First came a trip to Portland’s Voodoo Doughnut, which inspired Olympia native Julie Hamilton’s foray into fudge-making two years ago.
“Anthony Bourdain had done an article Voodoo Doughnut’s maple bacon bar, so we tried it,” Julie, 40, explains. She came home curious to create something similar. “I’d never really made fudge before,” she says, “but I had a recipe given to me from a friend at work and I thought I’d try my twist on it.”
Julie concocted a fudge flavor she now calls “WTFudge” – which stands for What The Fudge – with maple bacon in a white chocolate. When fresh blackberries came out a couple months later, she wrapped them into white chocolate with almonds. It was clear she had a knack for whipping up delicious fudge flavors.
Soon after these first successful experiments, Julie found herself packaging tins of fudge for friends. Rave reviews showered down. Folks then started asking Julie to make fudge that they could buy to give as gifts.
A young friend of Julie’s watched her making fudge one day and asked: “Are you making mad fudge today?” — meaning great quantities of it. “I loved that,” Julie says. “It just resonated with me.”
Her burgeoning business had found its moniker.
This past spring, MadFudge officially hung its (figurative) hat. With no bricks-and-mortar shop, Julie relies on the MadFudge website and Facebook page for taking orders and to get the word out when she has surplus to sell. She currently makes local deliveries once a week, but also mails and overnights vacuum-sealed orders from outside the area.
MadFudge currently sublets a restaurant kitchen, allowing Julie to create a professional product in large quantities.
And although Julie continues to work full-time – she has 10 years in with the state — her long-term goal is to see MadFudge take off and become her sole source of income.
Both of Julie’s parents, recently retired, were longtime business owners in Olympia. “I’d like to carry on that legacy of being a native business owner here,” Julie says.
Her favorite thing to do is custom flavors, where people come to her with specific requests. The crazier the better, as far as Julie’s concerned.
She runs down a list of nontraditional fudge flavors she’s been asked to make: spiced fig, mocha almond, espresso, mulled apple cider, cinnamon candy fudge – “Any candy you can think of,” she says – candy cane, pumpkin spice, and egg nog. She could go on.
Her neighbor recently requested mint chocolate chip ice cream in a fudge. Julie’s response? “No problem!”
“I’ve had people try to stump me – and it’s always ended up working out for the best,” she says. “I think my jalapeno fudge was one someone tried to stump me with, and they loved it.”
Julie says she actually prefers to do custom orders, “because it’s more of an art form for me. It’s a creative thing.”
But MadFudge also sells more traditional fudge. Her best sellers are chocolate and peanut butter, traditional chocolate with or without walnut, peanut butter cup, regular peanut butter, and chocolate pretzel. She also has seasonal flavors, like candy cane and pumpkin spice, that fly out of the pans this time of year.
“These are the ones I can’t even keep in stock,” Julie says, “because I’ll post that on Facebook, and it’s gone.”
A complete list of available fudge flavors can be found at the MadFudge website.
Julie finds inspiration everywhere – even friends’ Facebook posts. A girlfriend wrote that she was eating peanut butter and chocolate Ben & Jerry’s with chow mien noodles and Hershey’s syrup. “And I said, ‘That sounds like a good fudge,’” says Julie, “So I went and made what I now call my Dirty Bird fudge, it looks like a dirty birds nest when you’re done. It’s a chocolate peanut butter swirl with a chocolate ganache, and then covered in chow mien noodles. It’s a pretty big seller.”
Most MadFudge orders are one or two pounds, but Julie yields between four and six pounds each time she makes a batch, so she ends up with additional to sell.
Packages come in quarter-pound, half-pound, and pound packaging. Custom orders are $25 per pound with a preferred minimum order of two pounds. The best sellers cost $20 per pound.
MadFudge will also be offering wholesale quotes soon.
Julie sees MadFudge as a new era in her life. The single mother – to a nine-year-old, two teenagers, and a 21-year-old – is busy. In fact, during the holidays, she puts in 20 or 30 hours at MadFudge (on top of her full-time work schedule) just to keep up with orders.
But she’s confident all the hard work will be worth it.
I’m so eternally grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given and the people I’ve met along the way,” she says. “I see nothing but big things happening.”
Julie says she feels like she’s on a roller coaster ride, strapped in safely, with the universe behind her, taking her wherever she needs to go. And, she says, serendipity has played a huge part in MadFudge.
“Even the screw-ups have turned out to be good,” Julie says, laughing. “Some of my best flavors have turned out because I’ve screwed something up.”
Julie chooses to see the mix-ups as opportunities, rather than failures.