going to get the same depth of flavour and texture that you would with the vintage fudge recipe. But if you’re looking for an easy Christmas recipe, this one will definitely serve. And this fudge is less expensive than buying gourmet chocolate gifts for the chocolate lovers on your Christmas list!
3 cups chocolate chips
300 ml (1 can) sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract (opt)
Line an 8” square baking pan with parchment, leaving a good bit of the parchment hanging over the edges.
Put about 1” – 2” of water in the bottom of a double boiler, being sure the water won’t touch the top pan. Place the chocolate chips in the top part of the double boiler and heat the water to a simmer over medium heat.
Melt the chocolate, stirring often. You will notice that chocolate chips retain their shape even when melted; it’s important to stir so you know when the chocolate is done. It will take about 6‑8 minutes.
When almost all of the chocolate is melted, remove the top part of the double boiler to a protected surface and continue stirring until all the chips are melted down and the chocolate becomes smooth and glossy.
Stir in the condensed milk and, if using, the vanilla. Stir to mix well.
Pour out into the prepared pan, using a spatula to smooth the top. Refrigerate until well set, about 2 hours minimum. You’ll have even better results if you leave it a bit longer, up to about 6 hours.
Slice the fudge into 1/2” or 3/4” squares and store in an airtight container. Fudge stored at room temperature will last about 7-14 days – though in most homes it’s gone well before that time! If you are making your foolproof fudge ahead of time for a special occasion, you can keep it for 2-3 weeks in the fridge. (But you may need to hide it so sneaky little elves don’t come along to steal a piece when you aren’t looking!)
Microwave directions for melting chocolate:
Place chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and heat on high for 1 minute. Remove from microwave and stir. If the chips haven’t all melted, return to microwave and heat in bursts of 10-20 seconds until all the chocolate melts when stirred.
Some recipes call for as little as 2 cups of chocolate chips, but I find the fudge is too sweet this way and it doesn’t set as well. You may also note that this recipe uses 300 ml condensed milk, which is the equivalent of 10 oz for my American friends. If sweetened condensed milk is sold in 14-oz cans where you live, you may find you need to add a bit more chocolate to get the right consistency for your fudge.
Frugal Fudge Making
The video above was made by Kathryn of Do It on a Dime, whose YouTube channel is one of my absolute favourites. She mentions that the Dollar Tree sells both the chocolate chips and the condensed milk for just a dollar each. It’s about a 3-hour round trip for us to go to the Dollar Tree, so I haven’t been able to confirm if the stores here in Canada also carry the condensed milk. If you live in Canada and have seen it at your Dollar Tree store, please let me know. That would be a huge savings, considering that sweetened condensed milk sells for close to $3 here!
If you can’t find condensed milk at a reasonable price, there’s also the option of using a frugal homemade sweet milk. Check out the recipe at the Hillbilly Housewife. It uses skim milk powder, sugar, and a little margarine. And I kid you not, homemade condensed milk is every bit as good as the canned stuff! You mix it up in your blender. Each batch gives you about 3 cups of condensed milk, which is a little more than 2 cans at the Canadian size and a tad less than 2 cans at the American size. We’ve used a half-batch with 3 cups of chocolate chips to make our fudge, and it worked out OK. I’d probably add a bit more chocolate for firmer fudge, though.
You can refrigerate homemade condensed milk for about a week, or you can freeze it for a few months. So if you want to make a large batch up for later use, just pour it into Mason jars and label with the date and the correct amount.
Make-Ahead Tip: How to Freeze Fudge
If you plan on making a lot of foolproof fudge to give as Christmas gifts, don’t attempt to make too large a batch. I’ve made double batches with this recipe. But once you start melting very large quantities of chocolate it gets pretty messy. So stick to smaller batches and repeat the process as needed – besides, this allows you to make the fudge in many different flavours!
If you are planning to freeze a whole batch of foolproof fudge, don’t cut it once set. Wrap it in a double layer of plastic wrap and store it in a zippered freezer bag or a freezer-safe airtight container. Frozen fudge will keep for up to 3 months, so you can spread out the work and the expense of making fudge and have an ample supply for all your Christmas needs.
Defrost frozen fudge slowly to reduce the amount of condensation that forms on it. You should also keep all the wrapping intact. Most of the condensation will form on the wrapping, and not on the fudge. If your fudge does “sweat,” just leave it a bit longer in the fridge. The moisture will evaporate.
Cut foolproof fudge while still chilled, but bring to room temperature for about 15-20 minutes before serving.
Want to pin this post for later? Feel free to use the graphic below:
Did you enjoy this article? Check out some related content below!
SWEET POTATOES OR YAMS: DO YOU KNOW THE DIFFERENCE?
HEALTHY LIVING HELP: HOW MANY CALORIES ARE IN AN ORANGE?
VINTAGE CHRISTMAS RECIPES: SUCRE À LA CRÈME FROM QUEBEC
Original content © 2017 Kyla Matton Osborne, aka #RubyWriter
This article was published on my food blog, 24 Carrot Diet. If you are reading this content anywhere else, it has probably been stolen. Please report it to me so I can address any copyright infringements. Thank you!