In the fall of 2009, Catherine Hughes was having umbrella drinks with her girlfriends on a Hawaiian Beach and watching the sun set on the Pacific – and on her commercial real estate career. It was her birthday, and Catherine had an announcement to make: after 30 years in real estate, she was ready for a career change. “Let’s talk toffee!” Catherine said to her friends. Right then, she realized she had just named her delicious confection: Toffee Talk. It was the beginning of Catherine’s evolution from dealmaker to candy maker. In a matter of months, her new company, CJ’s Toffee and Toppings, had launched Toffee Talk.
Catherine’s friends were immediately, enthusiastically supportive. They all knew she was a fabulous cook. What’s more, they had tasted her famous toffee, based on a treasured family recipe passed on by her godmother, Suzi Soper. The toffee was exceptional, with a rich taste and melting texture people raved about. Catherine refined the recipe for weeks, trying out different brands of butter and chocolate before settling on the right combination for her “little pieces of conversation.”
Once she had found the perfect ingredients for Toffee Talk, Catherine enlisted her cousin Ellin Purdom to publicize the company through social media. Recognition came quickly, with Toffee Talk winning “best of show” at the 2010 Marin County Fair. Catherine soon branched out from the traditional almond toffee, adding peanut, pecan and red walnut varieties. CJ’s Toffee and Toppings also introduced Crumble Mumble, a crunchy combo of chocolate, toffee and nuts to sprinkle over everything from ice cream to oatmeal.
Toffee Talk continues to receive prestigious awards and accolades from the food and confectionary world, and is frequently featured in magazines and food blogs. But Catherine is adamant that her toffee remain an artisanal, handmade confection and continues to prepare every batch herself. As Catherine says, “ Any delicious food is about emotional meaning as much as it is about taste. Toffee Talk is a simple but heartfelt gesture, a way to connect. I owe it to my customers, and my dear godmother Suzi, to create a product that is emotionally rich, and lovingly made.”