The Perfect Mug of Hot Chocolate


It’s been two months since Lucy Grove-Jones (if you’re not already a fan, you have my permission to go discover her right now—I’ll still be here when you get back) posted the comment that made me realize how many people are drinking cocoa wrong.  Now, at the time I said I’d be fixing this in October, so I’m running just about on time by my standards.


Frodo "you're late" from LotR

And you’re Gandalf’s errand bitch, you hairy garden gnome.  Let’s not point fingers, eh?


Here follows the very simple story of cocoa, made correctly




recipes on post-its


Step One:  If you’re a WTF Brand Hot Mess™, you know that the best place to keep those simple recipes you make a few times a year is on a sticky note somewhere in your kitchen.  I like to keep a few confusing-to-others notes on this cabinet, where they get spattered and worn.  Because pulling out an actual recipe card would take precious minutes I don’t have in a chocolate emergency.


Look here—this is the one we’re after today:


cocoa recipe (2c sugar, 1c cocoa, 2.5c powdered milk, 1tsp salt, 2tsp cornstarch, pinch cayenne)

Got it?




Because this is now a food blog*, I’m including the obligatory photo of the ingredients all piled together, even though you know what they look like.


dry nonfat milk, confectioners sugar, baking cocoa, cayenne pepper

(Not pictured: salt & cornstarch.  Because I always forget those when I’m gathering ingredients, then have to go hunt them down.  Use really fine sea salt, not kosher or table.)



Powdered sugar


Dump powdered sugar into the bowl.  Marvel at the beauty of all that sugar, and the fact that it’s all going into you.  Unless you’re planning to share… which, I mean, I guess you could do?  I just make another batch for Other People. 


If they’re worthy.


cocoa and powdered sugar in bowl


Dump your cocoa in on top of the sugar, and take another moment to marvel at how pretty that combo is.  Maybe imagine yourself small enough to live in that magical landscape.  Me, I’d eat my way out.


No regrets.


bowl of cocoa, sugar, and powdered milk. Unappetizing.


Stupid powdered milk ruins everything at this point, but it’s necessary, so start whisking that shit up.  This is about the time I realize that I’ve forgotten that there are three more ingredients, not just the cayenne, and run to grab them. 


Which is fine, because I’m no longer entranced by mounds of glorious cocoa. 


cayenne in cocoa mix


I like to add the cayenne last, but I can’t explain why.  Plus, I don’t really have to justify my choices to you; I could have just said, “hey, throw all this shit in a bowl, it’s tasty!”  And you’d probably have done it, because your standards are low. 


I’m sorry, that was uncalled for.  I haven’t had my chocolate.  Irony, right?


Anyway, when you’ve added what you feel is the correct amount of cayenne for your needs, mix that all up.  You’ll kick up a cloud of powdered sugar and cocoa and it’ll be delicious and if you weren’t craving a mug of chocolate before, you will be now.  


Good thing you’re basically done, right?


extreme closeup of cocoa mix

So pretty!




cocoa mix in containers


Makes about this much.  Whatever that is.  I think the big one is a quart, and the smaller one is… less than that?  Whatever.  Start the kettle!


electric kettle boiling; blue LED's illuminate water

Bonus points if your kettle lights up.




Mug reads: I'm trying to be awesome today, but I'm exhausted from being so freakin awesome yesterday


The amount of cocoa you put into your mug will depend on the size of your mug and your personal preference.  This mug, which was a gift from a friend who clearly knows what’s up, takes two overloaded tablespoons or three merely heaping, depending on my mood.  My Eeyore mug, by contrast, takes two heaping tablespoons, max, and my Christmas mugs take less than that.  My coffee cups aren’t used for cocoa except by company, because they won’t hold one of these:


bag of Kraft jumo marshmallows


Which, as established in my conversation with Lucy, are the only acceptable cocoa marshmallows. 



