Judging Mud Pies by Larner

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For SugarAnnie and Jeannette for their birthdays, and for RedCoon for his addition to the recipes.  And thank you, Jeannette, for introducing me to mayonnaise cakes.  Frodo is six years old in this story.

Judging Mud Pies

             “Did you have fun at the Free Fair?” Hamson Gamgee asked Frodo Baggins.

            “Oh, yes, I did!” Frodo assured him and his brother Halfred.  “My mummy won three prizes for a blanket and two shawls she knit, and another for a dress she sewed for Auntie Dora.  And my dad—he won a prize for a chest he made.  He tried to make a carved picture of Uncle Bilbo on it, but it doesn’t really look like him after all.  But nobody cared that it was just of a Hobbit with a pony because it was so good and nobody else had anything anywhere as beautiful they’d made.  And I got to try some food Dwarves make while my dad bought some new chisels from them.  It was really, really good, although it didn’t taste like what Uncle Bilbo makes when he makes Dwarf food for us when we stay with him in Bag End.”

            “Did they have lots of cakes?” Half asked.

            “Oh, yes—all kinds.  Uncle Bilbo took one made of chocolate.  The Dwarves brought him the chocolate from far away.  They say they got it from the merchants of Laketown.  I really like chocolate, and wish we could have it more often.  The judges didn’t give him the first prize for his chocolate cake, although I noticed that one of them took three slices of it.  Lobelia Sackville-Baggins got a prize for her poppy seed cake, though it wasn’t anywhere as good as Uncle Bilbo’s chocolate one.”

            Soon the three children were busy pretending to bake cakes for the Free Fair.  Bell Gamgee allowed them to use a battered tin bowl to do their “baking” in, and they found large leaves to use as serving plates.  Each went to a different part of the dooryard to obtain soil, and with a cracked mug filled with water from the pump they set about forming their cakes.   Looking down from the hedges of Bag End, Hamfast Gamgee could see the three little lads playing together in front of Number Three, all of them standing on crates to work at his potting table, each intent on making his offering as attractive as possible, while little Daisy, who was only three, crawled about the flagstones under the table.

            It was nearly tea time when Hamfast accompanied Mr. Bilbo and his younger cousin, Mr. Drogo, as they came down to fetch Frodo back up to Bag End. 

            “And what have we here?” Mr. Bilbo asked.  “It would appear that you three have been quite busy.”

            “We’re bakin’ cakes for the Free Fair, Mr. Bilbo, sir,” Hamson explained.  “Would you and Mr. Drogo and our dad like to be the judges?”

            It seemed like sheer tomfoolery to Hamfast, but as it appeared that it amused his Master and Mr. Drogo to play along with the lads, he couldn’t say no when the others said yes, so he watched as Mr. Bilbo carefully pulled out that lovely silver penknife he liked to carry and carefully cut slices from each lad’s cake, solemnly setting each slice on a dock leaf and handing it to his fellow judges for their evaluation.

            Who’d even think o’ judgin’ mud pies?the gardener found himself thinking as he contemplated the slice Mr. Bilbo had handed him from Hamson’s cake.  It appeared to have been made using the recently sifted soil from the compost heap, with a rich dark color. 

Blossoms carefully removed from the lobelias from the window boxes decorated the edges, and rose petals had been used to form a single blossom in the center.

            Mr. Bilbo examined the slice from all sides before announcing in solemn tones, “An excellent cake with a consistent texture, well chosen ingredients and delightfully decorated.”

             He looked to Mr. Drogo for his comments.  Drogo Baggins blinked, but added, “Internal color is nice, and no signs of it being burnt or overcooked.  Nice and light.”

            Now both Bagginses were looking at Hamfast with raised brows.  What could the gardener say?  But at last he said, “All decorations are fresh and o’ good colors, and all ’bout the same size.” 

            The two gentlehobbits beamed at him with approval, and young Hamson was smiling fit to burst.

            Then they examined slices of Frodo’s cake.  He’d used some of the fine sand that his companions’ father kept to mix with the new soil from the compost for certain plants for the cake’s body, and had managed to make it in two layers with a filling of reddish dust from the cleaning brick Bell Gamgee used to scrub the flagstones, doing a second dusting over the top before using a woven crown of clover stems to encircle it and decorating it with clover blossoms of both white and pink.

            “It’s a spice cake,” Frodo explained as the three adults examined their samples of his artistry.

            His father gave a smile, and proclaimed, “Well, it’s definitely the proper color and density for a good spice cake.”

            Bilbo did his best to remain official in voice and stance, adding, “Nice layering effect, and excellent use of cinnamon between the layers and atop it.”

            Again Hamfast went last, and he had to think carefully before he said, “Unusual decorations, but nicely done and with lovely use o’ colors.  And, the clovers give it a nice scent.”

            Bell came out of the hole, little Daisy, freshly changed and brushed, in her arms, and she was definitely smiling proudly at him for his participation in the children’s game.  He winked at her, and her lovely smile widened. 

            Now it was Halfred’s cake they were examining.  He’d used the sandy, gravelly soil from either side of the front walk to make his cake.  It was rather lumpy, and the top was studded with small pebbles from the gravel, most of them white or reddish in color.  He’d not made it round as had the others, but instead had formed it in an oblong shape.

            The three judges raised their eyebrows and gave one another uncertain looks.  At last Bilbo Baggins hazarded, “Is it a pound cake, then?”

            Halfred shook his head decisively.  “Decided as it weren’t right fer a cake,” he explained.  “No, it’s meatloaf instead.”

            “And the pebbles?” asked Drogo carefully.

            “Nuts and currants,” Half explained.  “I likes nuts and currants, you see.”

