Yay! It’s Christmas, and that means its time to eat lots and lots of candy! But first you have to bake that candy … if you’re like me, that means its time to make some fudge. Great idea! But wait, fudge making is fraught with perils: you have to cook liquid sugar to dangerously high heats, beat, sweat, stir and after all that you could still end up with a pan of either sloppy sugar sauce or uncuttable rock hard candy. So I’m going to show you, in painful detail, how to make delish Candy Cane Fudge! Follow this guide and you and your comedy (or music) husband will be enjoying this fussy holiday treat right till the New Year!
Fudge sounds so simple, right: just make a sugar sauce, heat it up, mix in some flavours and let it set for a few hours. What could go wrong? Lots, as it turns out. For years I’ve experimented with different fudge recipes with varying degrees of success. Lots of online recipes will give you the basics, but when you run into trouble (and you will, if you’re a fudge newbie) they don’t offer a lot of help. That’s why this recipe is so f-cking long. Fudge is not for the faint of heart, so if (when) you run into trouble you’ll want the solution close at hand.
Still with me? Good, let’s get baking!
- at least 30 – 45 minutes of free, uninterrupted time.
- a candy thermometer (seriously, you need this, trust)
- 4 quart / 3.5 litre heavy-bottomed saucepan
- wooden spoon (don’t use plastic, you are cooking with high heat here)
- 9×9 (or similar) baking dish
- aluminum foil
- cooking spray
- a sweatband
Recipe for Candy Cane Fudge:
There are tons of fudge recipes online, use whichever appeals to your taste as long as it requires you to boil the sugar sauce to 235°F / 113°C. “Easy” fudge recipes are not fudge. Those are just chocolate squares. The original source for this recipe is here.
- ½ cup unsalted butter, cubed
- 2 cups white sugar (you can also use raw or cane sugar, but I wouldn’t recommend brown)
- ⅔ cup evaporated milk (1 can)
- 1 tsp salt
- 12 oz / 375 grams white or dark chocolate chips (I like Chipits)
- 7 oz / 200 grams marshmallow creme
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp peppermint extract
- 3 – 4 medium candy canes
- 1 litre eggnog
- 1 bottle rum
Make sure to read this over a few times before attempting to actually make the damn fudge.
Step 1a: Pour yourself a glass of eggnog. Add a splash of rum
You’re going to need this. The Comedy Wives recommend consuming a maximum of 2 ounces of rum during the cooking process. You’ll be working with some very, very hot sugar sauce. Safety first!
Step 1b: Give your baby/cat to your comedy (music) husband for the next hour
Once you start making fudge, you can’t stop … so turn off your phone, lock the kitchen door and find a good holiday music mix.
Step 2: Test your candy thermometer
You need to make sure your equipment works. Fill the saucepan ⅓ full of water, clip the candy thermometer to the pan and bring the water to a boil. Water boils at 212°F / 100°C. If your thermometer shows a different temperature when the water reaches the boiling point make a note of the temperature difference and adjust accordingly when boiling the fudge.
Step 3: Assemble all your ingredients on the counter
Measure out everything that needs to be measured. Line your baking pan with foil and grease it up with cooking spray or butter. Cube up your butter. You don’t want to be fumbling around with teaspoons and butter hands when the sugar sauce is roiling and boiling.
Step 4: Melt the butter over low heat
Stir it occasionally. This would be a good time to put on that sweatband.
Step 5: Add the sugar, evaporated milk and salt to the melted butter
Stir everything together until you have a nice sugar sauce, then increase the heat to medium and clip on the candy thermometer.
TIP: know your stove. If your stove runs hot or cold, adjust accordingly. My stove tends to run hot so I reduce the heat up to Medium-low once the sugar sauce is boiling.
Step 6: Bring the mixture up to 235°F / 113°C
This is where things can start to get hairy. You need to heat the sugar sauce to what is known as the “soft ball stage”. Your sugar sauce can quickly go from 230°F to 250°F in the blink of an eye, so you may also want to use the “soft ball test” once your sugar sauce has started to thicken up a bit.
