05/12/2014 03:50 pm ET Updated Jul 12, 2014

Mothers and Daughters: Recipes for Chocolate Survival

Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz

While writing On the Chocolate Trail, I discovered these amazing stories of mothers and chocolate, each true stories from World War II. Both tell of survival and resilience.

Sadie Crown Eisner's lifelong love of chocolate was described to me by her daughter, Jane Eisner, after Jane wrote about her mother in The Jewish Daily Forward (Jane is the Editor-in-Chief). As a child in bomb-pocked London, chocolate symbolized Sadie's tie to family, to luxury and to a vague recollection of life without war. Family stories included those of a great aunt who worked in a British chocolate factory and brought home samples to share with the rest of the family. At one point things were so tough that her grandmother divided one egg among the children. Because of the dangers of the intensive Nazi bombings in England, known as The Blitz, Sadie was evacuated to the countryside. Separated from her relations, she lived with people who had not ever seen Jews before.

When Sadie finally immigrated to America, she brought with her what her daughter called her "giggly love of chocolate." Pregnant in the days of carefully-monitored weight gains, she ate very sparsely before her doctor's appointments and then celebrated immediately afterward with a hot fudge sundae. Jane surmises that this explains her own love for chocolate, imagining herself as an "open mouthed fetus catching drops of chocolate." She learned from Sadie to savor her chocolate, nibbling it slowly. Sadie remained devoted to her beloved Cadbury's Black Magic, though she eventually included Godiva in her chocolate repertoire. Those Godiva Gold boxes provided the centerpieces for her seventieth birthday celebration. In her later years in a nursing home, a hot chocolate merited her almost automatic response, "Oh, that's gorgeous." A loving gesture in her mother's dying hours had Jane touching chocolate to Sadie's lips. For Sadie, a life lived well was graced with chocolate.

The skills of chocolate making helped another Jewish daughter under the deprivation of Nazi rule. In the late 1930s in Frankfurt, Germany, at the age of fifteen, Lisa Hoffman and two other classmates were told they could not return to school because they were Jews. Lisa had already been forced to greet the teacher with the Nazi salute and had been required to sing Nazi songs, which spoke of murdering Jews. When the Nazis closed her father's department store, her mother, Elsa, took boarders into their large apartment. Hoping to send Lisa to England as a domestic, Elsa trained Lisa along with other young Jewish women, some of whom were her lodgers, in homemaking skills. Unemployed Jews who had worked as waiters, cooks and bakers also gave lessons.

The chocolate instructor was sadly arrested by the Nazis just days before he was scheduled to teach his specialty. Since Lisa had only weeks before begun an apprenticeship with a famous chocolate maker, she coached the group instead, staying one week ahead of the group's lessons. Lisa, a self-diagnosed chocoholic, taught them about chocolate fillings and how to use special dipping forks to form perfectly shaped and delicious truffles. (The recipe is included in On the Chocolate Trail.)

Finally with a visa in hand, she departed Germany for England on August 18, 1939. Only two weeks later, war was declared between Germany and England. Looking back on that time when she was without family and classified as a foreign alien, she wrote:

I carried inside of me all of the lessons my mother had worked so hard to get for me. I could make chocolate, cook for large families and carry soup without spilling. But more importantly what she'd given me was a belief in myself. It's stood me well through the years, this gift from my mother Elsa Hoffman.

Jane and Lisa received much from their mothers, chocolate appreciation and confecting among them.

Wacky Cake:

Here is a recipe that was created to adapt to chocolate and other shortages during World War II. Perhaps Sadie and Lisa enjoyed this cake. A contemporary version could include ground ginger or ground black pepper. The photo above shows the cake in process.



2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup milk
13⁄4 cups cake flour
3⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1⁄2 cup unsalted butter (the original recipe uses cooking oil)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Ground ginger or ground black pepper, to taste (optional)


1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 tablespoons milk
11⁄2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
Pinch of salt
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Ground ginger or ground black pepper, to taste (optional)


FOR THE CAKE: Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Lightly grease an 8-inch square cake pan. Combine the chocolate and milk in a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water for 5 minutes. Blend with a mixer. Remove from the heat and cool. Sift the flour once into a bowl. Add the baking soda and salt to the flour, then sift the dry ingredients together three more times. With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add the butter mixture, vanilla, and chocolate mixture to the flour; beat vigorously for 1 minute. If using ginger or black pepper, add it to the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan.

FOR THE ICING: Heat the butter and milk in a small saucepan until melted. In a bowl, mix together the sugar and salt. Add the hot milk, stirring to blend. Add the vanilla and beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed for 1 minute. Add the ginger or black pepper to the icing, if using. Spread on the cooled cake.
Quantity: 10 servings

About Rabbi Prinz

Deborah R. Prinz's book, On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao was published in 2013 by Jewish Lights and is in its second printing. This post is adapted from the chapter, Chocolate Revives Refugees, Survivors, and Immigrants.
Rabbi Prinz lectures about chocolate and Jews around the world.
Free download: Lesson Plans for use in schools.