The Mississippi in the Cake

I do so love cakes with long names. Cakes with names that I cannot pronounce. Cakes that are named after their inventors,  cakes that are official state desserts. It goes without saying that today's cake had me 'at hello'.

Mud Cake - The only picture I took of the complete cake

I had always dreamed of baking in an American Kitchen. I am not trying to make a joke or a cliché here, I really did dream of a kitchen with large double ovens, measuring cups, and whatever other fantasy I thought is there in an American Kitchen. Quite possibly, a by product of reading oh, I don't know, over 100 different food blogs. Therefore, I get to see a lot, and I mean A LOT of American baking. And I made up picture with all the things I read. The point is that when I actually did bake in an American Kitchen, I felt like a kid in a candy store.

All purpose flour

If you have stopped laughing, then I'll tell you about the cake I did make. I had gone grocery shopping (another instance of Kid-In-A-Candy-Store: my family had to drag me out of the baking aisles at the supermarket. At every supermarket. Every time. Whatever happened to graceful shopping?). Since I was still undecided about what cake to make, I randomly picked up stuff - butter, sugar, eggs, flour, and on a whim, chocolate. Not just any chocolate, but 8 ounces of unsweetened chocolate. And I couldn't leave a huge bar of said chocolate unused (I mean bittersweet chocolate is fine, but who eats unsweetened chocolate straight up? It's like eating cocoa powder by the spoon. Don't try it).

Melted, unsweetened chocolate.

So now I had to make something chocolate with these ingredients. I also had the job of searching for a recipe that fit the ingredients.  Cookie, Cake, Brownies? (I am really not inspiring any confidence here, am I?) Then, luckily, I stumbled upon a chocolate cake recipe that comes from a book called Good Old Fashioned Cakes and was posted in her Cookbook Corner by Nigella. The Mississippi Mud Cake. And the recipe called for the exact amount of chocolate I had. That sealed the deal. The dessert/cake is distinctly Southern, and it seemed even more appropriate to make this cake, since I was living in one of the Southern States.

I always did want to use this butter, in this form. And, this butter smells sweet!

The origins of this cake are not easy to trace. Most probably, this cake is a cousin of the famous Mississippi Mud Pie - a dessert that was developed during the Second World War with the ingredients available, much like the Cake-Pan Cake. Apparently, it is named so because it resembles "the banks of the Mississippi River", dense and dark brown. I think that analogy can be extended to the cake too.

Mud Cakes are common in some restaurants in my city, but Mississippi Mud cake/pie is unheard of. Mud cakes seem very similar to brownies. They are dense, moist and rich. They are also made without leavening agents.  This cake is fudgy, but for me, very different from a brownie. Because, even though the cake is dense, it has a very lovely delicate crumb. It's rich, dark, tender and mildly sweet. It is perfect with a cup of coffee or a small scoop of ice cream.

(Oh, and I learned during research that there is a cake known as Dirt Cake...When will recipes stop having unflattering names??)

Mississippi Mud Cake
Good Old-Fashioned Cakes by Susan Kosoff via Nigella Lawson

There's not much I changed in the recipe. Except that instead of bittersweet chocolate, I used unsweetened chocolate

You need -

1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup soft unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (1 3/4 cups if you use unsweetened chocolate)
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces, approx. 226 grams dark/bittersweet/unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled

To make the cake -

1.Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Grease a 9 inch square pan and dust with flour.

2.Sieve the flour and salt and set aside.

3.In a large bowl, and using hand held electric beaters, cream the butter until smooth, about 5 minutes.  Add sugar and keep beating until mixture is light and fluffy.  Gradually add eggs, beating until mixture has the consistency of lightly whipped cream. Stir in vanilla and melted chocolate.

4.Gradually stir the dry ingredients into chocolate mixture until well blended. Pour this batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly.

5. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. The cake is done when the surface looks dry and cracked; but underneath, the centre will be soft and gooey.  Remove pan to wire rack, and cool 10 minutes. Transfer the cake to a serving plate and cool completely.  transfer cake to a serving platter.

Tender crumb of cake



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