Don’t knock the country cousins. Take chocolate pudding cake, for example, the down-home kin of molten chocolate cakes now on fancy restaurant menus throughout America and Europe. Known to generations of delighted American children as Mississippi Mud, this unpretentious, easily made dessert offers a layer of warm, creamy almost custard-like dark chocolate pudding, hidden beneath a raft of thin, crisp-edged chocolate cake.
Amazingly low in fat, put together quickly with inexpensive, easily come by ingredients, it pleases anyone with a hankering for old-fashioned, comforting desserts. A tad less sweet and a bit more chocolaty, this updated classic is perfectly tuned to today’s bittersweet-friendly, chocolate-intensified palate.
And its name? Nathalie Dupree hypothesizes in New Southern Cooking that it may be because the top, when cooked, should be “cracked and dry-looking like Mississippi mud in the hot, dry summer.” Maybe. But Mississippi Mud is also the name of a song, a blues tune written in 1928 by James Cavanaugh and Harry Barris, recorded by more than 30 different artists (including Bing Crosby, the Muppets, Dinah Shore and Ray Charles).
The tune is probably as popular as the dessert, and they both appeared on the scene at roughly the same time. Alter song’s the tag line “It’s a treat to beat your feet on the Mississippi Mud” to “It’s a treat to get to eat that Mississippi Mud,” bake up a batch, and with the first spoonful, you’ll know that truer words were never spoken or sung.
The proportion of pudding to cake is perfect if baked in an 8-by-6-inch pan. If you don’t have one, use any small deep casserole dish with a 5- to 6-cup capacity.
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup 2 percent reduced-fat milk
2 tablespoons vegetable
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (not melted)
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 3/4 cups boiling water
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly oil an 8-by-6-inch baking pan.
2. To prepare batter, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt, stirring well with a fork. Mix in milk, oil and vanilla, and transfer batter to prepared pan.
3. To prepare topping, scatter chopped chocolate over the batter. Combine brown sugar and cocoa and sprinkle over batter. Pour boiling water slowly and evenly over batter and topping. Do not stir.
4. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until cake pulls slightly away from the edges of pan and is shiny and firm in the middle; don’t overbake. (If using a larger baking dish, check it at 20 to 25 minutes).
5. Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes. Spoon into dessert dishes, and serve with ice cream or frozen yogurt, if desired. Serves 6.
Recipe by Crescent Dragonwagon
Per serving: 350 calories, 9g fat, 0mg chol., 4g prot., 68g carbs., 3g fiber, 230mg sodium.
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Photo credit: Mark Boughton Photogrpahy / styling by Teresa Blackburn