Sucre à la crème is a vintage brown sugar fudge recipe from Quebec

Sucre à la Crème: A Vintage French Canadian Recipe for Brown Sugar Fudge

Sucre à la crème is Quebec’s quintessential comfort food. Mothers and grandmothers make big batches of it for the Christmas season. During wartime when sugar was rationed, little children were given the precious fudge as a birthday treat. You can even find packages of sucre à la crème at pretty much every grocery store or corner dépanneur in Montreal. Many of them contain both the traditional brown sugar fudge and a chocolate-flavoured version that’s similar to American-style fudge.

Like cheese curds, tourtière and pâté chinois, sucre à la crème is ubiquitous. And if you have a sweet tooth, you have to try it at least once in your life. I’m serious: put it on your bucket lists, my friends!

Think of sucre à la crème as a sort of firm but melting fudge. It is similar to Scottish tablet or vintage brown sugar fudge. The traditional recipe is golden brown and tastes like brown sugar. When made well, you do have to bite into the fudge. But once you take that bite, it will truly melt in your mouth. The experience is seriously transcendent. There is nothing on earth quite like it.

Read more about the do’s and don’ts of making sucre à la crème or skip down to the recipe so you can write up your grocery list now.

 

Sucre à la crème is a vintage brown sugar fudge recipe from Quebec
Sucre à la crème is a vintage brown sugar fudge recipe from Quebec
Graphic made in Canva using a public domain image by Pexels user Belinda Cave

Tips for Making the Perfect Fudge

The ingredients are simple but candy recipes in general tend to be fussy. There are a number of ways you can mess up this candy – as is the case with most homemade candy recipes.

  1. Use a candy thermometer for the best results, and be sure to follow the recipe instructions exactly. Our grandmothers just eyeballed everything and used a cold water test to judge when the sugar had cooked long enough. You can still do that today, but it’s a lot easier to read a thermometer!

  2. Choose a saucepan that’s fairly deep, as the sugar will bubble a lot during cooking. You also want the bottom of the pan to be fairly thick, as you’ll be cooking the sugars and cream without stirring and you don’t want the mixture to stick or burn.

  3. Don’t try to cook a double batch of sucre à la crème. If you need more than one batch, you can do two at once in different saucepans, or make one batch after the other. Fudge can be frozen, so it’s fine to make your sucre à la crème well in advance of Christmas. Take your time and make it right.

  4. Don’t try to add the butter and vanilla until the hot sugar mixture has cooled. If you rush this step, your fudge won’t turn out right.

  5. Although you can beat your fudge by hand with a wooden spoon (my mother always did) it goes a lot faster if you use a hand mixer.

Traditional Sucre à la Crème Recipe

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions:

  1. Line an 8” square pan with baking parchment, leaving a good bit of the parchment hanging over the sides. If the sides of the pan are not well covered by the parchment, butter them to prevent sticking.

  2. Place the cream, granulated sugar, and brown sugar in a large saucepan. Stir just until the sugars are dissolved.

  3. Heat the sugar and cream mixture over medium-high heat until it reaches the soft ball stage, 237 °F or 114 °C. Do not stir while the sugar is cooking, no matter what you’ve been told in the past! (Note: If you like your sucre à la crème a bit more firm, continue to heat the mixture until it reaches 116 °C, or 240 °F.)

  4. Remove the saucepan from the heat and place it in a heat-proof bowl filled partially with room temperature water. Cool for about 20-30 minutes, or until the sugar mixture reaches about 122 °F (50 °C.) The temperature can go as low as 110 °F (43 °C) and you’ll still be able to add your butter. So don’t worry if you don’t catch the cooling at the exact temperature.

  5. Add the butter and vanilla. Beat the fudge with a hand mixer on a fairly low speed, about 3-4 minutes or until the sugar loses its shine and the colour becomes more creamy. If using nuts, stir them in now.

  6. Pour the finished fudge mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with a spatula. Let cool at room temperature about an hour, or chill in the refrigerator about 30 minutes. At this point, the fudge won’t be completely set, but it will be firm enough that you can cut it into 3/4” or 1” squares. This is the easiest time to cut it, but let it cool longer before eating it. We usually let our sit for several hours before eating.

 

 

The Science of Sucre à la Crème

Sucre à la crème, like any traditional fudge, is essentially a supersaturated solution of sugar in cream. Heating the mixture allows more of the sugar crystals to dissolve into the cream, but disturbing the sugar-cream mixture will cause sugar crystals to precipitate out of the solution. (If you’ve ever grown sugar crystals with your kids or made rock sugar, you’ve seen this first-hand.)

It’s important not to stir the sugar while it’s heating. Some recipes will also tell you to use a pastry brush dipped in a tiny amount of water to wash down the sides of the saucepan during heating. This is to prevent sugar crystals clinging to the pan and later falling into the sugar where they will “seed” the formation of more crystals. You do want crystals to form, but in order to get fudge that melts in your mouth, they have to be small crystals. If you stir too soon, or if seed crystals fall into the cooling sugar, the crystals that form will be bigger and the texture of the fudge will be more granular. It will still taste good, but sucre à la crème won’t melt in your mouth quite the same way if it’s too granular.