But the real secret to a perfect cup of cocoa is this device:


electric milk and egg frother


Which is sold as an egg and milk frother, and is probably terrible at both of those jobs.  I don’t know, because I don’t need it for those things—I use it for cocoa.  And, occasionally, cider or other beverages.  But mostly cocoa.  It does this:


frothing cocoa



Just fill your mug about halfway, enough to dissolve the powder, with hot (not boiling, that was just for the photo) water, and let the frother do its thing.  Then add one whacking great marshmallow and fill the rest of the way with water.


perfect cocoa with giant marshmallow


Voilà!  A thick layer of melty marshmallow goo on top of a perfect cup of hot chocolate.  As previously stated, there is literally no other way.


Tch, fine.  In the interest of science, I did try it the other way.  Plus, I wanted another cup of cocoa anyway.  See, Lucy?  I tried it your way.  Now look at this, and tell me it’s anywhere near as inviting as the other:


cocoa with mounds of mini marshmallows


Plus?  While the mini ones did melt as I was drinking, the goo-layer sort of floated out of the way while I drank.  So when I got to the bottom, there they were.  No big, this happens often with the giant one too—you just get a giant globby melted marshmallow treat to finish!  Nope, not with the minis—they were in a sort of blanket, so they slorped up the side of the mug and got stuck, forcing me into some impressive tongue gymnastics in order to collect the treat I’d already paid for and prepared. 


giraffe using prehensile tongue to nab branch



Final Verdict

Giant Marshmallows: 12/10 this is the way we were intended to ‘shmallow.

Mini Marshmallows: 2/10 and both of those are cuteness points.  My husband watched me tongue my mug and didn’t find it as sexy as I might have hoped, so even that benefit was lost.  Mini marshmallows have their place in the kitchen, and I’ll be saving that bag for brownies, Krispy treats, and Who hash.  Are there marshmallows in Who hash?  Shit, I don’t even remember… but I’d rather add them to that recipe than this one, so there you go.


Some of you will, by now, have already clicked off.  You don’t give half a fuck about recipes; you came here for conversations with my husband, and you’re convinced now that there isn’t one today.  HA!  Oh ye of little faith.  You’re obviously new here, and haven’t yet figured out that it takes me a minimum of 37 ½ minutes to get to my point regardless of what that point is or where I started. 


I mean, technically today the point was marshmallows and that Lucy Grove-Jones was wrong about which ones go in cocoa (seriously, go check out all the amazing and hilarious things she draws if you’re not already a huge fan, but be sure to bug her about the ‘shmallow thing until the end of time) but I’ve also got a thing about Husband!


I can mock two people at once, you know. 


I’m talented that way.



ME:  Seriously, this is so good.  Are you sure you won’t have any?
HIM:  Nope, no cocoa.  I’m ruined for cocoa.
ME:  So sad.
HIM:  Yeah, well, blame my mom.
ME:  Oh, I do.
HIM:  I mean for this.
ME:  (sips)
HIM:  I had way too many cups of cocoa when I was little and came in out of the Maine cold—
ME:  Need to be warmed from the inside, yup.
HIM:  And it was always boiling water straight from the kettle into the mug and into my mouth.
ME:  That’s… that’s not right.  You’re not supposed to boil.  Or if you do, wait.
HIM:  Yeah, I never got that.  And she never made it any cooler.  So cocoa always burned me.
ME:  Tch.
HIM:  It doesn’t even smell good to me anymore.
ME:  Okay, but if you could just have one good cup of cocoa, do you think you could get past it and learn to love cocoa again?
HIM:  I never loved cocoa.  It was always boiling hot, it always hurt me.  It was never good.  I never liked it.
ME:  That may be the saddest thing I’ve heard about your childhood.
HIM:  …
ME:  (sips)
ME:  Still… cocoa.  (sips)


woman sniffing mug of cocoa with giant marshmallow in






* Obviously not.  I mean, do you have any idea how stressful it was, trying to keep the hideous wallpaper out of frame?  Plus, nobody else was allowed to use the kitchen for hours while I made batch after batch of cocoa.  Food bloggers, y’all are amazing and I don’t want to live with you.  Families of food bloggers, I salute you.

