Marshmallow Fluff: The Whole Fluff and Nothing But the Fluff

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Peer into a kid’s lunchbox anywhere in America and you’re likely to find one of a few classic sandwiches: As food trends come and go, ham and cheese and peanut butter and jelly remain enduringly popular year after year. In New England, though, such a search is just as likely to turn up a fluffernutter, the sweet pairing of peanut butter and Marshmallow Fluff slathered on white bread that’s long been a favorite in the region’s lunchrooms. 

But just what’s in the different types of marshmallow fluff?

Marshmallow fluff contains corn syrup, sugar syrup, dried egg whites, and artificial flavors. Strawberry fluff contains corn syrup, sugar syrup, dried egg whites, artificial flavor, and vegetable juice color. There are no artificial preservatives, stabilizers, or emulsifiers in many name-brand varieties of marshmallow fluff.

In this guide, we will tell you all there is to know about marshmallow fluff. Its history, varieties, and ways to make this creamy confection will also be explored. Read on to find out more. 

Marshmallow Fluff
Homemade Fluffernutter Marshmallow Peanut Butter Sandwich for Kids

A Complete History of Marshmallow Fluff

On May 14, 1920, a small article appeared in the Lynn, Massachusetts, Daily Evening Item announcing that two young men, H. Allen Durkee and Fred L. Mower, both graduates of Swampscott High and veterans of the United States Infantry in World War I, had formed a partnership in the manufacture of Marshmallow Fluff. 

The actual date that they started working together is hard to pin down because they had been making candies together before they started making Fluff. The company numbered two men in those days, and they started out cooking their confections in the kitchen at night and selling them door to door in the daytime. 

As Durkee wrote in 1930: “Ten years ago we started out with one barrel of sugar (at 28 cents per pound) a few tin cans: two spoons: one-second hand Ford, and no customers, but plenty of prospects. Today (after a short span of only ten years) we have thru the fine cooperation of the wholesale grocers, the largest distributor of marshmallow cream in New England, and no Ford.”

The origins of Marshmallow Fluff actually go back to 1917. Before WWI, a Somerville MA man named Archibald Query had been making it in his kitchen and selling it door to door, but wartime shortages had forced him to close down. By the time the war was over, Mr. Query had other work and was uninterested in restarting his business, but he was willing to sell the formula. Durkee and Mower pooled their saving and bought it for five hundred dollars. 

Having just returned from France, they punningly renamed their product “Toot Sweet Marshmallow Fluff” but “Toot Sweet” didn’t stay on the label for long. The situation of “no customers, but plenty of prospects” didn’t last long either. An early receipt still in the company’s scrapbooks records the sale in April 1920 of three one-gallon cans to a vacation lodge in New Hampshire. 

The price at the time was $1.00 a gallon! The door-to-door trade gained a reputation among local housewives that eventually placed Fluff on local grocers’ shelves. Retail trade spread from there to the point where in 1927 they were advertising prominently in Boston newspapers.

In 1929 they moved to a factory on Brookline Street in East Lynn, more than tripling their floor space to 10,000 square feet. At this point, they also hired four new employees, bringing their numbers to ten. 

They also merged with the Cream of Chocolate Company, makers of Rich’s instant Sweet Milk Cocoa, and Durkee-Mower entered the Hot Chocolate business. Rich’s Instant Sweet Milk Cocoa was too long a name for shoppers to be expected to remember easily, so in 1937 the name was shortened to simply Sweeco and made more prominent on the label. The name and label change was backed up by a large newspaper advertising campaign, and the product’s sales increased rapidly. Durkee-Mower continued to make Sweeco until 1962.

Durkee-Mower became a pioneer in radio advertising when in 1930 they began to sponsor the weekly “Flufferettes” radio show on the Yankee radio network (listen now), which included twenty-one stations broadcasting to all of New England. The fifteen-minute show, aired on Sunday evenings just before Jack Benny, included live music and comedy skits and served as a stepping stone to national recognition for a number of talented performers. The show continued through the late forties.

Some of the earliest Flufferettes shows included Book-of-the-moment Dramas. In this series of thirteen short comic sketches, a fictional scholar with the proper Bostonian name of Lowell Cabot Boswell confronted some creatively rewritten moments in American history, from the Revolutionary War to the Harvard Yale bicycle race. 

Each episode ended with a narrator reporting that Boswell had disappeared to continue work on his mysterious book, which was assumed to be a historical text of monumental importance. In the last episode, the Book-of-the-Moment was revealed. It was a collection of recipes for cakes, pies, candies, frostings, and other confections that could be made with Marshmallow Fluff, appropriately entitled the Yummy Book. 

