My family has pondered over the origins of the family fudge recipe for years. I remember my Mom making it for special occasions. My Mom and Aunt Carol would tell us stories about how they were forbidden to cook when their mother and father went out for the evening. They would frequently misbehave and make the family fudge. One of my cousins remembered buying it in one of the fudge shops in Mackinaw City. But, we had never seen it for sale before or since then. We didn’t know anyone who made fudge with the unique taste and texture of our family fudge. We concluded that it must be an old German recipe that had been handed down through the generations. Several years ago I searched the internet for more information. There must be someone who also made this fudge. I found a few blogs that talked about a similar fudge. They didn’t know the source of the recipe either. They also theorized that it was of German origin because their family was German. More people wrote in to support the theory because they too remembered a German member of the family making this fudge. No one could conclusively say they knew where the recipe came from. Nevertheless, the German origin theory was beginning to become an Internet Fact.

Last year I tried again. I finally typed the right words into Google and came across the answer. There were some people who remembered a great fudge recipe that used to be printed on the back of a Hershey Cocoa Powder can, but couldn’t find the recipe. The Uncle Phaedrus, Consulting Detective and Finder of Lost Recipes website,, came to the rescue. I was a little skeptical at first. After all, there’s nothing “old German” about Hershey Cocoa Powder. I clicked the series of links that led me to the recipes. There it was. The family recipe wasn’t exactly the same, but it was close enough. It was identical to the 1936 recipe except ours added 1 tablespoon of corn syrup.

This was a good lesson in reinforcing the need to keep searching for the primary source in our family research. The old German recipe theory could have easily matured into historical fact and the truth could have been lost forever or buried under a pile of untruths. After all, lots of people had stories similar to mine. The common factor was a German ancestor making the fudge, therefore it MUST be an old German recipe. The truth wasn’t nearly as glamorous, but it was very satisfying to finally know that Grandma was the first person in Mom’s family to make the beloved family fudge, and it’s still made by one of her descendants every year at Christmas.

This is the recipe from the 1936 can of Hershey Cocoa Powder with Grandma’s modification. If you would like to sample a piece, come to our meeting on December 7.

  • 4 tablespoonfuls Hershey’s Cocoa
  • 2 cupfuls sugar
  • 1 teaspoonful Vanilla
  • 1 cupful Milk
  • 2 tablespoonfuls Butter
  • 1 tablespoonful light corn syrup

Mix Cocoa and sugar dry. Add milk and butter, then boil. Continue boiling until soft ball is formed when a small amount from spoon is dropped into cold water. Remove from heat, add Vanilla, allow to stand until fairly cool, then beat until creamy and pour into buttered pan.


  • Use whole milk, not low fat milk. The fat content is important for the final texture.
  • Line a 9×9” pan with aluminum foil. The foil doesn’t need to be buttered and can easily be peeled off the fudge when it’s cool.
  • Score the surface of the fudge with a sharp knife. Break it into pieces along the scored lines
  •  It doesn’t matter if you continue to stir the fudge after the vanilla is added or let it stand until it cools further. I’ve read blogs from people who swear by both methods—which means it’s not critical. It’s critical to vigorously stir it when it’s near the crystallization temperature. For me, the easiest way to detect that point is to continuously stir it until it crystallizes at the edge of the pan—like a thin layer of frost is forming on the side of the pan. Then I pour it into the pan as quickly as I can.
  • If it sets before you get if out of the pot, or it doesn’t set at all, reheat it until it’s liquid and try again.

Lisa Christensen