Monday, February 9, 2009
I took an AP History class in high school. It was one of the most boring classes ever. Remember the teacher in Ferris Bueller's Day Off? My teacher was like that, only without the interesting charm and sparkle. Everything was memorizing dates, names, and treaties. Yawn. As soon as I took the AP test I promptly flushed everything from that class out of my brain.
But I've learned over the years that history, when it's not dehydrated into a stale list of facts, is actually fascinating, because history is the story of people. It's about people who did ordinary things, people who did extraordinary things, and how they changed the world around them. I have become quite fond of reading historical fiction as it is a painless way to learn history. My latest being The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (thank you, Melinda!). I highly recommend it.
Another engrossing way to learn about the past is to read old cookbooks. I have one which I adore called the Southern Heritage Cakes Cookbook. It tells not only the history of certain cakes popular in the Southern United States, it also contains old product advertisements and tells how products like baking powder and gadgets like hand-held egg beaters and oven thermostats changed the way that cakes were made. Delightful descriptions and vintage photos make it a pleasure to thumb through, and sometimes I even get sucked into baking from it.
Most recently, the Mississippi Mud Cake called to me. A cake as rich as the mud from the mighty Mississippi River? Yes, it is. Chocolate, nuts, gooey marshmallows, and chocolate frosting. Oh my! It's cross between a brownie, a lava cake, and a s'more. A word of warning, though. It is really sweet. This would be an ideal treat for children, or you could play with the recipe, using less sugar in the frosting to back off the sweetness a bit, if you don't have a big sweet tooth.
Mississippi Mud Cake
- adapted from The Southern Heritage Cakes Cookbook
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
Dash of salt
1/4 cup plus 1-1/2 Tbsp cocoa
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
10 oz. marshmallows (I used large, but I think mini might work better)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp cocoa
1/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp warm milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
16 oz. powdered sugar, sifted
1- Preheat oven to 325 deg. F. Grease a glass 9 x 13 - inch pan. (If using a metal pan, increase the oven temp to 350 deg. F)
2-Cream butter; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa; add to creamed mixture. Stir in vanilla and pecans.
3-Spoon batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes until top is barely soft to the touch.
4- While cake is baking, prepare the frosting. Cream butter then add the cocoa, mixing well. Gradually beat in powdered sugar, adding warm milk as necessary, until spreading consistency. Stir in vanilla.
5- Remove cake from oven and cover top with marshmallows. Return to oven for 2 minutes or until marshmallows are soft. Spread marshmallows over cake and immediately cover with Chocolate Frosting.
6- Let the frosting harden before cutting the cake into squares.