We Have College Students To Thank For Popularizing Fudge

Fudge — it's decadent, rich, and was created by mistake. This favorite dessert, made primarily from a base of sugar, butter, and milk, was discovered by accident and then popularized by American college students. In the late 1800s, a young lady at Vassar College, then a women's institution, obtained the recipe and made a large batch of the largely unknown fudge to sell at a school fundraiser. The recipe gained traction in a few women's colleges, such as Wellesley College and Smith College. According to Joyce White, a food historian, female students would even make fudge in secret in their dorm rooms as a form of rebellion against the rules.

And in the approximately 130 years since those days, fudge has become not only popular but beloved. Many confectioners specialize in fudge alone, and it isn't uncommon to see specialty fudge shops where you can watch artisan fudge makers mix and roll out fudge on wide marble slabs. The most remarkable thing about fudge's current popularity is that it likely all started with a recipe gone wrong.

The Invention of Fudge

Even though college students were the ones who put fudge on the map, its actual invention is slightly murkier. Though there is some debate, it is widely agreed that fudge, as we know it today, was actually created by mistake when a confectioner in the late 1800s was attempting to make chocolate caramels.

How would that happen? Fudge can become caramel-like in texture if it isn't cooked at a high enough temperature. Fudge depends on a very specific heat of 232 to 234 degrees Fahrenheit to give it the signature fudgy texture. Achieving a lower temperature can result in the smooth and sticky consistency of caramel. Fortunately, even though the confectioner "fudged" the recipe, it was one of the most delicious mistakes that could possibly be made. From there, the recipe made it into the hands of a young lady at Vassar College, and then it was only a matter of time until fudge spread in popularity.

The Popularity of Fudge Today

These days, fudge is ubiquitous, and a favorite dessert for many. Today's flavors go beyond the traditional chocolate; your options include peanut butter, maple walnut, cookies and cream, and much more. You can find a hearty fudge selection in any traditional candy shop.

There is one place in the United States that has become known as the "fudge capital of the world." The town of Mackinac Island between Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas has 13 fudge shops in its downtown center, which is a lot for a small town of fewer than 600 people! Mackinac Island is a tourist destination, and in the summers, these shops make as much as 10,000 pounds of fudge per day.

However, for high-quality and delicious fudge, you don't have to go to Mackinac Island or even to your local candy store. Fudge is easy to make in your home kitchen. Check out this recipe for classic chocolate fudge and get ready to enjoy one of the dessert world's best mistakes.