 

 

The reason we use dairy products like heavy cream or evaporated milk when making brown sugar fudge is that the milk fat interferes with the formation of sugar crystals. Similarly, some of the more contemporary recipes for sucre à la crème add corn syrup to serve the same purpose. The idea is to slow down the formation of the sugar crystals so they’ll develop at just the right time.

In contemporary recipes for American-style chocolate fudge, you will often find ingredients such as sweetened condensed milk, marshmallows or marshmallow spread, and even cream cheese. All of these help to slow down the crystal formation so the fudge will have a smoother texture. These “foolproof” recipes do make it easier to make fudge, but their flavour pales in comparison with the vintage recipes – whether it be Scottish tablet, sucre à la crème, or the original chocolate fudge recipe from Wellesley or Smith College. If you love your microwave 3-minute fudge, I can’t fault you for wanting to make it the easy way. But at least once in your life, you need to taste the real vintage fudge.

Do you make fudge every year at Christmastime? Have you ever tasted authentic Quebec sucre à la crème? Tell me about it in the comments!

 

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Sucre à la crème is a vintage brown sugar fudge recipe from Quebec – in English! This vintage recipe is authentic: no corn syrup, no marshmallow, no canned milk products.
Finally, an authentic sucre à la crème recipe in English!
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Graphic made in Canva using a public domain image by Pexels user Belinda Cave

 

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48 thoughts on “Sucre à la Crème: A Vintage French Canadian Recipe for Brown Sugar Fudge”

  1. I would totally try it! By buying it, not by me trying to make it. I buy my sweets, I love cheesecake and chocolate lava cake but I never make them at home! That reminds me there was this great spot in Atlantic City that I liked to buy fudge, it’s been AGES!
    Tracy @ Ascending Butterfly recently posted…Did you watch @kencen #KCHonors? Congrats to the honorees: @GloriaEstefan ‏@LionelRichie ‏@llcoolj @CarmenDances @GloriaEstefan @TheNormanLearMy Profile

    1. I love cheesecake too, Tracy. Though where we live, the best way to get sweets like cheesecake or fudge is to make them. There are only a few good places to get sweets here, and most of them only do business for a few hours on Saturday when the farmer’s market is open…

  2. Oh this sounds so delicious and I love the little bit of science you added! My husband and his family are French Canadian and they would be so impressed if I showed up with this sweet treat! Saving it for the right occasion. 🙂

    1. I am quite sure they’d be thrilled if you brought sucre à la crème to a family gathering! It’s serious comfort food for anyone who has spent any time in Quebec. Another great recipe you might want to check out is Pâté chinois, a French Canadian version of shepherd’s pie that has been declared the “national dish” of Quebec. It’s a wonderful make-ahead meal for when you’re entertaining family. I also like to make extra and bring it to a potluck or give it as a hostess gift when I’m visiting.

  3. Thank you for sending me this link. This looks exactly like what I have been craving! I rarely use or check email but I do check Facebook most days for updated pictures of my grandchildren and will follow your page

    1. I’m so pleased that you came to check out the recipe, Linda! And thanks so much for following on Facebook. There are a lot of additional resources there that I don’t post to the blog, but I also make sure each new blog post is linked there. So you’ll never miss any new content 🙂

    1. Fudge can be tricky to make if you don’t get the right instructions with the recipe. It’s important to not stir while the sugar and cream are heating, and to keep an eye on the temperature. If you follow this recipe, it should give you good results. Let me know how it goes 🙂

    1. Sugar pie is lovely too, Patricia! The very first time I had it was on my uncle’s farm. He had a sugar bush, so my aunt used maple sugar that he’d made in her tarte au sucre. It was like nothing else in the world! Years later, I discovered that you can also have a sugar pie made with a filling of apples and a creamy, less cooked version of sucre à la crème. That is even more heavenly, I think. But it’s awfully rich! Just a thin slice will do, and it’s one of those foods that I really have a tough time eating moderately.

      Sucre à la crème is definitely a safer dessert for me! I cut the pieces small and try to just eat one. If I give into impulse and go back for the second, at least they were small pieces!

    1. Ah! For maple fudge, you’d actually want to add authentic Canadian maple syrup to your recipe. There are some that include it, but we never made our fudge that way. I guess the real maple syrup was always a special treat and we wanted to enjoy it on its own, instead of in other recipes.

    1. There’s a HUGE difference between the quick fudge that most people (and even commercial confectioners) make these days and a traditional brown sugar fudge! Whether you like it the French Canadian or English way, or whether you add a little chocolate the American way, the vintage recipes are much cleaner and lighter.

      A small piece of sucre à la crème hits that Goldilocks spot: it’s just enough sweet, but not too much! It will literally melt in your mouth.