** I need to tell you that story, don’t I?  Shit, that’s another long and complicated one… I’ll figure something out, k?  Because while I truly am working on a book (not just talking about it, I swear) I also know that some of you are getting sick of hearing “it’s going in the book!” for every teaser.







35 comments on “The Perfect Mug of Hot Chocolate

  1. Victor K says:

    First off, yeah – giant marshmallows are 1500% better than little ones. Although the place I buy it on the way to work uses whipped cream and that’s also good (which might be because they know me and start getting it ready when I walk in the door, but who can say?)

    Second, the only other thing I’d add is Kamora, because it does make hot drinks goooood. But that might be a ‘me’ thing instead of an ‘everyone’ thing …

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jack Herlocker says:

    Got to the ingredients list, mixed a batch. Took a lot of water to get mixture past a muddy mess. Result was too much for our insulated pitcher. Went back to blog, read further, found this recipe requires weird hand mix thing and should be used in tiny amounts. Prefer *real* food blogs where they lead with vital information like this. Also: out of marshmallows. Marshmallow fluff = crappy substitute. Also: just as I had to see the reindeer hoof prints and a note from Santa that he liked the cookies, need to see some evidence that the book (or “book,” as we shall call it pending actual evidence) exists in some form. Otherwise: good blog. P.S. I am not supposed to tell, but the Big Guy likes chocolate chip, hates oatmeal raisin. Just so you know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have it on the very highest authority that his favorite cookies are my Double Tundra Hanukah Cookies. They give him an excuse to chug an entire glass of milk, you see. Plus, the powdered sugar fallout doesn’t bother him, because the beard catches all.

      I do warn that this isn’t a real food blog. I’m barely a real blogger, ffs! Food bloggers are real grown-ups, with beautiful kitchens and organized lives and families that don’t swoop through while they’re cooking to sample the post.


  3. Jen says:

    Alas, I will live with my pre-packaged Carnation Hot Chocolate (my Fav), since I do not own any of those ingredients. I can’t have Marshmallows in the house either because my Husband makes them disappear before anything can be done with them. lol.

    Maybe… just force him to try a little bit? or add some Cocoa to his coffee as a treat?
    Husband is very picky about foods and by making him try a tiny bit of something has helped with the aversion and made him enjoy new things.

    I couldn’t believe how much your palette changes when you get older. Apparently, it has something to do with strong taste buds as a kid and that everything tastes stronger. We lose some of the sensitivity as we get older.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Arionis says:

    That looks awesome! It also looks like a lot of work. Could you just come over and do it for me?

    Liked by 1 person

    • sigh

      Fine. But you’d better have:
      *fuzzy socks
      *a roaring fire
      *zero spiders
      *cuddly pets
      *excellent chocolate

      All waiting upon my arrival. And no, I’m not paying for my own ticket. Cheapskate.


      • Arionis says:

        Fuzzy socks – check.
        A roaring fire – check.
        Cuddly pets – 2 golden retrievers, check.
        Excellent chocolate – I’ll get some from Switzerland, check.
        Zero spiders – Uhm, how about nero (near zero) spiders? My wife hates them as much as you and even with her pressing me on to destroy them with my flame thrower, they love my house. I feel this might be a deal breaker. (sigh)

        Liked by 1 person

        • Sounds like you need to do better by your wife.

          Wife of Arionis, this bit is just for you:
          There are services you can pay to come ’round every few months and spray for all the things. Now, when you’ve got an especially attractive home it might still not be 100%, but if Arionis really loved you, this is the level of attention we’d be talking about. And then I’d be in your home, right now, making cocoa and cuddling your doggies (at the same time, yep, because I’m a badass multitasker) and then I’d teach them fun tricks because I’m that kind of houseguest.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Jack Herlocker says:

    From my wife: “I think this is her best one yet! ‘Course, it’s about cocoa so I’m not sure it can get much better.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ok, but.

