State Cake

It should come as no surprise to any of you that most states in our Union actually have official state foods, and it should be equally unsurprising that most are desserts.

Official state foods include Lane Cake, the State Dessert of Alabama, as well as the comparably famous Smith Island Cake, which is that of Maryland. Utah has a State Snack Food (Jell-O!?), and it’s quite telling that the State Snack of Texas is tortilla chips and salsa while that of New York is yogurt. California has all of four State Nuts (almond, pecan, walnut, and pistachio). By my reckoning, Oklahoma has won the state food contest hands down by officiating a State Meal: Chicken-fried steak, barbecued pork, fried okra, squash, cornbread, grits, corn, sausage with biscuits and gravy, black-eyed peas, strawberries, and pecan pie.

Unofficial state foods are often the subject articles assigned to some junior editor for filler/fodder in any given dozens of click-bait slide shows. On any given one of these fluff pieces, you’ll inevitably find a Mississippi mud cake, which is not our official state cake. In fact, unless you count large mouth bass, Mississippi doesn’t have a state food.

Mississippi mud cake is more fudge or a brownie than a cake, and that’s likely how it began, but around fifty years ago in the 70s when all sorts of craziness was going on (yes, I was there), marshmallows—inexplicably and unnecessarily—were introduced, likely because the resulting swirls are reminiscent of currents and eddies. Me, I think marshmallows are a vile alteration, and Australians seem to agree, since the Aussie mud cake—no, they do not call it Murrumbidgee mud cake—is marshmallow-free and smooth as silt.

One icon deserves another, so here’s Tammy Wynette’s recipe for Mississippi mud cake, which she says was taught to her by her mother, Mildred Lee.

2 sticks melted butter
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1 ½ cups plain flour
1 ½ cups pecans, chopped
½ cup cocoa
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
Mix together sugar, cocoa, and butter and eggs. Add flour, pecans, vanilla and salt to above. Bake 35 minutes at 350 degrees in a greased 9×13 oblong pan.
Cover with miniature marshmallows and return to oven to melt.
½ cup milk
1/3 cup cocoa
1 stick melted butter
1 box powdered sugar
Sift cocoa and powdered sugar, add milk and butter. Mix until smooth, then put on top of cake.

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