February 20, 2011

Hooray for 'The Help' and Book Club's 1st Birthday: Mississippi Mud Cake

Happy First Birthday, Book Club!

This month we read 'The Help' by Kathryn Stockett. Thank you, Ms. Stockett, for writing the best book I have read in quite some time, and what is by far my favorite book club book yet. It was the perfect book for our first birthday.

Every birthday deserves a birthday cake! 
This was not just any cake. Since 'The Help' takes place in Mississippi we just had to have a Mississippi Mud Cake.

First we ate a meal of  incredibly delicious Southern delights that I can't tell you about here or else you would leave this page and go looking for those recipes. So sorry. But seriously. It was an amazing dinner.

Then we dug into our big, dense slices of cake just like Hilly dug into that special chocolate pie Minny made. (ha).

If that was lost on you, please go and read the book. 
I promise it won't disappoint.

Baking this Mississippi monster was almost as fun as discussing the book. 
First, I patted in a moist crumb layer 
of walnut, vanilla wafer, brown sugar, and butter.

Next, I mixed up the chocolate and coconut cake batter. 
It was thick, and there was lots of butter in it. 
I hear they use a lot of butter in the south. Hi, Paula Deen.

While the cake was still hot (and this was crazy), I had to flop that thing right out of its pan and cover it with mini marshmallows

Then those little nuggets of sweet, sticky goodness got squished between the second layer of piping hot cake. To say that I was nervous as I eased that disc of steaming cake down onto the marshmallows is an understatement. But it worked! The cake stayed in one piece. I still can't believe it. 

I shouted, "there is a God!" My neighbors definitely now don't just think I am strange, they know it. Damn thin walls. But have they ever lowered a piping hot cake out of a pan onto a bed of rolling marshmallows? I kind of doubt it.

Then I stuck a bunch of toothpicks through it so the marshmallow layer wouldn't slide around and cooled it in the fridge.

Then I frosted it with a lovely chocolate ganache. 

This cake is for the chocolate lover, the sweet tooth, the dense-crumb addict. Or for other book clubs who are loving 'The Help' and simply can't help but celebrate a wonderful piece of literature with a wonderful piece of cake. 

So, happy birthday, book club! One of these years, we'll have a name, but for now we'll keep the focus where it belongs: 
on adventures through new literature and new recipes, 
discussions (on topic and off, crazy and sane), 
 and lots and lots of laughter.

Mississippi Mud Cake: recipe from the Good Housekeeping Illustrated Book of Desserts
1.5 cups butter, softened
3/4 cups walnuts
3/4 cups vanilla-wafer crumbs (about 18 cookies)
3/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 t. salt
1 t. vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cup flaked coconut
1.5 cups mini marshmallows
Chocolate Glaze (see below)

Chocolate Glaze: In a saucepan over low heat, heat 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, 3 T. butter, and 3 T. water, stirring often until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in 1.5 t. vanilla extract. Let it cool to room temp, then add 4 T. confectioners sugar, beating well with a spoon until blended and a thick consistency.

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 and grease two 9" cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a cut round of wax paper. In a saucepan over low heat, melt 1/2 cup of the butter. Meanwhile, process the walnuts and vanilla wafers until finely chopped or in crumb-like form (or chop walnuts and crush cookies). Remove the butter from the heat and stir in the walnuts, vanilla wafer crumbs, and brown sugar. Divide the mixture evenly between the cake pans and pat to cover the bottoms evenly.

In a large bowl with the mixer at low speed, beat the flour, sugar, cocoa, salt, vanilla extract, eggs, coconut, and remaining 1 cup of butter until blended. Scrape down the bowl constantly with a rubber spatula. Then, increase the speed to medium and beat for 1 minute. Spoon the batter into pans, spreading evenly. Bake 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. While the cake is still hit, loosen edges with a spatula and invert one cake layer, crumb mixture side up, on a cake plate. Top it with marshmallows. Immediately, place the second cake layer, crumb mixture side up, on top of the marshmallows so that the heat will melt them. Insert toothpicks or skewers to keep the layers from sliding, then cool in the fridge completely. Meanwhile, prepare chocolate glaze. Remove the skewers and spread the glaze over the top and sides of cake. Garnish with chocolate chips, curls, or other decorations. Allow the glaze to set before serving.

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