It’s the week after Valentine’s Day, so I’m guessing that there might be more than a few of us who are slowly crawling out of a chocolate coma. There are very, very few occasions where chocolate isn’t at the forefront of my brain, but the week after an indulgent, chocolate-laden holiday is definitely one of them. That being said, I can’t very well forget about dessert. Blasphemy. Instead, I thought we could use a little chocolate break, so I tackled a recipe that has been gnawing at my brain for quite some time.
Gooey Butter Cake.
The name screams, “Make me immediately!” I have seen tons of recipes that use either a box cake mix or the homemade version of a box cake mix, and a cream cheese topping. I did some research and found that Gooey Butter Cake originated in St. Louis, Missouri and that there are actually two different versions: a “baker’s” version that has a yeast base and a topping using corn syrup and sugar; and a version for “home preparation,” which uses cake mix and a cream cheese topping. I love to make things as close as possible to an original, so I went with the “baker’s” version here. Also known as the “long version,” but totally worth every minute.
This gooey butter cake is a little bit deceiving. It’s sweet, without actually coming across as very sweet. The base of the cake is a yeasted dough, which is topped by a butter and sugar batter and baked until golden brown. It’s less like a traditional cake and more like a coffee cake or breakfast pastry. While I’ve never had this particular cake before, tasting it reminded me of sitting around my grandma’s dining room table. She always had a carafe of coffee and some sort of Entenmann’s pastry out on the table, just in case a neighbor would stop by to chat.
This recipe is all about taking some extra time and making something from scratch… forgetting about the clock and appreciating the process. It’s about enjoying life’s simple pleasures, whether that’s a special piece of cake for breakfast, a cup of coffee or spending some time with a friend on a random weekday morning.
This gooey butter cake is a recreation of the classic yeasted version, which hails from St. Louis.
For the Cake:
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
For the Topping:
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
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. 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.
3. Press the dough into an ungreased 9x13-inch baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap, place in a warm spot and let rise until doubled, about 2½ to 3 hours.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 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.
5. Drop the topping by large spoonfuls over the risen dough and use an offset spatula to gently spread it into an even layer. 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.