Have you ever eaten fudge and found yourself thinking, "Wow, this definitely needs more Velveeta?" Well dear readers, today, I have the dessert for you. About three years ago, I stumbled across a recipe for something called Cheese Fudge, a chocolatey treat which calls for a pound of processed American cheese (a.k.a. Velveeta), a user posted on a Facebook group called "Sounds Midwestern but Ope, Okey Dokey," saying it came from their local church cookbook. The abominable recipe reads as follows:
1 lb. processed American cheese
2 C. Butter
1 C. cocoa
4 lbs. powdered sugar
1 C. chopped nuts
Melt cheese and butter together; remove from heat. Stir in cocoa and powdered sugar, stirring constantly. Mix in nuts. Divide into two portions and pour into two buttered 9x9 cake pans. Cover with waxed paper. Makes 5 pounds. Freezes well. Each pan makes 81 one inch squares.
As a born-and-raised Illinoisan, I have seen my fair share of weird desserts throughout my life. Watergate salad, which -- considering it calls for pistachio pudding, Cool Whip and mini marshmallows, among other ingredients -- is definitely not a salad. The neon blue goodness of Blue Moon ice cream. The cerealy, chocolatey peanut buttery deliciousness of Puppy Chow, which should only ever be eaten from a plastic baggie during homeroom, after buying it off of some kid raising money for the track team. I've seen it all. But never in my life, had I seen something this bizarre and quintessentially Midwestern.
The questions started rushing through my mind. Chocolate and Velveeta? Why is one batch five pounds? Is it even good? I needed answers and decided to find them myself.
After acquiring the ingredients (which required visiting five different grocery stores to track down a single box of Velveeta) I combined a half-pound of the processed American cheese (I halved the recipe as I still have some self-respect left) with one cup of butter on a double boiler, as to avoid forcing my nice pot into a Velveeta-y demise.
It was at this moment I began to panic, wondering what I had gotten myself into. It smelled vile. Like plasticky nacho cheese gone horrible awry. But alas, there was no turning back. I was too far in it, I needed to complete my due journalistic diligence.
Then, after congealing into a strange, buttery soup with chunks of cheese, it finally came together into a creamy, albeit extremely greasy mixture. it was time for the sugar ... all two pounds of it ...
... and the cocoa powder.
It came together into an oddly chunky mixture that took more than a bit of coaxing to spread properly in the pan. I popped it in the freezer, and voila! Cheese Fudge.
Upon first taste, everything seems suspiciously normal, the calm before the storm, if you will, with the 1/2 cup of cocoa powder and whole 2 lbs. of powdered sugar somehow masking its cheesy companion. If you closed your eyes, for a split second, it would feel almost as if you were eating a piece of decent fudge, not great, not terrible, but certifiably okay.
But then, Ms. Velveeta, in all her neon orange glory, claims her spotlight. At first, it's subtle, you find yourself thinking, "Why this fudge almost ... sweaty?" as beads of grease seep onto your tongue. Then, it hits you. The chemical taste of whatever the hell goes into Velveeta in tandem with the absurd richness of two cups of butter smack you in the mouth like a sickeningly sweet sucker punch. "Something is terribly, terribly wrong here," you start to think, questioning every decision you've ever made that has brought you to this forsaken moment, hating yourself for simply continuing to chew.
Although my friend Max, who I dragged along on this journey to reach the apex of Mt. Choco-Velveeta, tapped out after a single bite, his only commentary a warning: "Don't make this." I personally think everyone, especially us Midwesterners, should give this monstrosity a go at some point in our lives. Cheese Fudge, like all things (including odd middle American recipes), has its uses. If you like your sweets with a side of emotional roller coasters, including pleasant surprise, confusion, and existential dread, and even a short-lived tummy ache, Cheese Fudge is the dessert for you. Cheese fudge: the full emotional spectrum.