Monday, February 9, 2009

Historical Chocolate

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 eggs
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)

Chocolate Frosting:
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.


Anonymous said...

i agree, cookbooks are a great way to learn history! love the pie!

i'm hosting a chocolate giveaway on my blog, so check it out!

Renee said...

I loved the Guernsey book!

And the cake looks scrumptious.

LizNoVeggieGirl said...

Haha oh yes, I've had professors like that too ;-)

I too love reading through old cookbooks - it's interesting to see how cooking/baking methods have changed over time!!

Looooovin' that Mud Cake!!

LizNoVeggieGirl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maria said...

I love looking at old cookbooks...and new ones:) This mud cake looks so rich and divine!!

Anonymous said...

It looks like the precursor to Rocky Road ice cream. Luscious and squidgy.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Cook Books are history some with more detail than others.
Love the way the chocolate cracks on this.

Anonymous said...

It's funny looking stuff. It's so oozy. Must have been hard to photograph.

BugnLVoe said...

This looks so good!
Your pictures are awesome!
I swear I can almost taste it.

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

This looks so tempting Lynn:D

Unknown said...

1. i HATE history
2. My AP US history class was my favorite...obviously had a good teacher.
3. This is a very good cake!

Anonymous said...

I loved the Guernsey book as well. A friend wrote me and said: "Drop what you're doing and run, don't walk, to get the book." I admit I walked, but I loved the story.

Elyse said...

oh how i have a weakness for mississippi mud. the cake looks fabulous, amazing, delicious. i need it now!

Anonymous said...

Yummm! What a rich cake! Looks so moist! The chocolate frosting is gorgeous!

The Cutting Edge of Ordinary said...

Who is this person you speak of who has no sweet tooth??? LOL

natalia said...

This cake looks so good !! I love reading cookbooks !!

grace said...

if history class ever involved chocolate in any way, shape, or form, i would've paid more attention. :)
awesome cake--marshmallows just make me happy.

Anonymous said...

Loved the way you described it. As a kind and teenager I was bored by the facts and dates too. Now, I know by reading cookbooks about the migration of different cultures and the way this affected the use of spices and techniques and the way of living. If the teachers had been more creative at that point....

NKP said...

I think all grade school teachers should be forced to watch "Good Eats" and see how a little enthusiasm can go a long way!
My history teacher just wrote on the chalkboards and we had to copy it out... all year long. Never learned a thing.
The dessert does look sweet! My son would love it - sort of a rocky road theme.

Lien said...

it's the teacher that makes or breaks. I fortunately had great history teachers (well most of them) and it was one of my favorite lessons in school.
And history made with scent and taste like your amazing mud pie... well you'd be a very populair teacher. Looks fanstastic.

Peabody said...

I think it was just the class. My AP History class was super boring as well.
This however looks as far from boring as you can get. Yum.

Homemade Heaven said...

This the heaven on a plate - I could eat the whole dish and still not be satisfied!

Debbie said...

That dessert looks great. Just my taste, chocolate and marshmallows!!! Cookbooks are fun...history can be interesting if taught with some enthusiasm!

Katrina said...

Love Mississippi Mud, haven't had it for years. Looks so good!

The Blonde Duck said...

That's the most delicious mud I've ever seen!

I moved! Come see me at

Dee Light said...

I LOVE Mississippi Mud. I've tried several different versions and love them all. My moms recipe has a brownie like base, my mother-in-law's recipe is more cake like with coconut (both yummy).

I like that your recipe used marshamallows rather than marshmallow cream (I'm more likely to have marshmallows on hand). I will be giving this a try.

Colleen said...

I LOVE this cake! My mom makes a pretty close version to this - it brings back memories!

Marysol said...

It's easy to overlook the name of this cake, but place it on a table full of hungry guests and a fight is bound to ensue.

MIM said...

I will try this this weekend. But 16oz of powdered sugar for frosting is almost half kg. No joke? Can I cut it down?

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Rita - no joke. The sugar gives the frosting its body. If that's too much for you, you might substitute a different frosting.

Helene said...

Eheh....the hubby grades the AP tests in the summer :)
That looks decadent a plenty...just perfect for a study night.

Anonymous said...

The chocolate frosting looks wonderfully crunchy on top. I'll add this to my bookmark list.