Mississippi Mud Cake

Southerners love this earthy cake—the way it looks, the way it tastes, and especially its wacky name. You don’t have to be from Mississippi—or even Southern—to come under its spell. The main requirement, judging from the response during a help-us-eat-all-these-cakes party we hosted a while back, is that you be in the room with it and be able to reach the cake plate. How its components transform themselves into such a tasty cake is a mystery to me, since it lacks baking powder or soda, and is ready for the oven after only two simple steps.

Courtesy of "Southern Cakes" by Nancie McDermott. Excerpted by permission of Chronicle Books.

Mississippi Mud Cake

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    Ingredients

    1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into big chunks 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
    1/2 cup cocoa 1 16oz box (about 3 2/3 cups) confectioners' sugar (for frosting)
    4 eggs, beaten well 1/2 cup cocoa (for frosting)
    1 tsp vanilla extract 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted (for frosting)
    2 cups sugar 1 tsp vanilla extract (for frosting)
    1.5 cups all-purpose flour 4 cups mini-marshmallows, or 3 cups marshmallows, quartered (for frosting)
    1/8 tsp salt 1/2 cup milk or evaporated milk (for frosting)

    directions

    Total:
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    • 1

      To make the cake, heat the oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour a 13-by-9-inch pan. In a small saucepan, combine the butter and the cocoa and cook over medium heat, stirring now and then, until the butter is melted and the mixture is well blended, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the beaten eggs, vanilla, sugar, flour, salt, and pecans, and beat with a wooden spoon or a spatula or with a mixer at low speed until the batter is well combined and smooth, and the flour has disappeared.

    • 2

      Quickly pour the batter into prepared pan and bake at 350F for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cake springs back when touched gently in the center and is beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan.

    • 3

      Prepare the frosting while the cake bakes, so that you will be ready to pour it over the hot cake. In a medium bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar and the cocoa, and stir to mix them well. Add the melted butter, milk, and vanilla, and use a large spoon or a mixer at low speed to beat everything together well. Set aside until the cake is done.

    • 4

      Remove the cake from the oven, scatter the marshmallows over the top of the cake, and return the cake to the hot oven for about 3 minutes, to soften the marshmallows.

    • 5

      Place the cake on a wire rack or a folded kitchen towel. Pour the frosting over the marshmallow-dotted cake, cool to room temperature, and then cut into small squares.

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