The Vintage Kitchen

Take a Break from Coffee – Try Breakfast Cocoa!

Cup of hot cocoa and plate of toast on 1950s melamine dishes.
All dressed up in retro dishes, this Breakfast Cocoa is some of the best in vintage recipes.

On a crisp cool morning in autumn or winter, this breakfast cocoa recipe will fire your tastebuds and sweeten your day. It first appeared in print 100 years ago. Many hundred year old recipes deserve to be forgotten. This is not one of them. 

Frankly, I was surprised at how tasty this hot cocoa is. I expected it to be slightly bitter, and instead it has a nice smooth, slightly sweet taste. The entire recipe only uses 3 tablespoons of sugar for four servings, very much in line with a 1920s recipe. While it’s not bitter, this is not a cup of prepackaged Swiss Miss Cocoa with marshmallows. You can taste the chocolate in this great morning pick-me-up, and it contains less caffeine than a cup of coffee. 

Into the Vintage Time Machine

So how and why did this recipe come about in the first place? Let’s take a peek into the Vintage Time Machine…

The year is 1920. Adults usually drink only coffee or tea with breakfast. Milk is for children. Both coffee and tea are served with just a dash of milk or cream, enough to change the color of the hot liquid. Also, it ensures that the very hot beverage doesn’t break the china cups. 

Portions are small for everything. An eight-inch cake serves ten, a nine-inch cake serves twelve. Four cups of liquid serve four to six people, whether in soup or beverage form. 

A cursory look through any list of recipes will show that coffee is the accepted drink for both breakfast and dinner. Sometimes, that coffee is substituted with tea. Often, tea made its star appearance as part of a luncheon or afternoon tea party or front porch gathering with friends. 

Back to The Recipe

One household magazine suggested hot cocoa as a change of pace in the morning. For one thing, when mixed with milk it provided added nutrition. In addition, the denizens of the Twenties knew that cocoa itself contained nutrients. Potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium are only a few of the useful minerals in a cup of hot cocoa. It also contains a little caffeine, that happy drug that lures most of us into the kitchen in the mornings. One cup of hot cocoa provides 9 mg of caffeine per 8 oz. of drink. Hardly the 95 mg of caffeine you get from one cup of black coffee, but better than none. 

One huge benefit of cooking with old recipes is that they teach you cooking methods long forgotten by the everyday cook. Have you ever tried to combine cocoa powder and water (or another liquid) and watched it clump maddeningly while you stir with ferocity? No? Just me? 

I found out by making this recipe that if you stir hot water into cocoa powder, it doesn’t clump. It doesn’t even think about clumping. It dissolves into the water smoothly. 

Another trick of this recipe is to boil the cocoa powder with water and sugar for five minutes before adding warmed milk to it. This thickens the mixture a bit and combines it so that you don’t experience as much grainy chocolate at the bottom of your cup. 

Now, if you make this on the stove and then walk away from it for an hour or more, it separates. It then needs to be stirred together again before pouring into cups. (It will also need to be reheated if forgotten for that long.)

You Will Need

To make this recipe you need:

  • cocoa powder
  • sugar
  • boiling water
  • milk (I used whole dairy milk, but you can use whatever milk or milk substitute you feel comfortable using.)
  • a whisk or old-fashioned egg beaters, or even an immersion (stick) blender
  • two saucepans – one to heat the milk and a larger one for the cocoa/water mixture.

And now, the recipe:

Breakfast Cocoa

Make this when you want a break from coffee or tea in the morning, but still want something warm to drink. This recipe from 1920 is easy to make and delicious!
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time15 minutes
Course: Breakfast, Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: chocolate, cocoa, hot
Servings: 4
Author: VintageJenny


  • small saucepan to hold three cups
  • medium saucepan to hold four cups
  • wire whisk or egg beater (or immersion blender)
  • measuring spoons
  • heatproof measuring cup
  • kettle for heating water to boil


  • 3 cups milk Any milk or milk substitute (like soy or almond) should work.
  • 1 cup water, boiling
  • 3 tbsp powdered cocoa
  • 3 tbsp sugar


  • Place milk into small saucepan and bring to scalding. When scalding milk, it does not come to a boil. You will see a ring of little bubbles around the edge of the pan and some steam may rise from the heating milk. Once you scald it, turn it off.
  • Bring water to a boil, if you haven't already. Then carefully measure out 1 cup into a heat-proof container.
  • Place cocoa powder into larger saucepan.
  • Slowly add the water to the cocoa. Stir as you add, until it is very smooth. Then add the sugar.
  • Heat the cocoa mixture to the boiling point, and let boil for five minutes. Stir every now and then so that nothing sticks.
  • When the five minutes is up, remove the saucepan from the heat.
  • Add the scalded milk to the cocoa, water, and sugar. Beat the mixture with a whisk or with the egg beater for two minutes. This will make your hot cocoa frothy. A quick zap with an immersion or stick blender will do the same thing.
  • Pour your creation into four small mugs or teacups, and enjoy.

That’s all there is to it! Now that we tried it, this recipe definitely becomes part of our breakfast rotation — and it may become the starring drink at an afternoon tea.