The book has been updated many times since then, and the most recent version is thirty-two pages long. Though they had been doing well enough in the depression to purchase a two-story factory in 1934, with World War II came supply shortages like the ones which had put the original producer of Fluff out of business. The existing sugar supply was rationed to the corporations that needed it. 

Unwilling to stretch their supplies by altering the recipes of Fluff and Sweeco, which would have lowered their quality, Durkee-Mower was forced to cut production back considerably. In the interest of fairness, they allotted their products to the distributors on a percentage basis, each distributor’s quota determined by their pre-war sales records. During this period, the company’s resources were used to promote the war effort in various ways. 

Part of the factory was converted to wrap war-critical electronic and optical parts in special waterproof packages. Some of their advertising helped promote victory gardens in cooperation with the Massachusetts State War Garden Committee. With little Fluff to sell, the Flufferettes show threw its advertising support to the armed forces, particularly the Navy, the branch which Allen Durkee’s two older sons served during the war years.

Marshmallow fluff
Marshmallow fluff on a plate, close up shot

Expansion of Marshmallow Fluff

Meanwhile, Durkee-Mower worked on plans for the future. In 1945 they built a new modern office building adjacent to the factory purchased eleven years earlier. When industrial sugar rationing ended in 1947 the company was preparing for another expansion. They started by redesigning the product’s package. 

A survey covering a wide sample of New England housewives told them that the experts, their customers, thought that the best jar for Fluff would be short enough to fit easily into the refrigerator to be used for leftovers (Fluff requires no refrigeration), and have a wide enough opening to fit a tablespoon into. In addition, the jar was made with a stippled surface above and below the label to make it stronger and more easily gripped. 

The jar’s longevity in a rapidly changing market is a tribute to its success; the same basic jar is still in use today.

Having designed the jar, Durkee-Mower designed the factory that would fill those jars with Fluff with the greatest efficiency. When the new factory opened in 1950, it was one of the most modern food manufacturing plants in the country. Much of the machinery was specially designed for Durkee-Mower. The new filling and capping machines increased the speed of production from 80 jars per minute to 125. 

Much of the line was automated, but because their plans included increasing production, they could automate without laying off any employees. Speed and efficiency however came second to cleanliness and purity. Wherever Marshmallow Fluff was exposed to air the room was air-conditioned or dehumidified or both. 

The walls and floor were sanitary tiles covered to facilitate the daily wash down which still takes the crew one and a half hours to complete. They switched from using granular sugar in 100-pound bags to liquid sugar stored in 5500-gallon stainless steel tanks. Every conceivable measure is taken to protect the purity of Marshmallow Fluff. Because of the sanitary environment and practices, it is not necessary to refrigerate Marshmallow Fluff even though it still contains no preservative of any kind.

In 1956 the company collaborated with Nestle in a nationwide ad campaign that won the Promotion-of-the-Year Award. They printed a recipe for fudge in Ladies Home Journal and other magazines. The fudge was quick and easy to make and included Fluff and Nestle’s Chocolate Bits. The same recipe can still be found on the backs of Fluff labels and in the Recipe Book.

Since the fifties, none of Durkee-Mower’s innovations have been as extensive as building a new factory, but there have been many changes to improve the package, improve efficiency and reduce costs, all designed to make a good product better and less expensive. A new economy-sized 13-ounce jar was introduced in 1965. In 1966 a new high-ceiling warehouse was built allowing for the use of high-stacking fork trucks. 

Palletized loading and unloading of trailers greatly reduced breakage and lessened the time required by one quarter. In 1969 they pioneered the use of plastic food containers by offering a one-pound size. The new plastic jar took ideas behind the 7 1/5 ounce jar a few steps further. The mouth is much wider and the straight-sided walls taper slightly allowing for easy access to the contents. The lid snaps on easily and provides a specially designed three-surface air-tight seal. 

And because it can survive temperature changes from freezing to boiling, it’s even better for storing leftovers. Because it is lightweight and stackable it cuts down on warehousing and shipping costs.

Durkee-Mower continues to market new uses for Marshmallow Fluff and in 1966 co-promoted a new “Marshmallow Treat” recipe with the Kellogg’s Company utilizing their Rice Krispies cereal product and Marshmallow Fluff. The recipe is easy to make, and fun to modify by adding small nut pieces, chocolate pieces, dried fruit, sunflower seeds, and other cereal. 

It presents an opportunity to share quality time by making it with your children and continues to be a favorite. The recipe can be found among the many “Tasty Treats and Bars” section of the Online Yummy Book.

Marshmallow Fluff Today

More recently, Durkee-Mower developed an easy-to-make cheesecake recipe, “Lynne’s Cheesecake“. It has also become a favorite and can be varied to your liking with different pie crusts, flavorings, and fruit toppings. 