            “Oh, but I do see,” Mr. Bilbo said.  “Well, my fellow judges, we must now make a proper judgment of this delightful meatloaf.  Shall I start, then?  All right.  Let me see—definitely a good shape for a nice meatloaf, and I see he has mixed in just the right amount of garlic slices and chopped onion.” 

            “And green onions and celery,” added Mr. Drogo, noting how grass stems and dandelion stems had been mixed in.  “He definitely has noted well how his parents prepare their own excellent meatloaf and is following their lead in mixing in the ingredients.”

            Half appeared pleased, but was now looking up at his father expectantly.  “How do ya think as it tastes, Dad?” he asked.

            Half really wanted him to taste the thing?  Not certain what else to do, Hamfast raised it to his lip, and tried to pretend to take a bite.  However, he actually got some of it in his mouth, and he found himself doing his best not to spit it right out again.  Not daring to breathe in through his mouth for fear of inhaling some of the grit, he said, as carefully as possible, “Nice earthy taste it has, I must say.”  With that he brought out his handkerchief and carefully wiped the soil off his tongue and lips.

            “Well, that sounds right fine,” Bell said.  “Our lads are already well on their ways to bein’ proper cooks, ain’t they?”  She leaned carefully over their daughter’s head and kissed her husband’s cheek.  He went from feeling a right fool for joining the play as he had to seeing he’d done exactly the right thing for the children.

            “Indeed,” Bilbo said.  “Well, after that, I feel I must extend an invitation for all of you to join us for tea, if it doesn’t take away from your own plans, Mistress Bell, of course.  And as luck would have it, Primula herself has fixed us a wonderful meatloaf from which we’re to have sandwiches, and I had enough chocolate for a second cake, just for us.  Do say that you will come up and share it all with us, Master Gamgee, Missus Bell!”

            Bell flushed with pleasure at the invite, and after taking a few moments to make certain the hands and clothing of her sons were cleaned and changed and their heads and feet nicely brushed, the family followed the Bagginses back up the Hill to share tea, and a good time was had by all.


Chocolate Mayo Cake

Made with real ingredients like eggs and oil, mayonnaise adds moistness and richness to your baking.


·         1 box (16.5 oz.) chocolate cake mix

·         1 cup Real Mayonnaise

·         1 cup water

·         3 eggs

·         1 tsp. ground cinnamon (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and lightly flour two 9-inch round cake pans*; set aside.
  2. Beat cake mix, Hellmann's® or Best Foods® Real Mayonnaise, water, eggs and cinnamon 30 seconds in large bowl with electric mixer on low speed. Beat on medium speed, scraping sides occasionally, 2 minutes. Pour batter into prepared pans.
  3. Bake 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool on wire rack 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and cool completely. Sprinkle, if desired, with confectioners sugar or fill and frost.

From the Hellman’s Mayonnaise website.


Or, from scratch:

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake 

Mayonnaise replaces the oil that's typically used in chocolate cakes. It gives this cake—which would make the ideal birthday cake—an incredibly moist and tender texture. Serve with glasses of ice-cold milk.





For cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour three 8-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Combine chopped chocolate and cocoa powder in medium metal bowl. Add 1 3/4 cups boiling water and whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Sift flour, baking soda, and baking powder into another medium bowl.Using electric mixer, beat both sugars and mayonnaise in large bowl until well blended, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until well blended after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture in 4 additions alternately with chocolate mixture in 3 additions, beating until blended after each addition and occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Divide batter among prepared cake pans (about 2 1/3 cups for each).

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, 30 to 32 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks 20 minutes. Run small knife around sides of cakes to loosen. Carefully invert cakes onto racks and let cool completely.

For frosting:
Place chopped chocolate in medium metal bowl; set bowl over saucepan of simmering water and stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Carefully remove bowl from over water; let melted chocolate cool until lukewarm, stirring occasionally.

Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth and creamy. Sift powdered sugar over butter and beat until well blended, about 2 minutes. Beat in vanilla. Add melted chocolate and beat until well blended and smooth, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl.

Place 1 cake layer on platter. Spread 3/4 cup frosting over top of cake layer to edges. Top with second cake layer; spread 3/4 cup frosting over. Top with third cake layer. Spread remaining frosting decoratively over top and sides of cake. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and let stand at room temperature.

Cut cake into wedges and serve.

From the Epicurious website. 



      ·         2 pounds ground beef

·         1 Tbsp seasoning salt

·         1 large egg, slightly beaten

·         1 ½ Tbsp minced garlic

·         2 Tbsp dried onion flakes or minced onion

·         ¼ cup chopped celery

·         1 Tbsp minced green onion

·         ½  cup oatmeal


·         Preheat oven to 350.

·         Wash hands.

·         Mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, adding in one ingredient at a time, until all is of an even consistency.

·         Form into loaf in loaf pan of your preference.

·         Press a groove into the top.  Fill with your preference for flavoring—tomato sauce, catsup, barbecue sauce, or whatever you prefer.

·         Cook until internal temperature is 160 degrees F., about forty-five minutes.

My own recipe.

Dwarf Bacon and Cabbage

Perhaps this is what Frodo ate at the Free Fair while his dad was buying new chisels from the Dwarves. 


·         A pound of bacon

·         An onion

·         A head of cabbage


·         Shred cabbage.

·         Peel and dice onion. 

·         Cut bacon into half-inch pieces.

·         Cook bacon and onion together.  Remove from skillet and set aside.

·         Fry cabbage in hot bacon fat until cooked to taste.  Add in bacon and onion.  Reheat.

·         Serve.

Suggested by friend Sam, also known as RedCoon, who thinks it the ultimate Dwarf dish.  He says he adds other spices and vegetables as they might be available and as the mood strikes him.


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