Ah, gooey butter cake. You sweet, sweet thing, you!
Before I get into details, here’s a little something about gooey butter cakes that you should know. Paula Deen didn’t invent them.
Sure, you google ‘gooey butter cakes’ and her name is attached to many of the results. But, with respect to Miss Paula, the gooey butter cake is a Midwestern sweet. Saint Louis, to be exact. I’ve read a lot of stories about who actually created the concept and precious few of them agree. What is consistent between the versions of local lore, however, is that the first one was created by accident by a Saint Louis-based German baker during the depression.
More traditional recipes call for a yeasty base for the cake/crust and don’t use cream cheese for the topping. The version I’m making here is more akin to the recipe that Paula popularized. It might not be totally authentic but it is straight-up delicious. Think cheesecake meets up with a blondie. I happened to get most of the ingredients on an amazing sale. Between price and time restraints, I went the way of the cake mix version rather than making them totally from scratch.
My own teeny-tiny twist was to add a bit of Fiori di Sicilia to the crust. It adds a lovely floral citrus-vanilla flavor to the cake. I get mine from King Arthur Flour. (If you get the 1 oz bottle, do yourself a solid and get the optional eyedropper they sell. The bottles could pour a little better.) I did test this out on the work dudes first and I used too much of the Fiori di Sicilia in that batch. Whoops, my bad. Sorry, work dudes.
I recently made 16 of these for a Silverbackks Silver Sunday lunch. The organizers tell me that they got raves about them. Woohoo! That totally made my day. Bringing a little sweetness to someone’s lunch makes me happy.
Quick tip: if you’re making these in large quantities as I did, a 32 oz bag of powdered sugar is about 7-1/2 cups of unsifted sugar. I worked in double-batches and didn’t bother measuring out the sugar, simply adding the full bag to the mixing bowl with the other doubled quantities.
- 1 box yellow cake mix
- ½ pound (or 2 sticks... or 16 tablespoons) butter, softened to room temperature
- 3 large eggs
- 8 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 3-1/2 cups powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon King Arthur Fiori di Sicilia
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Make the crust by mixing the cake mix, ¼ pound (or 1 stick, or 8 tablespoons) of the butter, 1 egg and the Fiori di Sicilia until it is well combined and comes together in a ball.
- Using your hands, pat the dough out into an ungreased 9"x13" cake pan. Work the dough about 1" up the sides of the pan. Set aside.
- To make the topping, add the cream cheese, ¼ pound (or 1 stick, or 8 tablespoons) of the butter, 2 eggs and vanilla to a mixing bowl. Using a hand or stand mixer on medium speed, mix until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and mix on a low speed until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed.
- Spread the topping over the crust.
- Bake 45-50 minutes. The top will be brown and the middle will still be a little wiggly.
- Remove the pan from the oven and place on a rack or trivet to cool. Let cool, then cut and serve. Myself, I like it best cold from the fridge!