    Eat the mini marshmallows out with a spoon. When your hot chocolate is free of marshmallows, add more and wait until they’re nice and melty (but not completely melted), then eat those out with a spoon, too. Repeat until you’re out of marshmallows or consider yourself done with the marshmallow phase of the hot chocolate. Then drink the hot chocolate.

    I still haven’t found properly giant marshmallows to try your way (I’M TRYING, REALLY. I think it’s an Australia thing). I agree giant marshmallows look better, but we all know it’s what’s underneath that counts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Look, my personal motto is “I can complicate the shit out of ANYTHING,” but you… this… you’ve confused hot chocolate and breakfast cereal, hon. Now I want to try Count Chocula hot, and I’m all out of my Halloween stash. Which means I’d need to order online. In November. Husband will pitch such a hissy.

      Also, please just bite the bullet and order your giant marshmallows online—you’ll never look back, I promise.

      Perhaps Australia hasn’t the technology to make really big marshmallows because they’re busy making spiders the size of shetland ponies? Just a thought…

      Liked by 1 person

      • The country differences are coming out again. Breakfast cereal isn’t just lollies (candy, whatever) over here, it’s carbohydrates and fiber and such. There are some suagary ones (e.g., coco pops), but not marshmallow-based ones. Maybe in the US marshmallows in hot chocolate can be accurately classified as cereal, but that nonsense stops at your borders.

        Mini marshmallow hot chocolate is not a means of garnishing hot chocolate, it’s a whole recipe of it’s own in which the marshmallow is the hero. And I stand by it as a thing of beauty.

        But blaming the spiders for the difficulty in finding giant marshmallows seems reasonable. Our cat bought a huge scuttly one into the living room today. That wasted time and energy we could have spent furthering the world of marshmallows.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Gale says:

    Oh. My. Hoe. Lee. Free. Hoe. Lees.

    Damn, if anyone reads this without drooling, they must not be human.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I don’t even follow food blogs all too much but as an advocate for the hot chocolate I find this almost arousing.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Two things.
    First, that “I can’t enjoy that amazingly delicious thing because I had a terrible childhood experience”? That’s the Hubbit on the subject of squash. Yes, even yummy, flavorsome, buttery, home-grown (by ME) squash. Apparently when he was at boarding school there was a kid who would fill his mouth with squash and then extrude it. And yes, gross … but the Hubbit is 73. How long can you hold onto past trauma???
    Second, cocoa ingredients: You left out the vodka.

    Liked by 1 person

    • See comment discussions on booze—I won’t dictate which brand or variety of sauce you choose to make your day merry and/or bright, my friend. I’m only here to spread the good word, that Instant Cocoa can be had, and sooooo much better than that stuff you find in stores.

      Secret Bonus: making up a batch of this stuff, in crock pots, throughout the house, for your holiday party. Supply a variety of alcohol at each station. Have pillows and blankies handy, because your guests won’t be driving!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Omg you now have a cooking blog which included a post cooking convo with your husband? You need your own TV show. The convo was hilarious!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Snot bubbles. Totally your fault. Now my sleeve has mucus streaks.

    But I’m not gonna be too pissed because I genuinely needed a good hot Choc recipe. They don’t have here in Romania and I’ve been having my dad ship over Swiss Miss instant hot choc packets. (They have MICRO marshmallows that are reminiscent of what marshmallows were meant to be).

    You, my hilarious friend, have just made winter great again.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. betunada says:

    I don’t have time ( o phuk) 2 go threw the uthur comments. it’s in part ‘cuz i’m nekkid n the dark and it’s one ay=em, and. i’m with dinosaurs, how-so-some-ever. gotta b schmall marshmellows.

    you’ll understand if you see wear I (& my cat) are presently in neutrino research. ( cheep cumawn 2 check neutrinos & betunada).

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Everything Matters says:

    My twelve-year-old daughter has discovered making cocoa from scratch. It’s delicious, but my kitchen in now covered in a fine layer of cocoa powder.

    Liked by 1 person

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