Craig Claiborne's New York Times

Mississippi Mud Cake

Yield 12+ servings
3 ratings

From Craig Claiborne with Pierre Franey, from The New York Times, 1981

A short while ago we were asked if there was such a thing as a mud pie, and we offered a vague definition from a book that spoke of a creation from Mississippi: a chocolate-cookie crust filled with chocolate or coffee-brandy ice cream. To our enormous surprise, the printed question and answer elicited scores of recipes from all over the nation, not only for Mississippi mud pies but for mud cakes as well. Both of them, as readers warned us, are sinfully rich.

The Mississippi pie, with its dominant, emphatic chocolate flavor, may be served lukewarm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. If allowed to cool, the filling becomes almost like a fine chocolate candy. The mud-pie recipe is that of Dorothy Ann Webb, a native Mississippian.

Our version of the Mississippi cake, a cocoa-and-nut creation with a baked marshmallow topping and a cocoa-and-pecan icing, is the result of blending many recipes received from readers.


For the Cake:

  • 1/2 pound butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups miniature marshmallows or large marshmallows cut into half-inch pieces (see Marshmallow recipe below, which is from the Better than Store Bought cookbook by Helen Witty and Elizabeth Schneider Colchie)

For the Icing:

  • 1/2 pound butter
  • 1 pound confectioners sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk

For the Marshmallows:

  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl. Beat well until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.
  3. Sift together the flour and 1/3 cup of cocoa. Fold this into the creamed mixture. Add the 1 cup of chopped nuts and the vanilla. Beat well.
  4. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9″ x 13″ baking pan. Add a little flour and shake it around to coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Shake out excess flour.
  5. Spoon the cake mixture into the pan and smooth it over. Place in the oven and bake 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the top with the marshmallows. Return to the oven and bake about 10 minutes until marshmallows are melted and starting to brown. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan about 30 minutes.

For the Icing:

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan.
  2. Sift together the confectioners sugar and 1/3 cup of cocoa. Stir this into the butter along with the nuts and milk. Spread this over the cake and let stand until thoroughly cooled. Cut into slices and serve.

For the Marshmallows:

  1. Sift together the cornstarch and confectioners sugar. Lightly butter an 8″ x 8″ baking pan and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the cornstarch mixture. Tilt the pan in all directions to coat the bottom and sides. Do not shake out excess.
  2. Blend the gelatin and water in a small saucepan and let soak. Add the granulated sugar and stir over low heat until gelatin and sugar dissolve.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the gelatin mixture, corn syrup, salt and vanilla. Beat 15 minutes on high speed until peaks form.
  4. Spread the gelatin mixture over the bottom of the prepared pan and smooth the top. Let stand 2 hours or until set.
  5. With a wet knife, cut the marshmallow mixture into quarters and loosen around the edges. Sprinkle the remaining cornstarch and sugar mixture on a baking sheet and invert the marshmallows onto it. Cut each quarter into 9 pieces, and roll each in the cornstarch and sugar mixture.
  6. Place the marshmallows on a rack and cover with paper towels. Let stand overnight to dry the surface slightly. Store marshmallows in an airtight container. The marshmallows will keep for a month.