The Distinguished Fudge Fancy

Some time in the mid 2000’s, I found out about a place called Vanilla Bean Bakery and Cafe in Latham (which also had a bakery in Troy), and fell in love with a cookie they used to have called the Fudge Fancy. It was a soft shortbread cookie with about an equal amount of sugary fudge on top. They kind of reminded me of my favorite childhood cookie, Stella D’oro’s Swiss Fudge cookie, only it was far better.

A couple of years and several dozen cookies after this, Vanilla Bean closed, and a place called Cookie Factory popped up in Troy, and they were selling cookies that looked strikingly similar to the Vanilla Bean Fudge Fancy; there, these cookies were called “Fudge Fantasies.” It turns out the owners of Cookie Factory owned a part of Vanilla Bean Bakery. Things have gone gangbusters for these guys, and you can find Cookie Factory Fudge Fantasies at most of the area supermarkets in the bakery section.

Later in the 2000’s, I learned that Bella Napoli Bakery (in Troy but with a bakery outpost and cafe in Latham) had their own fudge fancy. The one time I tried it, it looked very good, and it tasted good, but the fudge was much more fluid than Cookie Factory’s version. In fact, when I bit into it, a bit of the fudge dropped onto my shoe.

Since meeting my good friend MetalFrog back in 2009, we’ve argued which of our favorite was actually better. He doesn’t like the Cookie Factory version because, every time he eats them, he’s left with a lap full of crumbs.

Something I always wanted to do was design a social experiment to see which cookie would be more widely appealing. I work with a bunch of scientists, all of which come from diverse backgrounds and would be unbiased (many of them don’t know or care about either bakery.). Having each of them participate in a larger focus group made for some interesting results.

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I had some people pick up Fudge Fantasies from the Troy outpost of Cookie Factory, someone else pick up mini Fudge Fancies from Bella Napoli, and I picked up the Stella D’oro Swiss Fudge cookies to make things interesting.

The three cookies

The three cookies

The three cookies side by side

I handed out score sheets to the 17 people who participated. All I asked was that each person taste each cookie and rate the fudge, cookie, and overall taste each on a scale of 0 to 5. I summed the three scores for each person, took the overall averages, and normalized the totals on a scale of 100. Some people left comments.

Here’s the breakdown:

Cookie Factory Fudge Fantasy (Cookie "A")
Cookie Factory Fudge Fantasy (Cookie “A”)
Cookie Factory Fudge Fantasy (Cookie "A")
Cookie Factory Fudge Fantasy (Cookie “A”)

Cookie Factory Fudge Fantasy (Cookie “A”)

  • Fudge : 72
  • Cookie: 73
  • Overall Taste: 74
  • Total: 73
Stella D'oro Swiss Fudge (Cookie "B")
Stella D’oro Swiss Fudge (Cookie “B”)
Stella D'oro Swiss Fudge (Cookie "B")
Stella D’oro Swiss Fudge (Cookie “B”)

Stella D’oro Swiss Fudge (Cookie “B”)

  • Fudge : 40
  • Cookie: 56
  • Overall Taste: 52
  • Total: 49
Bella Napoli Fudge Fancy
Bella Napoli Fudge Fancy
Bella Napoli Fudge Fancy
Bella Napoli Fudge Fancy

Bella Napoli Fudge Fancy

  • Fudge : 81
  • Cookie: 66
  • Overall Taste: 79
  • Total: 75

When looking strictly at the sum of the scores, there’s no statistical difference between Cookie Factory (73/100) and Bella Napoli (75/100).  By looking back at the individual judging criteria, some specific trends can be drawn.

On the average, people felt Bella Napoli had superior fudge and overall taste, but had a cookie that was slightly inferior to Cookie Factory. Cookie Factory was consistent across the board. From the comments some people left on the score sheets, some felt that Cookie Factory’s fudge was overly sweet and wasn’t quite as “fudgy” as Bella Napoli; another common observation was that Cookie Factory fudge was more crispy and sugary. From the comments left, many people would love a cookie comprised of Cookie Factory’s cookie with Bella Napoli Fudge.

Stella D’oro’s cookie didn’t score great at all. Honestly, they tasted nothing like the cookies I remember. The fudge was almost as chewy as a Tootsie Roll, and I definitely don’t remember it being so hard. Some people actually thought this cookie was superior because it was the only cookie that was crunchy. There were a couple who picked this cookie as their favorite, and the main reason given was that it was nowhere near as sweet as the other two.

The most interesting thing I take from the whole study comes when breaking down the cost per gram of each cookie. A Cookie Factory Fudge Fantasy weighs 40 grams and costs 50 cents per cookie. A Stella D’oro Swiss Fudge cookie weighs 12 grams and costs 18 cents per cookie. Bella Napoli’s mini Fudge Fancy weighs 36 grams and costs 45 cents per cookie. Per gram, Stella D’oro costs twice as much as the other two and was widely received as inferior.

The bottom line is that you really can’t go wrong with the fudge cookies from either bakery. Cookie Factory has a very consistent product that you can also find at a lot of grocery stores. Bella Napoli cookies are less widely available, but probably are the cookies you’d want to feed to a chocolate lover. Either way, I’d say they’re brilliant bites.

Cookie Factory (520 Congress St, Troy, NY)

Bella Napoli (672 New Loudon Road Latham, NY 12110 or 721 River Street Troy, NY)

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For the record, here are my scores (each normalized to 100 percent):

Cookie Factory Fudge Fantasy (Cookie “A”)

  • Fudge : 40
  • Cookie: 80
  • Overall Taste: 60
  • Total: 60

Stella D’oro Swiss Fudge (Cookie “B”)

  • Fudge : 20
  • Cookie: 60
  • Overall Taste: 40
  • Total: 40

Bella Napoli Fudge Fancy

  • Fudge : 100
  • Cookie: 80
  • Overall Taste: 60
  • Total: 80

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5 thoughts on “The Distinguished Fudge Fancy

  • Woodrow

    I miss the Vanilla Bean Bakery. Thanks for the comparison. I like the look and description of that Bella Napoli cooke. But the Cookie Factory wins for me, mainly because I can get it anywhere. I love Bella Napoli but just don’t get to Latham that often, and almost never to Troy.


    • Shannon

      The owners of Vanilla Bean Bakery have opened a new bakery in Lake George- the Lake George Baking Company on Amherst Street. The sweets there still have the great taste that Vanilla Bean had. It’s a lot smaller inside the bakery but definitely worth a stop if you travel north often or once in a while.


      • derryX

        Thanks, Shannon!

        I was going to include a few words about that into this post, but it was getting a little long. As I understand it, Vanilla Bean was co-owned by the people who opened Lake George Baking Company and Cookie Factory in some capacity.


  • SaratogaSaint

    This is great. A lot of times, when people compare things side by side like this, they tend to overthink it. I’m glad you were able to make it as simple as possible.

    I agree with the conclusion here. If I’m in Bella Napoli, I never leave without Fudge Fancies, but if I want them in a pinch, Cookie Factory are just about everywhere. One thing, though. The Cookie Factory Fudge Fantasies that come in 2 packs are much much softer than the larger packs. It really takes away from the quality of the cookie and fudge.



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