Chocolate Icing 3

Cathi Stevenson of Book Cover Express ( has designed the covers for my last four books, as well as my Pam Crooks website and most of my Facebook headers.  She designed Swanky Kitchen’s header, too, and as we were working together, she mentioned a chocolate icing recipe from the late 1920s that had been her grandmother’s.  The recipe has become a much-requested favorite for her, and, of course, I wanted to try it. 

The icing is unique in that it came from an era where electricity was not always available.  Not many homemakers owned a refrigerator or an electric mixer.   The icing is made using a fork and ingredients left at room temperature.   Smooth and with a rich chocolate taste, it was the perfect addition to my pan of double-chocolate Ghiradelli brownies, let me tell you.  

The instructions and ingredients are straight from Cathi, but I listed the ingredients in the quantity that I used them.   A quick note – since Cathi lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, her ingredients are a bit different than ours here in the States.  I used full-strength salted butter, and her ‘icing sugar’ is the usual powdered (or confectioners) sugar we use here.  She warns the frosting on your dessert will get quite hard in the refrigerator since it’s made with butter.

A fun note from Cathi – “Canned (evaporated) milk sits on the table of any traditional Nova Scotian home. It was popular during the war and doesn’t need to be refrigerated until you open it (which you do by poking 2 holes in it with the handle of the can opener, not by removing the lid). It can sit out all day and not go sour. Any Nova Scotian worth her salt drinks her Red Rose tea with canned milk and only washes the cup once a week and NEVER removes the tea residue. LOL.  The cocoa paste is a base for traditional hot chocolate. Just add it to heated milk and stir in some sugar.”

Vintage Chocolate Icing


  • 1 stick 20/80 spread (that’s a butter and margarine combo in Canada)  or salted butter
  • 1 cup Icing Sugar (powdered sugar)
  • A few tablespoons Canned Evaporated Milk (Carnation evaporated is what I use). DO NOT USE sweetened condensed milk. In a pinch you can use whole milk.
  • 4 - 5 Tb Cocoa (unsweetened)
  • Note: Ingredients shown frosted an 8 x 8 pan. Recipe easily doubles for a larger pan.


  1. Butter must be room temperature and not artificially softened in a microwave or stove top. If you do this, it won’t turn into smooth frosting. I leave it out the night before.
  2. In a large bowl smooth butter completely with a fork, until it’s soft and easy to work with. Don't stir the frosting, only cream it. Press the fork on the butter and smooth it down and down and down.
  3. Smooth icing sugar into butter with fork until you get the amount and the consistency you want. I find it easier to add a bit at time. Make sure both ingredients are completely mixed, you should see no icing sugar at all. You can taste test this for sweetness. If it’s too sweet, remember the cocoa will add bitterness in the next step.
  4. Use real Cocoa. Sift about 4 to 5 tablespoons into a small bowl. You have to sift it. DON'T SKIP THIS STEP.
  5. In a deep mug add a bit of evaporated milk, about a tablespoon or so, and mix in the cocoa a tablespoon at a time.
  6. The more cocoa you use the more chocolatey the frosting. It takes a bit for the cocoa to absorb the milk, so be patient and keep stirring, add in more cocoa as you need it and more milk if necessary (just a few drops at a time).
  7. When you’ve created a very firm paste (firmer even than bread dough), you can add it to your butter and icing sugar mixture and use the fork to smooth it in until it’s completely blended. The more cocoa paste you add, the less sweet and more chocolatey the icing becomes.
  8. If you have no cocoa, you can simply add a bit of strawberry or blueberry jelly to make colored frosting.
  9. You can add any flavouring like mint, vanilla, lemon and coconut to the butter and icing sugar mixture.



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About Me

I’m a wife to one, mom to four, grandmother to eight. . . and a romance novel writer! After publishing 14 western historical romances with traditional publishers, I self-published a contemporary romance before embarking on my new 1920s historical romantic suspense series, The Secret Six. Please do visit my website,, to learn more about my books, all available on Amazon as well as most other online booksellers.

(Read more on the About Me page.)



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