A mud pie worth keeping

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 21, 2001

Pilgrimage is in full swing and our town is filled with tourists. When they stop and ask for directions or information on an antebellum house, they often exclaim over things that we Natchezians take for granted such as azaleas in full bloom under the lacy canopy of dogwoods. Of course, another big draw is the &uot;father of waters,&uot; &uot;the big muddy&uot; or, as we know it, the Mississippi River.

The river runs from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico and through the veins of many Southerners. For those fortunate enough to live close to the mighty river, it has an inexplicable draw about it. Just ask the people who live along it, the ones who refuse to move even though they are subjected to flooding or mud slides. Ask the residents of Clifton Avenue how many of them start their day with a cup of coffee as they watch the river roll by and end their day the same way.

So beloved is our river that it has its own dessert namesake, the Mississippi mud cake. Traditionally a chocolate cake with nuts, topped with marshmallows and fudgy frosting, this gooey concoction does closely resemble the thick, mud found in the Mississippi Delta and along the river itself. This first recipe is the Mississippi Mud Cake recipe I have used as long as I can remember. It comes from the mother of my high school best friend and was printed in the Macedonia Baptist Church cookbook in 1978. It is the standard that I use to judge a good &uot;mud&uot; by and I guarantee you will love it.

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Mississippi Mud Cake

Cake ingredients

2 sticks butter

1/2 cup cocoa

2 cups sugar

4 eggs, slightly beaten

1 1/2 cups plain flour

Pinch of salt

1 cup of chopped nuts

1 teaspoon vanilla

Mini marshmallows

Frosting ingredients

1 pound box of powdered sugar

1/2 cup whole milk

1/3 cup cocoa

1/2 stick butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Melt the butter and cocoa together. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar and eggs. Mix well. Add the flour, salt and nuts. Mix well and then add the vanilla. Spoon the batter into your prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. Sprinkle mini marshmallows on the entire top of the cake as soon as you remove it from the oven.

While cake is baking prepare your frosting. Melt the butter and cocoa. In a medium mixing bowl mix together the melted butter, cocoa, milk and sugar. Then add the vanilla; mix well. Spread this over the marshmallow on the cake. Set in the warm oven for about 5 minutes. Adapted from Becky Sanders

The above cake is best served from the cake pan it is baked in because once you put it back in the oven for everything to melt it is virtually impossible to remove it from the pan. This can present a problem when you want to be a little more formal. I have had great success with turning this cake out onto its serving plate and then continuing with the adding of marshmallows and the frosting. Just keep in mind that you are dealing with a very hot pan and a freshly baked, still hot cake. You must flip it out quickly and carefully. One good thing is that if it cracks by the time you add the marshmallows and frosting no one will know.

While Mississippi mud cake is traditionally made similar to the above recipe, there are many recipes that follow this next format. You simply serve these fudgy squares with a dollop of whipped cream on top.

Mississippi Mud Cake

2 cups flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/4 cups strong brewed coffee

1/4 cup bourbon or brandy

5 1-ounce squares unsweetened chocolate

1 cup butter or margarine

2 cups sugar

2 eggs, at room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Unsweetened cocoa powder

Sweetened whipped cream for serving

Preheat oven to 275. Sift the flour, salt, and the baking powder together.

Combine the coffee, bourbon or brandy, chocolate, and butter or margarine in the top of a double boiler. Heat until the chocolate and butter have melted, stirring occasionally.

Pour the chocolate mixture into a large bowl. Using an electric mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the sugar. Continue beating until the sugar has dissolved.

Raise the speed to medium and add the sifted dry ingredients. Mix well, then beat in the eggs and vanilla until thoroughly blended.

Pour the batter into a well-greased 3-quart bundt pan that has been dusted lightly with cocoa powder. Bake on a high shelf in the oven until a cake tester comes out clean, about 1 hour 20 minutes.

Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then unmold onto a wire rack . Let cool completely.

When cake is cold, dust it lightly with cocoa powder. Serve with sweetened whipped cream.

This next recipe is definitely different than what you are accustomed to since it is a pie. But this recipe comes from the Delta Queen Steamboat and gives a whole new meaning to making mud pies. You could cut down on your prep time by using store-bought coffee ice cream.

Mississippi Mud Pie

Chocolate Pecan Brownie ingredients

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate

1/2 pound unsalted butter, soft

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup flour

1 cup pecan pieces

Ice Cream ingredients

2 cups whole milk

3 cups heavy cream

1 1/4 cups sugar

4 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup coffee reduction (4 cups of coffee reduced to 1/4 cup)

Whipped Topping ingredients

2 cups whipping cream

1 cup powdered sugar

2 teaspoons chocolate liqueur

Hershey’s syrup, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 8 by 11-inch pan. Melt chocolate and let cool. Combine the butter, sugar, eggs, salt and vanilla, mix well. Fold in the pecans. Pour into the greased pan and bake for about 30 minutes. Turn out of pan after 5 to 10 minutes and let cool.

The coffee ice cream mixture must be made either early in the day or let it cool over night. Scald the milk and cream. Add sugar and let it dissolve. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, vanilla and coffee reduction. Slowly add the milk mixture to the eggs, whipping continuously. Return to the heat and cook for about 15 minutes over low heat, or until mixture coats a spoon. Be sure that you stir constantly. Let this mixture stir overnight and then freeze in an ice cream freezer.

To make the whipped topping you simply whip together the whipping cream, powdered sugar and chocolate liqueur until stiff.

Top your completely cooled brownie with the ice cream and freeze until set. Top with the whipped cream and refreeze. To serve, cut your portions,, drizzle with Hershey’s syrup and garnish with pecan pieces.

Recipe courtesy of the Mississippi Delta Queen