Hundred-year-old Cocoa Recipe

CocoaBrrrr, it’s snowy,  the temperature outside is in the single digits, and I’m cocooning until the weather improves.  Then I remembered  seeing a  recipe for  Cocoa in a hundred-year-old home economics textbook, and knew it was the perfect time to try it.

The Cocoa only took a few minutes to make – and soon I was relaxing with a steamy cup of rich and creamy Cocoa.  There was no comparison to the modern pre-mixed cocoa products.  The Cocoa made using old recipe was better . . . much, much better.

Here are the old directions for making Cocoa:

Source: Foods and Household Management: A Textbook of the Household Arts by Helen Kinne and Anna M. Cooley (1915)
Source: Foods and Household Management: A Textbook of the Household Arts by Helen Kinne and Anna M. Cooley (1915)

Here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:


  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

4 teaspoons cocoa

4 teaspoons sugar

2 cup milk

Put the cocoa and sugar in a bowl, and stir to combine. Add 1 tablespoon and milk and stir until smooth; then add another tablespoon of milk and stir.  Set aside.

Put the remainder of the milk in a medium sauce pan. While stirring constantly, heat the milk until hot and steamy using medium heat; then stir in the cocoa mixture. Remove from heat and serve.

When I made this recipe, I looked at the Cocoa recipe on the can of cocoa. The recipe on the can called for more sugar, and had a 2 to 1 ratio of sugar to cocoa, while the hundred-year-old recipe had a 1 to 1 ratio of sugar to cocoa which resulted in a delightful hot drink that featured the nuanced chocolaty notes  of the cocoa without being overwhelmed by the sweetness of the sugar.

52 thoughts on “Hundred-year-old Cocoa Recipe

  1. I’m not surprised about the change in the quantity of sugar. What did surprise me was that they already realized that some people have trouble digesting milk. I wonder if they knew it was lactose intolerance yet or not. It really looks yummy! and I love the idea of making it with water for the hubster and then adding in some milk.

    1. It is really interesting that they knew a hundred years ago that some people could not tolerate milk. My guess is that that did not think about lactose intolerance the same way that we do today, but rather believed that milk did not “agree” with some people or perhaps believed that some people were allergic to milk.

  2. I bought some Miss Swiss for over thanksgiving ,so there would be tea, coffee and hot chocolate… the Miss Swiss was never touched… so back to making it the old way. 🙂

    1. Interesting. . . I would have guessed that a least a few of your guests would have liked Swiss Miss — though I personally definitely prefer homemade.

    1. I have similar memories. I can remember my mother telling me how important it was to mix just a little milk or water into the cocoa and sugar to get a smooth paste that could then be combined with the remainder of the milk.

  3. We always used Hershey’s cocoa, but did it a little differently — and I still make it this way. I put a roughly equal amount of cocoa and sugar in a saucepan, and add enough water to make it a little syrupy. Then, I cook it until all the sugar’s dissolved. Then I add the milk — as much as I want to get the strength I want. Heat til warm, and there you are! I do agree that less sugar makes it better.

    1. Works for me. Regardless of the method, the key to getting cocoa with no lumps or undissolved chunks of cocoa is mixing the cocoa and sugar with just a little liquid rather than dumping all the ingredients together and then stirring.

    1. I think that people have become accustomed to sweeter foods over the past hundred years – which probably isn’t good for our health. That said, there definitely were some recipes back then that were quite sweet. For example, I’m thinking of an old Sweet Potato Pone recipe that called for quite a bit of sugar.

  4. I used to make homemade hot cocoa all the time for my older boys when they were little. I always would add a little vanilla extract to it and a splash of cream. Haven’t made it in a long time. Working full-time sucks the life out of me, unfortunately. You’ve inspired me to buy some unsweetened cocoa when I go shopping next time and make it for my youngest son. Thank you, Sheryl!

    1. You’re welcome. I hope he enjoys the cocoa. It can be so difficult to balance everything sometimes. I’m a strong believer is just doing the best I can, and then trying not to worry about it.

    1. Sometimes I think that we tend to just buy mass-marketed versions of foods without really thinking about whether the food would be easy to make from scratch. For some reason this makes me think of microwave popcorn. In my opinion it’s almost as easy (and healthier) to just pop corn on the stove as it is to make a package of microwave popcorn.

  5. Hi, Sheryl. I also found the ratio of sugar to cocoa to be 2:1 when searching for how to make my own Nesquik. I don’t make this now, but I had been using a recipe (from my sister in Brazil) for homemade cappuccino mix. It called for Nesquik. I decided to make my own but found that ratio to be too much. I eventually got it to a 1:1, but it does take some getting used to. What I like about your cocoa recipe is that it does not take loads of sugar. This is another one I’ll keep. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    1. It’s nice to hear that you liked this post. In my opinion, the nuanced flavors of the chocolate are more noticeable when the cocoa is a little less sweet.

  6. Hi Sheryl. I’ve been looking for the perfect coco to sugar ratio for some time now. I tried your recipe last night and absolutely loved it. Surprisingly, it worked with almond milk.

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