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Keebler E.L. Fudge Cookies
Food can be memorable for many reasons. One reason that we tend to take for granted, until it is gone, is fun. Since food began, some foods, like cookies, just scream, “fun.” Fun tastes, shapes, colors, and ingredients are abundant in the cookie world.
One cookie, has for over 30 years, managed to embody all those characteristics, the E.L. Fudge Cookie from Keebler. I would like to take a closer look at this amazingly underrated sandwich cookie and hopefully get you to appreciate its fun, magical qualities.
What does E.L. Fudge Mean?
The E.L. in E.L. Fudge stand for “Everybody loves fudge.” Which is very true. The name, which used the letters, E.L.F. is also a clever play on the makers of Keebler cookies, the elves.
Keebler seems to be downplaying this original meaning lately. Not mentioning it on the modern packaging. Maybe they don’t want to make a sweeping generalization about everyone’s love for fudge? Or perhaps they are convinced the name no longer needs explanation?
Whatever the reasoning, I think they are wrong. They should be putting that info back on the packaging to educate a whole new generation on the name.
The Original Elfwich
In 1976, Keebler introduced its very own take on the Oreo-style sandwich cookie with the Elfwich. Two things made the Elfwich stand out. First, was the use of chocolate cream for the interior and second was the adorable Ernie that they stamped on each chocolate wafer.
It was a beautiful cookie and ten years afters its release, it would be proceeded by the E.L. Fudge. Nowadays, the Elfwich name has been applied to the E.L. Fudge. So the cookie you see above is the Grandcookie of the current E.L Fudge.
When were E.L. Fudge Cookies Released?
E.L. Fudge cookies hit store shelves in April 1986. Keebler, of course, hyped them across the United States. Running commercials and print ads with coupons in papers and magazines.
The thing is, the E.L. Fudge Cookies you get today might have the same cookie DNA as the 1986 version, but they were actually different. While they were elf-shaped, and bore the likeness of the head Keebler Elf, Ernie, just like the modern snack, they were not sandwich cookies.
Instead, they were more similar to Keebler’s Fudge Stripe cookie or Fudge Dominoes. That is a cookie that’s been dipped in fudge, so that the entire back of the cookie is covered, leaving the elf design completely visible.
Another delicious cookie that used this same chocolate dipping method was the underrated Keebler Fudge Dominoes. These domino-shaped graham cracker-based cookies were a favorite of mine when I was growing up.
These new cookies were a big hit for Keebler. So much so, that by the summer of 1987, they were ready to expand the product line. They introduced a similarly-shaped cookie, but instead of being fudge-backed, they decided to make it a sandwich cookie.
These new cookies came in three varieties:
Fudge-filled Butter Cookie
Peanut Butter-filled Chocolate Cookie
Vanilla Creme-filled Chocolate Cookie
With the success of these three, they added a fourth flavor for chocolate lovers in 1988.
Fudge-filled Chocolate Cookie
All four were delicious, which was great for Keebler, but not for the original cookie. With the success of these sandwich cookies, its days were numbered and it would be phased out.
The Modern E.L. Fudge Cookie is Born
In late 2002/early 2003, almost two decades after the original cookie hit store shelves, Keebler changed things up. Instead of just putting Ernie, their most famous elf, on the cookie, they decided to introduce the world to some of the other elves in the Hollow Tree.
It was accompanied by a clever ad campaign that shows the elves in trouble. In turns out, the Believe-O-Meter, which gauges the buying public’s belief in elves, is at an all-time low. They aren’t sure what to do when the youngest, and most EXTREME of the elves, Elwood, has the idea that the various elves need to have cookie versions of themselves. That will show the world they are real.
It’s a great commercial. Elwood is so edgy that all of his moves are accompanied by an electric guitar riff.
Meet the Elves
They would feature four elves on these cookies, Ernie, Elwood, Fast Eddie, and Buckets. Here is a group shot of three of the fab four. Weirdly, the package I bought most recently didn’t have any Elwoods in it.
That is just like Elwood though, he doesn’t play by anyone’s rules, and shows up when he feels like it. Such a rebel.
Adding to the fun, At some point, they decided to add messages to the back of each cookie. Messages range from informative to instructive, and include:
From the Hollow Tree
Do you believe in elves?
Dunk head first.
Double Stuffed E.L. Fudge
Sandwich cookies are an interesting creation. The creators of them labor over the ratio of filling to sandwich wafers, trying to find that perfect balance. It is that combination of textures and flavors that makes a successful confection.
But as soon as a sandwich cookie takes off, someone puts up their hand and says, “not enough filling!” They do this because there is a universal truth about all sandwich cookies, the wafers are simply a vehicle for delivering whatever is in the center.
In 2002, E.L. Fudge made the jump to Double stuff, and they were a rousing success that would help invigorate the product line and lead to the birth of the modern E.L. Fudge cookie.
In addition to Double Stuffed Fudge, they would also release a Double Stuffed Peanut Butter. Naturally, the extreme stuffing of these cookies was handled by the equally extreme, Elwood.
If you are a lover of chocolate, they are far superior to the original, so if you have a choice, I suggest you pick them up
Off the Cookie
If your E.L. Fudge fandom will not be constrained to just cookies, you have a few options. I have seen some shirts and internal company merchandise featuring the cookie, as well as a set of plastic cookie toys that look almost good enough to eat.
In 1989, they did a wonderful offer for an 11-inch Ernie hand-puppet. All you needed was two proofs of purchase and $8.25. Here is the ad they ran across the United Stated for it.
Why we need E.L. Fudge
By adding characters to the cookies, Keebler elevated them. They are no longer just treats, but they are establishing a mythology. Plus they are doing something that is woefully underrepresented in our push for more “natural” foods, they are making things fun.
While other foods are being altered to be healthier for a more health-conscious consumer, E.L. Fudge is holding onto what has made it a survivor.
It also appears to be Keebler’s “fun cookie.” They will do co-branded versions of it to tie-in with other characters like Scooby-Doo, miniaturize them as Elfkins, or change up the flavors like their “blasted” and s’mores varieties.
It might not seem like that big of a deal. We still have lots of cookies on our store shelves, but ask yourself this, how many of them have characters imprinted on them? Just a handful at this point, and even less have multiple characters.
That is why these cookies matter. They maintain a continuity and still wave the flag of a diminishing trend, fun food. So next time you are walking down the cookie aisle, pick up a bag of these magical sandwich cookies. Bring them home and appreciate their design and history before dunking them in milk and biting their heads off.