For the longest time, I didn’t realize that there are 2 ways to make fudge. I did wonder why the product in candy shops was so expensive and tasted different than the kind from the kits sold near Christmas time (sometimes called fantasy fudge). I learned that old-fashioned fudge is the kind I prefer, but not before making a batch of each kind just to make sure.
Differences in Ingredients
Old-fashioned (or “hard”) chocolate fudge contains sugar, butter, liquid dairy of some sort, salt, vanilla, and cocoa. Fantasy (or “easy”) fudge uses the same ingredients, but with marshmallow creme and chocolate chips instead of cocoa. Some old-fashioned recipes do use chocolate, not cocoa, but I’ve never seen one with marshmallow as a base ingredient. That ingredient alone seems to be the biggest difference between the 2. A basic, old-fashioned fudge like this one from Hershey’s would be a little cheaper to make than fantasy fudge, but neither one costs anything close to what you’d pay at a candy shop.
Differences in Process
Both types require using the stovetop to cook ingredients. For fantasy fudge, the recipe specifies bringing the ingredients to a boil for 5 minutes, but for old-fashioned fudge, the mixture must come to soft-ball stage before proceeding, and this step definitely takes longer than 5 minutes. (I did measure the temperature of the fantasy fudge after 5 minutes, and it reached soft ball stage, but I’m not sure that it’s a requirement for the candy to set up. I will have to experiment further.)
After removing the specified ingredients from the heat, additional ingredients are stirred in. For old-fashioned fudge, it’s just the butter and vanilla, but you have to wait to stir it until it’s cooled off to 110 degrees. For the fantasy version, it’s chocolate, marshmallow creme, and vanilla, which can be stirred in immediately.
It’s a little easier to tell when the fantasy fudge is done: when everything is stirred together and melted. Old-fashioned fudge takes a bit longer to stir, and it also requires a trained eye to see when to stop stirring: as soon as it loses its gloss. With my very first batch of old-fashioned fudge, I stirred it about 20 seconds too long, which led to the final result being a tiny bit crumbly. It wasn’t a failure, though, and it turned out great for a supposedly difficult recipe.
Adjustments for Altitude
There was no mention of altitude in the fantasy recipe. The old-fashioned recipe specified adding more milk and adjusting the temperature for soft-ball stage based on altitude. By my calculation, I needed to cook it 10 degrees lower than what the original recipe said. Keeping that in mind and using cold water to test for soft-ball stage, I managed to get a really good result. 10 degrees is a huge difference when it comes to candy stages!
Differences in Final Taste
Old-fashioned fudge resists a little when you first bite into it, but then it melts in your mouth and tastes deliciously creamy. (It shouldn’t be crumbly or gooey.)
Fantasy fudge, thanks to the marshmallow creme, is a bit softer and creamier. It melts in your mouth with no initial resistance.
Both are very sweet and should be served in tiny squares. Neither tastes especially chocolaty compared to eating straight chocolate, so if that’s what you’re looking for, eat a bar of chocolate instead. 😉
Making fudge isn’t especially difficult if you follow the directions, no matter what kind you’re making. I personally prefer the old-fashioned kind. Though it takes a little longer to make and a little more care, I like the texture and taste better. I think it’s worth the extra effort.
Fantasy fudge, however, is well-loved for a reason. It’s easy and makes a huge pan in almost no time. I suspect that my family members and neighbors don’t really care which kind they get, either. I’m definitely going to keep both recipes around!
Find more candy recipes here.