Soft Ball test:
At this temperature, sugar syrup dropped into cold water will form a soft, flexible ball [you just need to drop a pea-sized amount of sugar syrup]. If you remove the ball from water, it will flatten like a pancake after a few moments in your hand.
TIP: watch out for uneven cooking! If, like me, you have an old crappy stove (but your music husband has a brand new pedal board) then sometimes the bottom of your sugar sauce will cook much faster than the rest resulting in caramelization. A little caramelization won’t hurt your fudge, in fact, it will give it a nice flavour. But a lot will make it bitter, and could overcook your sugar sauce, taking you to the hard ball stage and beyond!
I had a small amount of caramelization at the bottom of the pan when I made one batch (that’s why the sugar sauce turned a butterscotch colour). If this happens, turn the heat down and be careful when stirring that you don’t mix in too much of the caramelized sugar at the bottom of the pan. Your fudge should still turn out alright.
Step 7: Take sugar sauce off heat and add chocolate and marshmallow creme
The sugar sauce has reached 235F and/or passed the soft ball test: take it off the heat right now! Your sugar sauce should be somewhat thick but still easy to stir. Mix in the chocolate and marshmallow creme and stir, stir, stir until everything is nice and incorporated. Then stir some more.
Step 8: Add vanilla & peppermint extracts
Stir, stir, and that’s right, stir some more. Stir until the fudge loses its sheen and is a bit dull; this is what gives the fudge its texture. If you don’t stir it enough the fudge will have a chewy, taffy-like texture.
Step 9: Pour mixture into prepared baking tray
Spread evenly into a layer 1 – 1 ½ inches thick
Step 10: Crush the candy canes
Put the candy canes in a ziploc bag, and bash them with something heavy like a rolling pin, or your comedy husband’s spec script. Spread the crushed canes over the top of the fudge and press them lightly into the mixture.
Step 11: Allow fudge to set for 3 – 4 hours on the counter
(You can also set in the fridge for 1 – 2 hours, but I always find fudge sets better at room temperature.)
Congratulations! You’ve made it this far. Pour yourself a glass of rum and add a splash of eggnog. Did you know Downton Abbey is available on Netflix? Go watch the first episode. Maybe make yourself a fluffernutter sandwich with the leftover marshmallow creme.
After the pilot is over, go cut a small square from the corner of your fudge. Can you cut it? Yes – Good job, you didn’t overheat the sugar sauce. No – all is not lost, skip down to “saving overheated fudge” . Does it taste good? Yes – great, keep reading. No – sorry, you may want to make sure you added the correct measurements and didn’t have too much caramelization. Does the rest of the fudge stay in place in the pan? Yes – congratulations, go watch another episode of Downton Abbey and refresh your glass of eggrum. No – the rest of the fudge oozes into the space left by the cut square. Sounds like the sugar sauce didn’t get hot enough. Read “saving under-heated fudge”.
Step 12: Cut your fudge into 1 inch squares
Store your fudge in a fun Christmas tin for up to 2 weeks in the fridge. Or toss them in tupperware and freeze them till Christmas. Finish off any remaining eggrum.
1. Saving under-heated fudge
Scrape off the candy canes and return the fudge to the (washed) sauce pan. You may want to add a bit of water or milk, only a few tablespoons. Slowly bring the sugar sauce back to the boil and repeat Steps 6 – 11, this time take extra care to boil until a temperature of 235F/112C is reached, and the soft ball test is passed.
2. Saving over-heated fudge
Break up the hard fudge into as small bits as possible and return them to the (washed) sauce pan. Add enough water to just cover the bits and slowly, over low heat, mix the bits until they are liquid. Then raise heat to medium (or medium-low) and repeat steps 6 – 11. You may want to remove the sugar sauce from the burner a bit before it reaches the 235F/112C temperature. Your fudge may end up slightly darker after this re-cook, but it shouldn’t affect the taste.