Chocolate Fudge Sauce

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Virgil Evetts

I’ve been chasing chocolate sauce for nigh-on 25 years now. A sauce so rich, sticky and perfectly unctuous that it’s haunted me all these years. At last, I think it’s with my grasp.

Back when I was about eight or nine the then-great American-themed (but Canadian owned) ice cream chain Swensen’s arrived in New Zealand, to much fanfare and a swag of outlets decked out with wooden panelling, marble counters and branded tiffany lamps. They served a quality of ice cream at the time unseen in New Zealand, with flavours that made boysenberry ripple and hokey-pokey seem like inbred country cousins. Blueberry cheese cake and chocolate peanut butternut are two that I grew inordinately fond of, over successive visits. My mother took a shine to this place too, on account of a congenital weakness for frozen fats, but also because they did very decent sit-down food, of the American-diner style. So, often of a weekend evening, mum would take me by bus to Takapuna and we would throw back our fries and burgers (actually I doubt very much that Mum ate burgers…I just can’t remember what else they served), followed by Swensen’s trademarked (literally) hot fudge sundae. From first appearances this was nothing special- vanilla ice cream, chopped nuts, the ubiquitous maraschino cherry, a wafer biscuit and hot fudge sauce. But my God, that sauce…

Well, I got older and less inclined to eat out with mum of a Saturday night, while Swensen’s fortunes faltered. Branches closed down and they eventually retreated from New Zealand altogether.  Curiously this uber-American themed ‘experience’ is now huge in Asia and the Middle East.

But throughout the unpleasantness of adolescence, the fumbling of early adulthood, to the mortgaged, baby-bounded reality of whatever I am now, the thought of this sauce continued to pop into my head, taunting me and unwelcome regularity. 

Over the years I’ve tried to recreate it, from off-the-shelf products claiming to be hot fudge (but falling well short), to various recipes from books and the net, without anything approaching success –  until this week.  I finally decided to conquer the sauce. Take no prisoners, no defeat, no surrender. My head deserves to be haunted by rare and sophisticated foods, not franchised hot fudge sauce.

You see, it turns out, I just haven’t been thinking American enough. I was busy trying to make a sauce from real chocolate, cream, soft-ball sugar syrup, and by other legitimate and authentic means. But those are not the paths to post-war American food.  Short cuts and chicanery are the way and the light to the stomach fillers of this era.  Cheap cocoa powder, not real chocolate; evaporated milk, not cream; flour, not soft-ball syrup; sugar by the sack full; and enough butter to sink a ship. So what if fat floats?

These things shouldn’t work together. They shouldn’t taste good, and they most certainly shouldn’t taste appallingly great. But they do. My God they do…

Too many years have passed for me to say for sure if this taste exactly like the Swensen’s sauce, but it certainly tastes – and feels – like the sauce of my memory.

Hot Fudge Sauce


1/2 cup cooking cocoa
1/2 cup  (125g) butter
1 heaped tablespoon flour
generous pinch salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup (250ml) evaporated milk.
2 tsp vanilla essence


Sift together the flour, salt and cocoa. Mix to a smooth paste with a little hot water. Combine with butter and melt over a medium heat. Stir constantly.

When all the butter has melted add the sugar. Once simmering add the evaporated milk and vanilla and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved

Remove from the heat and decant to a glass bottle of preserving jar. Allow to cool completely before sealing. Store in the fridge.

Place jar/bottle in a bowl of hot water five minutes before using.

Pour over ice cream, or use as saucy dip for hot doughnuts and churros.

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10 thoughts on “Chocolate Fudge Sauce

  1. I loved the hot fudge sauce at Swensens since living in southern California in the late 70’s and since moving to the washington, DC area have missed it. thanks for taking the time to figure it out!

  2. Sounds yummy. Is it best to use granulated or castor sugar. Have you ever tried making it with brown sugar or does alter the end result totally?
    Always been after a true and authentic Amercian or Canadian choccie sauce. They have such an extensive range of ingredients available to them over there. Been seaching for Peanut Butter Chips from Reeses for yonks but just can’t get them here – or the butterscotch chips either – plain choc chips are about it.

  3. I made this – excellent, certainly not healthy but it has the right texture. I had planned poorly and was completely out of the vanilla as well so I think a dash of this would also have helped.

  4. Ha Ha. During university I waitressed at the Takapuna Swensen’s for two years and then the Newmarket one when I got a flat on the other side! The uniform was hideous but the reuben sandwich was to die for. Remember the bowl with 8 scoops of icecream and the sparklers resplendent on the top!

  5. Ohhhh, Swensen’s! Yes, they did do other things than burgers: my favourite was the evilly delicious Monte Cristo sandwich. My friends and I went to the Newmarket one so often the staff used to give us extra hot fudge sauce in little paper cups. I’ve tried one in Hong Kong, but it just wasn’t the same.

  6. It’s a hybrid of several so called “traditional” American diner recipes. The flour really threw me, but it works. Actually I may have to get rid of my current batch as I keep drinking it every time I go past the fridge. I can feel my arteries protesting…
    I’ve never used evaporated milk before, but it’s quite interesting stuff. Nice caramelised flavour.

  7. How you ever got to that recipe is a complete surprise.
    I would never have got to that combination of flour, butter and evaporated milk.
    If anyone had else had recommended it I would say no but I trust you will try it. :)

  8. Swensens in the Strand Arcade was my regular Friday hangout after university. Friends would gather and hot fudge sundae was the standard order.In those days we were all bean pole thin, wouldn’t like to try the same now!

  9. I will be giving this a go as I love chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream, and find it goes down very well with most at a casual dinner party or BBQ. I also adore caramel sauce! The chocolate sauce I make has golden syrup, cocoa, brown sugar, butter and water in it – more rich than fudgy, but it has store cupboard ingredients which is a plus!