Old-Fashioned Cocoa Fudge (Fair Fudge)


I had a serious chocolate craving last week. I don’t know what came over me, but because of it, we’re about 1 pound richer in homemade fudge.

I’ll eat just about any fudge, but if I’m choosing sides, I’m on Team Hard Fudge – not tooth-breakingly hard, but the kind that’s solid and a little grainy but melts in your mouth and doesn’t really require chewing. In other words, the old-fashioned kind you might get at a fair, and not the kind you get at the beach.

I used to think that I could only get this sort of fudge at our big NC State Fair (hence the name “Fair Fudge”), and frankly, probably should’ve left it that way. But nooooo – I had to go snooping around for recipes, because I just had to figure out how to make it on my own. Sigh.

(It’s a curse, this love of learning, and I’m paying for it with delicious blocks of homemade fudge sitting on my counter.)

In all seriousness, I have some serious nostalgia for old-fashioned fudge – it reminds me of nights meandering at the State Fair, getting to eat whatever terrible-but-delicious food we wanted, and riding gravitrons and spinning rides until I was too sick to enjoy myself. I don’t do much of the spinning stuff anymore (correction: I don’t do any of that nonsense), but I sure do like stuffing my face, and I wanted fudge at different times of the year besides October, and made in my own home.

I perused cookbooks and online recipes for something like it, but most recipes for homemade fudge have you adding mini marshmallows to the mixture. I’ve got nothing against marshmallows, but a) I’m not about to rely on a manufactured candy to keep the texture of my homemade candy, b) I don’t keep mini marshmallows in my cabinet, and, most importantly, c) I’m not looking for chewy fudge.

This is a variation of the recipe that, apparently, used to appear on the back of old Hershey’s Cocoa containers. I like this recipe because it uses ingredients that you’re likely to have on hand. A few notes about making homemade fudge this way:

  1. Fudge is a fickle mister. You may get beautiful, smooth, soft fudge one day, and horrible, hard, grainy fudge on another. Humidity is the most common destroyer of good fudge, so I recommend attempting it on a cool, dry day. (Full disclosure, though – I finished this last batch literally right before the sky opened up in a massive thunderstorm, so *shrug*)
  2. Fudge, like much candymaking, takes patience and care. Do not be tempted to turn the heat too high to cook it faster, or to mix it around more than is recommended in the recipe.
  3. You don’t necessarily need special equipment to make fudge, but I do recommend a candy thermometer and a 3- or 4-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan. I last made it in a 2-quart pan, and I had to keep removing it from the heat in order for it not to boil over in a sugary mess. Don’t be like past me.
  4. If you screw up, try again on a different day. It’s okay. This is the #1 candy (and probably recipe in general) that I have messed up about as much as I’ve had success. Keep trying – you get better at spotting what’s going right and wrong. And no matter what, you end up with chocolate candy. (Or a chocolate doorstop, in one of my cases. I was so mad.)

Okay, enough warnings. Just do it. Make fudge. It’s fun and tasty!

Old-Fashioned Cocoa Fudge

  • Servings: 1 pound
  • Print

If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can test the fudge periodically by dropping small bits into cold water, pulling them out and testing them with your fingers. Once the fudge reaches soft-ball stage, or flattens when you press it between your fingers but doesn’t drip, it’s done.

you will need:

  • 2 c white sugar
  • ½ c cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 c milk
  • ¼ c butter, cut into tablespoons
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper, and set aside.
  2. Whisk together cocoa, sugar, and milk in a 3 or 4 quart heavy-bottomed saucepan until thoroughly combined (no lumps remain). Heat over medium high heat until bubbling, stirring constantly. Once the mixture reaches a boil, lower the heat to medium or medium-low and stop stirring.
  3. Attach a candy thermometer (if using) to the side of the pan and heat the mixture without stirring until the temperature reaches 238-240 degrees F (soft-ball stage).
  4. Remove the pan from the heat, and allow to cool very briefly (5 minutes at most). (Some recipes recommend allowing it to cool to 110-115 degrees, but this is how I got my doorstop fudge, so I never recommend waiting that long.) Add butter and vanilla, and stir the mixture with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan thoroughly, until the mixture loses its sheen. This means it’ll no longer shine like glass, but will start to get a little grainy and shine more like fogged glass. This can take up to 10 minutes, so don’t underbeat it.
  5. Immediately pour/scrape the mixture into your prepared pan, smooth out the top, and allow to cool completely. Remove the fudge, cut into squares, and store in an airtight container.

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