Hundred-Year-Old Chocolate Blancmange Recipe


There is an old saying that Blancmange should be wobbly but not as rubbery as a rubber ball.  I recently made a hundred-year-old recipe for Chocolate Blancmange, and using the criteria in the old saying, it was excellent. The Blancmange was rich and decadent, and trembled just a little.

Even though Blancmange is an old dessert, it was new to me; and this was the first time that I ever made this lovely molded dessert.

This recipe is a keeper. As my husband finished the Blancmange, he asked, “When are you going to make this again.?”

The old recipe was part of an  advertisement for Minute Tapioca.  (Yes, Minute Tapioca as been around for more than a hundred years).

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Ladies Home Journal (May, 1916)
Source: Ladies Home Journal (May, 1916)

When I saw the illustration for the Blancmange, I realized that I actually owned some old dessert plates that once belonged to my grandmother that looked very similar to the ones in the picture. I hadn’t seen the plates in years, but I pulled a chair over to my highest kitchen cupboard, and climbed up. A few minutes later I’d found the plates. They weren’t identical to the ones in the drawing, but I had a lot of fun trying to semi-replicate the old picture.

The old recipe called this dessert “blanc mange.” I think that today, the two words are generally combined into one (blancmange),  so that is the way that I’ve spelled it.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Chocolate Blancmange

  • Servings: 5 - 6
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

1/2 cup minute tapioca

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup cocoa

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 cups milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

whipped cream, optional

In a medium saucepan stir together the tapioca, sugar, cocoa, and salt. While stirring, slowly add the milk. Using medium heat, and while stirring constantly, bring to a boil. Reduce heat so that there is a slow rolling boil. Cook for an additional 5 minutes while stirring constantly. Be sure to stir to the very bottom of the pan because this mixture will easily burn. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.

Pour into individual molds. Custard cups work well as molds. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

To serve, set the molded dessert in a pan of hot water for a few seconds; then run a table knife around the edge of the mold to loosen and turn upside down on serving plate to unmold.

If desired, serve with whipped cream.

To make homemade whipped cream, Put 1 cup whipping cream in a mixing bowl. Add 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar. Whip until there are stiff peaks.

Cook’s note: I did not make the cocoa (hot chocolate) prior to making this recipe. It seemed unnecessary to use a two-step process.  Instead, I found a recipe for hot chocolate on a can of cocoa. I combined the dry ingredients in that recipe with the dry ingredients called for in the hundred-year-old Blancmange recipe. I then stirred in three cups of milk.  This streamlined process worked just fine.

50 thoughts on “Hundred-Year-Old Chocolate Blancmange Recipe

  1. I’ve heard of the dessert, but never eaten it. I never stopped to think about the meaning of the words, but “blanc” is French for “white,” so chocolate blanc mange is a bit of an oxymoron: at least, linguistically. It certainly sounds like a fine dessert, though, and it seems easy enough to make. When I was checking out the meaning of “blanc,” I found this: “Blancmange is a sweet dessert commonly made with milk or cream and sugar thickened with gelatin, cornstarch or Irish moss.” Irish moss? I think I like your recipe better!

    1. hmm. . . Iris moss? . . . I’m intrigued. I like to forage foods, but I have no clue how moss might be used in cooking (Is it even edible?). It also seemed odd to me that a chocolate dessert has the word “blanc” in its name. I’m guessing that the original blancmange was a white dessert – and that over time cooks started tweaking the recipe by adding other flavors – but I could be totally wrong.

    1. I thought of you when I dug the doily out of a chest to use for this photo. I’m glad you noticed–it makes it feel like it was worth the effort. 🙂

  2. I love blancmange but usually make it with cornstarch. Haven’t made it in ages though. Lovely that you were able to recreate the image using your grandmother’s plates; an almost perfect match.

  3. Oh my, I remember having to make this at school with a packet mix. It was really insipid and reserved for a layer on a trifle at Christmas. Your version looks really rich and decadent, a proper pud!

  4. I’d relegated blancmange to the department headed ‘School dinner foods never to be eaten again’ but your version doesn’t look at all bad. We Brits used cornflour as a thickener though.

    1. Blancmange is an “old-fashioned” food, but I don’t think that it ever was school lunch fare in the US. Even though this recipe calls for tapioca, my sense is that gelatin is a commonly used thickener here.

  5. It’s quite interesting to see the use of the term Blancmange for this dessert, as the classic Blancmange is a white dessert (hence the name) and usually is flavored with almonds.
    But regardless, this looks very delicious! 🙂

    1. It’s interesting how recipes sometimes get adapted in ways that no longer are true to their name. Perhaps a cook (who probably didn’t know French) decided to “improve” upon the original recipe by making a chocolate version. 🙂

  6. Beautifully done Sheryl! Your plates look similar to ones my mother and grandmother had. I must try your recipe, because John loves tapioca. I haven’t bought any in years and years.

  7. It looks lovely and I have some of my grandmother’s small plates/saucers that would be nice to serve it on. And I even have some cocoa and tapioca around here… and some whipping cream!

  8. I’ve never heard of blancmange, but it sounds lovely. I love tapioca pudding and I love hot cocoa, so what’s not to love!? Before I scrolled down and read your post, I noticed your picture and the old picture, and was surprised at how much your plates look like the picture. You did a good job. Can’t wait to make this. Thanks for sharing.

    1. My general sense is that Blancmange is a food that was more popular a hundred-years-ago than what it is now. I also think that there may have been regional variation in the popularity of this dessert.

  9. I’m glad you mentioned the dessert plate. I was going to comment on how charming it is. It;’s such a special heirloom to have from your Grandmother.

    I’ve never heard of blancmange, yours looks delicious. It’s always a positive sign of success when our husbands ask when we’ll be making stuff again. I agree it sounds like a keeper recipe. 🙂

    1. I am so lucky to have some heirlooms that were once my grandmother’s. I had a lot of fun doing this post. It gave me an opportunity to remember some of the early days of this blog. I can’t remember when you started reading this blog–but in 2011, I began it as a place where I could post my grandmother’s diary entries a hundred years to the day after she wrote them. Grandma kept the diary for four years when she was a teen living in central Pennsylvania. I had so much fun posting those entries, and I felt sad when I had posted the last diary entry – so I decided to convert the blog to a food related blog where I posted recipes from a hundred years ago.

      1. I started visiting your blog when you were still posting your Grandmother’s daily diary. I was sad when the last post was made. I’m so glad that you found a way to continue to post about the era and continue to share parts of your Grandmother’s life like her pretty dessert dish. Your blog and thoughts are fun and interesting parts of my life. Thanks so much for sharing. 🙂

        1. It took me a little while to figure out what I wanted to do after the diary ended – but once I restarted A Hundred Years Ago it just felt right to me and I realized how much I enjoy researching and writing about that time period..

    1. I find it interesting that there was a chocolate version a hundred years ago. Since “blanc” is in the name, I tend to think that vanilla is a more authentic version of this recipe.

  10. If it’s chocolate, I’m in! It really looks delicious. You did a great job replicating the photo, and it’s interesting that even 100 years ago, they were looking to make life easier for families insofar as making cooking more convenient.

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