The business continues to expand with the recent growth of our young school-aged population wishing to enjoy Fluff the same way their parents and grandparents did before them. 

Additionally, Fluff is now enjoyed in Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Holland, Israel, South Africa, Belgium, and the UAE. Although Fluff enjoys wide distribution in the United States. 

Homemade Marshmallow Fluff Preparation Process

If you’ve made an Italian meringue/buttercream before, the process is very similar. You’re basically pouring boiling sugar into whipped egg whites, a process that I am slowly getting more and more comfortable with. Molten hot sugar is intimidating! Be extra careful with it when you’re making this recipe. You will need:

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup corn syrup or honey
  • 3 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Aside from molten sugar, the process was simple and the marshmallow fluff turned out perfect. The most difficult part was not devouring the whole thing straight out of the mixer bowl with a spoon.

If you’re not into boiling sugar (I don’t blame you) you can make this recipe for 7-minute frosting instead. It’s very similar except that it uses a Swiss meringue technique instead of an Italian meringue. It’s slightly less stable/thick but should work just fine.

I’ve used this Marshmallow fluff recipe a few times now and I love it. I often make more than I need and freeze any excess to be used at a later time (usually in Rice Krispie treats).

Tips for Making Homemade Marshmallow Fluff

  • For an easier but slightly less stable version, you can make 7-minute frosting instead.
  • Make sure all of your equipment is grease-free. If there is even a speck of grease (or egg yolk) the meringue will not whip up. I wipe everything down with lemon juice before adding the egg whites.
  • You will need a thermometer to make this. My favorite is Thermapen.
  • Use caution when making the sugar as it will be very hot!! You’ll want to pour it very carefully, and slowly into your partly whipped egg whites. The sweet spot for this is getting the stream right between the whisk and the sides of the bowl, so the syrup doesn’t get splashed around by the whisk.
  • The spread can be rewhipped by hand if it becomes flat or you can put it back on the mixer to re-whip.
  • If you have excess fluff left over, you can freeze it in an airtight container to use at a later date. I recommend using it in Rice Krispie treats!
  • I do not recommend using store-bought marshmallow fluff in place of homemade if the recipe calls for it. The store-bought stuff can be very runny and will totally ruin your dessert!

Marshmallow Creme vs Marshmallow Fluff

Marshmallow Creme VS Marshmallow Fluff

Marshmallow Creme is frequently called for in No-Fail candy recipes such as no-fail fudge, or fantasy fudge. The reason is, that, unlike marshmallow fluff, marshmallow creme contains cream of tartar.

Experienced cooks use cream of tartar to help the fudge set properly. Cream of tartar breaks down sucrose into fructose and glucose, reducing the possibility of recrystallization of the sugar.

In layman’s terms, it ensures the fudge remains smooth, soft, and chewy, versus grainy or gritty and hard.

Glucose, Sucrose, or Fructose: Why Does it Matter?

Sugar is sugar, right? Wrong. Regular table sugar, also known as sucrose, can recrystallize. Essentially what that means is that when you’re cooking candy and a couple of granules of sugar remain on the side of the pan, if those grains fall back into the candy, the sugar hardens. You may have had rock candy as a kid, same concept.

Both marshmallow creme and marshmallow fluff contain corn syrup, which is glucose, a non-sucrose form of sugar. Glucose helps prevent large crystals of sucrose from forming. This means the finished candy will be smoother and not have a gritty or grainy texture. This is why glucose is commonly used to make lollipops and gummy bears, rather than regular table sugar.

Can I Use Marshmallow Fluff in Place of Marshmallow Creme?

While you can use marshmallow fluff in place of marshmallow creme, the end product will not have the same texture. If you prefer a silky smooth fudge, use marshmallow creme. If you prefer a more toothsome version, a bit heavier with more texture, use marshmallow fluff.

Can I Use Marshmallows Instead of Marshmallow Fluff?

Technically speaking you can use marshmallows in place of marshmallow fluff but the texture will be considerably different. Marshmallows do not contain eggs or egg whites, as marshmallow fluff does. In addition, they contain cornstarch, which can alter the texture of your finished candy.

How To Substitute Marshmallows for Marshmallow Creme

Approximately one and a half cups of marshmallow creme weigh 7 ounces. To make your own Marshmallow Creme substitute from marshmallows, combine one 16oz bag of marshmallows, 3 1/2 Tbs of Corn Syrup, and 1/8th tsp cream of tartar in a double boiler. Melt until smooth, stirring constantly.

Conversions for Marshmallows and Marshmallow Creme

If you’re in the middle of a recipe and need to substitute one type or size of marshmallow for another, here’s a handy conversion guide. For example, 30 Large marshmallows equal about 7 1/2 ounces or 3 2/3 cups of miniature marshmallows.