    1. If you’ve had any kind of brown sugar fudge (like English all-butter fudge) it’s very similar. It’s very sweet, and it just melts in your mouth. Unlike the chocolate fudge that sort of sticks to the roof of your mouth, it’s surprisingly light.

  4. Oh my goodness this sounds amazing! Fudge is one of my dad’s favorite things. Maybe I should try this recipe for his Christmas gift this year!

    1. My Dad loves sucre à la crème. When he was a little boy during the 40s, this was one of the few treats he got to enjoy. Mom doesn’t like us to give him sweets because of his health. But it always bring a smile to his face when we bring fudge as a Christmas gift 🙂

  5. I absolutely love fudge! My sisters have tried to make it before and they have had trouble getting it right, so I am impressed with people who can make it because I know it is hard! I also like keeping traditions or doing traditional things. The Christmas and fudge combo is definitely that!

    1. It can be tricky, especially when you encounter several different fudge recipes that all give conflicting instructions. But to be honest, the times when I’ve had my fudge fail were when I deviated too much from the recipe my mother used to make. And also the times when I tried to rush the fudge, or stirred it at the wrong time.

      If you are going to make fudge, including sucre à la crème, it’s important to understand what’s happening in this supersaturated solution of sugar and cream. Yes, do stir it until the ingredients are mixed. But then let it heat without stirring, because that would either prevent the sugars fully dissolving or start the sugar crystals forming too soon. Either way, not what you want to happen! Other than watching the thermometer, the hardest part is beating the fudge enough. Some people can just do it by feel. But I confess that I’m still never 100% sure it will set right until it does.

  6. I have had dreams of making this and ruining it LOL, definitely needed these instructions to perfect my recipe! The video does help a lot as well, that way I don’t have to focus so much on reading while I’m cooking.

    1. It is a bit tricky to make, but if you watch your thermometer carefully it should go well enough. Also, be sure to beat the fudge until it dulls. If it’s still glossy, beat some more.

  7. I’ve never eaten this before or attempted to make it! I’ll have to look into it as I love to cook and try new things! Thanks for the recipe- very thorough!

    1. I grew up eating brown sugar fudge and sucre à la crème. It’s very delicious! Nothing else is quite like it. Scottish tablet has a similar texture but is usually made with white sugar. So it’s got a slightly different taste.

  8. Haven’t had sucre a la creme in YEARS!!! My mother used to make it for Christmas every year and I’ve been wanting to make a batch myself (but keep putting it off). This is a fantastic fudge and I think it’s time I stop putting off making some for the holidays! Thanks for the recipe 🙂

    1. It is honestly the very best fudge I’ve ever eaten in my life. I like to make the American style fudge with the chocolate, especially the 2-ingredient fudge because it’s so simple. But there’s more depth of flavour to sucre à la crème.

  9. That looks so good! I haven’t made any kind of candy in decades because I’m trying to decrease my consumption, as is my husband. My mom used to make the brown sugar fudge, and so did I. It was my favorite. I’ve never tried sucre à la crème. It sounds delicious. It would probably be better if I did not make it.

  10. Have never attempted fudge before but this one, and the chocolate fudge you have posted both sound like i could make them, and are so droolworthy my 11 yo will jump at the chance to help me make them (though she has a warning from her dentist!!).. glad to have found you via Martha.. and doing the photo challenge now 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by! If you do make the fudge, portion control is a good idea. Cut the pieces fairly small, and think about freezing some so it won’t be a constant temptation. You could cut one batch into two slabs and freeze one for a later date. Then there is only a half batch to tempt you and your daughter 🙂

      You can also individually wrap some pieces of the fudge if you find you have leftovers after a family gathering. Either tuck them away in the back of the fridge (behind healthy snacks!) or freeze just those few pieces. You will find it’s much harder to justify taking a piece of candy if it’s harder to access or if it must be thawed first. Even the simple act of unwrapping a piece of sucre à la crème makes one feel more accountable. And there’s evidence of how much was consumed!

      I will pop by your blog later and check it out 🙂

    1. I love how it sounds sophisticated to you, Martha! To me it’s more rustic 🙂

      I’m planning to write up several more Québécois recipes before Christmas, as this time of year we really love to cook those dishes for the holidays. Stay tuned!

  11. I’ve always been afraid of making anything that requires a candy thermometer but these instructions make me feel more confident. This looks delicious!

    1. Fudge is not quite as scary as something like peanut brittle. The main thing with any kind of fudge, including sucre à la crème, is to not disturb it during the heating and cooling period. Then you want to give it a good beating until the shine is all gone. It will set well if you follow these instructions and stay within the temperatures in the recipe 🙂

    1. Once you try sucre à la crème, you will always want to make it for special occasions! It really is the ultimate treat. I am not huge on sweets anymore, but I still love my sucre à la crème 🙂

        1. If you have an electronic kitchen thermometer, it may double as a candy thermometer. I notice that in his video for making sucre à la crème uses one like this. Before you go out and buy one of the old-style analog candy thermometers, check to see whether you already have a digital one that will serve the same purpose.

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