Friday, July 13, 2007

A Muddy Cake Story.

Today, July 13th

I discovered that today is the anniversary in 1832 of the source of the Mississippi River, for which we must all be very grateful, as otherwise we might not have Mississippi Mud Cake. Thankyou Mr. Henry Rowe Schoolcraft.

Recipes are never actually invented, they evolve over time. The Mud Cake is a fairly new species which seems to have sprung off the American parental tree in the early 1970’s, along with its cousin, The Mud Pie. Its ancestors are the Brownie (a mud cake is a more sensible sized brownie, that is all) and Fudge, but there must be a few rogue genes in there too, as the early 1970’s recipes for Mud Cake also contain marshmallow. This particular type of Mud Cake either never migrated to Australia, or when it did, the marshmallow was removed, for all of the Aussie Mud Cakes I have met are entirely marshmallow-free (which makes them purer and better, to my mind, but you may disagree.)

Every family has its black sheep, and at some time after the birth of the Mud Cake there sprang up something called Dirt Cake. I have never come across a live specimen, but in the interests of culinary history, sought out a recipe for you. It has an ingredient called ‘chocolate pudding mix’ in it, as well as broken up commercial biscuits (Oreos, which I believe are quite revered in their homeland), and I confess I could go no further. I am not sure what ‘chocolate pudding mix’ is, but I am pretty sure I wouldn’t like it, and I am very sure it has no place in a cake. Call me a purist. Call me a snob. Just don’t call me to the table and make me eat chocolate pudding made from a mix.

I would, however, be more than willing to sample this recipe, from a 1972 American newspaper cooking column.

The Mississippi Mud Cake.
2 sticks melted butter*
2 cups of sugar
4 eggs
1 ½ cups of flour
⅓ cups cocoa
½ teas salt
1 ½ cups pecans (chopped)
1 teas vanilla.

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs and sift flour, cocoa, salt, and add to cream mixture. Add vanilla, nuts shredded in flour, and pour in 9 x 12 square pan. Bake 30-40 mins at 350 degrees. Remove from stove and cover with marshmallows and brown, then while still warm pour frosting over cake and let cool. Cut into squares.

1 cup of powdered sugar
½ stick of butter
½ cup of evaporated milk
⅓ cup of cocoa
½ teas vanilla

Sift powdered sugar and cream with butter, Add evaporated milk, cocoa, and vanilla. Pour over cake while still warm.

*A ‘stick’ of butter, for those of you ‘elsewhere’, is 4oz, which is near enough to 125gm.

The newpaper article was called ‘Unusual Recipes’, and I cant resist also giving you the recipe that came after the the mud cake. It is worth it for the name alone.

After That.
1 stick of butter melted in pan.
1 cup of graham cracker crumbs
1 package of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 can of angel flake coconut
1 cup of chopped pecans
1 can of Eagle Brand milk.

Place in pan by layers, in order as written. Bake 300 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool in refrigerator several hours before slicing and taking out of pan.

I’d love some information or stories on ‘After That’, if you have any to share.


American, British, Canadian and Australian cup and spoon measures are different, which can make converting some recipes a bit tricky. For this sort of recipe, it seems to work OK just using your own country measures, as everything is in proportion, more or less. It would be a whole lot easier if we all just used weight measurements.

I briefly and bravely experimented with posting the conversion charts for cookery that I use myself, but it was beyond my technical skills to make them stay formatted in Blogger. There are plenty of them online, but if you email me, I’ll send you mine.

Monday’s Story …

Napoleon or Neapolitan?

Quotation for the Day …

As with most fine things, chocolate has its season. There is a simple memory aid that you can use to determine whether it is the correct time to order chocolate dishes: any month whose name contains the letter A, E, or U is the proper time for chocolate. Sandra Boynton.

P.S. Yesterday I told you that today's story was to be called "Heg Peg Dump". I was getting ahead of myself. That is the title of the story next Friday.


Liz + Louka said...

I have plenty of conversion tables in my recipe books, but the things that are never in them are "package" and "can" (I did already know about the "stick" of butter). How can the recipe writers be sure that all packages and cans of a product are the same quantity?

Anonymous said...

Well, if you're writing a recipe for someone who shops in the same stores you do, or for your own reminding, you can do things like put "one can condensed milk" as opposed to "8 ounces condensed milk", because there may be three different brands on the shelf but they all contain eight ounces per can.

I tend to write it out, myself. I never know who I'll give a recipe to.

Anonymous said...

Yeah -- conversions are always entertaining. I have done a fair bit of it, but never thought about "stick of butter." (this in response to the comments, rather than the post) I always ran into the problem of "25-cent size chocolate bar," or similar.

As for the post -- I'm sure you're aware that Americans mean something quite different when they speak of pudding. American pudding is more or less a blancmange, and the packaged ones can be relatively pleasant on their own and quite useful in recipes.

The Old Foodie said...

Hello everyone. Interesting, isnt it, that our various English-speaking cultures seem so similar on one level, and enormously difficult on another. Another reader emailed me about pudding mix - it certainly sounds like 'instant blancmange'. I suppose it is like using tapioca flour (arrowroot) and cocoa powder and setting it with gelatine. I still dont like the sound of it though.
Cynthia - what other recipes would you use pudding mix in?

The Old Foodie said...

I think I meant enormously different. I think I must need to go to bed and get some sleep.

Anonymous said...

American pudding/blancmange can add nice body and moisture to some cake recipes, or it can be combined with other ingredients to make a good topping for a sheet cake. Not my first choice, but it's useful if one is feeding an uncritical crowd or lots of small children. It can also be tarted up a bit and pass for something vaguely trifle-ish. (It has been a long time since I used pudding mix, but I remember it -- and jello -- being useful when cranking out sheet cakes for church socials.)

Anonymous said...

Regarding the After That recipe, a mid west staple, I can confirm that it's delicious. Probably the easiest invention out there I've always known it as a seven layer bar. A lot of different variations on the recipe, you can add a bunch of different ingredients to tailor it to your taste. The Eagle Milk is condensed milk that you pour over the top and it melts and bakes into the ingredients in the pan so you end up with a sticky, nutty, coconut chocolate bar with a graham cracker crust on the bottom. Try it some day!