Gooey Butter Cake is one of those foods I just can’t explain. In reality, its name is pretty prescriptive: it’s gooey, it’s cake, and it sure has a lot of butter in it. But beyond that, I can never quite explain to someone else what they’re in for when they go to take a bite. I got hooked on this delicious dessert when I was living in St. Louis, and crave it on a regular basis. It’s hard to find in the wild, so I decided to start making it for myself.
There are 2 main approaches to gooey butter cake: one involves a yeasted base and a corn syrup topping, while the other involves cake mix and a cream cheese topping. I prefer the yeasted version, but I’ve also made the cake mix version and gotten positive reviews. I suggest you peek at the link above, plus the recipe below and choose the one that feels most comfortable in terms of ingredients and recipes below and choose the one that feels most comfortable in terms of ingredients and steps, and most appealing to you in terms of pictures and descriptions. Then grab some butter, and get baking!
Here is my favorite recipe, via Brown Eyed Baker.
Gooey Butter Cake
Source: Brown Eyed Baker
Yield: One 9×13 pan of goodness – servings depend on how big you want your pieces to be!
Suggested equipment: whisk, mixer
Total Time: 4.5 hours (don’t worry, this isn’t all prep time. You let it rise for 2.5 -3 hours)
Cook Time: 40-45 minutes
3 tablespoons milk, at room temperature
2 tablespoons warm water (about 110 degrees F)
1¾ teaspoons active dry yeast
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
2 tablespoons water
2½ teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ cup (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup + 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Powdered sugar, for sprinkling
Step by Step Directions
Note that any Italics below are my own comments on the Brown Eyed Baker post. I broke the directions into a few more steps than the original blogger, too. This recipe has a lot of “alternating” ingredient add-ins. Make sure to read the recipe thoroughly before you start – the order of operations does matter!
1. In a small bowl, mix milk with the warm water. Add the yeast and whisk gently until it dissolves. Let sit for 5 minutes, until the mixture begins to foam.
2. Cream together the butter, sugar and salt on medium speed, until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour in three additions, alternating with the milk mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition.
3. Increase the speed to medium and beat the dough until it forms a smooth mass and pulls away from sides of bowl, 7 to 10 minutes.
4. Press the dough into an ungreased 9×13-inch baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap, place in a warm spot and let rise until doubled, about 2½ to 3 hours. I use the “oven trick” to let my dough rise. Bring a pan of water to a boil, and pre-heat your oven to its lowest setting. Then turn off the oven, put the water on a lower rack, and put the pan of dough above it. This helps it rise quicker, and is a good workaround for kitchens that are not ideal “rising” zones.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
6. To prepare the topping, whisk together the corn syrup, water and vanilla extract in a small bowl. Cream together the butter, sugar and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour in three additions, alternating with the corn syrup mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition.
7. Drop the topping by large spoonfuls over the risen dough and use an offset spatula to gently spread it into an even layer.
8. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes; cake will rise and fall in waves and have a golden brown top, but will still be liquid in center when done. Place the pan on a wire rack and cool completely to room temperature before serving. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired. This cake is best eaten the same day it’s made, but leftovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day. I have had very different bake times depending on which oven I am using so I suggest you start to check around 25 minutes to see how your cake is faring. Also, I’ve definitely baked this the night before an event and the taste was great, so don’t worry if you have to work ahead a bit
(A longer version of this post was originally published over at my other blog, Culture Cookies)