Shore excursion: New Madrid, Missouri- Writer shares Earthquake Cake recipe

When Mary Sue Anton learned that her ancestor, Richard Jones Waters, came to New Madrid in 1789 with founder George Morgan, she became intrigued by the history of the small Missouri river town and its settlers.

Mary Sue Anton wrote a book about her hometown of New Madrid.

The result is her book, “New Madrid: A Mississippi River Town in History and Legend,” published in May 2009.

When passengers of the American Queen left the boat for shore excursions in New Madrid, Mary Sue was signing autographed copies of her book at the New Madrid Historical Museum.

“It was fun to research and write,” she said. “New Madrid is filled with so much interesting history and so many wonderful stories.”

One of 10 children, Mary Sue was born during the Great Depression on the old Hummel place just north of New Madrid. She and her family soon moved to a farm located between the Mississippi River and the levee. During the 1937 flood, riverbank caving forced the family to relocate north of town.

Mary Sue Anton autographs a copy of her book for an American Queen passenger

Strategically located just below the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, New Madrid was meant to be the capital of “New Spain.” It was a stopping point for thousands of early Americans on their way to what they hoped would be a better life in the new country.

“I allow New Madrid’s pioneers to reveal their past and their stories through letters, newspapers, official records and other sources,” Mary Sue said. “I then take the reader for a walk through the town’s history as I recount tales of legendary people whose lives crossed with those of area residents.”

Mary Sue also has a delightful sense of humor and was handing out complimentary copies of Earthquake Cake recipe.

“The original recipe called for a 13x9x2-inch baking pan. But my only experience using that size proved – to use a pun – a disaster,” Mary Sue said. “Therefore, I now use an 11x15x2-inch sheet baking pan.”

The cake is moist and high in calories. “It’s a delicious and very rich cake,” she said. “But where an earthquake is concerned, who is counting calories?”


1 box German or Swiss chocolate cake mix

1 cup flaked coconut

1 cup chopped pecans

½ cup (1 stick) butter or margarine

1 8-ounce package cream cheese

1 pound powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread coconut on bottom of well-greased 11x15x2-inch baking pan. Spread pecans over coconut.

Prepare cake mix as directed on package and pour on top of coconuts and nuts.

Mix softened butter, creamed cheese and powdered sugar together. Drop from spoon in dollops onto cake mix. Do not stir.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes or until tester inserted between dollops comes out clean.


For more information, contact  Mary Sue Anton at

Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch

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