Friday, August 26, 2011

Eating NYC: Gooey Butter Cake and the Statue of Liberty

I just realized that it's already Friday and I have yet to share a recipe this week! Thankfully, I have a really great one ready and waiting - Gooey Butter Cake! But, what does a distinctly southern dessert like Gooey Butter Cake have to do with the Statue of Liberty? Read on, my friend, read on...

As many of you know, I hate to show up to a party empty handed. I was raised to view the hostess gift or dish exchange as simply good manners, and since I was the family baker, more often than not the dish I chose was a sugary-sweet one. My recent visit to my sister was no exception - which is why I found myself baking this sugar-laden Gooey Butter Cake late into the evening on the night before my flight to NYC.

I first bookmarked a Gooey Butter Cake recipe over a year ago, but I seldom use powdered sugar and since my baking choices are often dictated by what's on hand, the recipe ended up at the bottom of the pile. There it sat, patiently waiting for its time to come, and while it sat, it multiplied until I had not one, not two, not even three, but four different versions piled up in my to-make list. For a girl who doesn't really like butter, that was pretty impressive; clearly, my subconscious was trying to tell me something!

In the interest of pruning my recipe list, I purchased a brand new bag of powdered sugar and sat down to the task of merging four recipes into one. I hemmed and hawed for a while, then debated the relative merits of each before finally deciding to stick with one recipe after all - Paula Deen's. I mean, let's be honest - is there any better authority when it comes to all things butter?

As many times as I've read Paula's recipes, I was surprised to discover that I'd never made one. Perhaps it's the butter that puts me off - but there's no reason you shouldn't make this cake, even if you're a fat-phobe like me. Don't let its name or pedigree scare you - if you look closely, it 'only' contains two sticks of butter. I say 'only' because that's the same amount in a classic chocolate chip cookie recipe or a basic pie crust. Plus, it doesn't have the oiliness that one might expect from a dessert with 'gooey' and 'butter' in the name. The recipe is a little overly sweet as written (even after cutting the sugar called for in some versions!), so small pieces are the order of the day - perfect for a dessert intended to be shared in company!

For a 'soft' cake, the dessert traveled surprisingly well, tucked into a small, lidded tupperware for the flight. I actually froze it for few hours before traveling since I was a wee bit worried about the cream-cheese-and-egg-containing filling; I'm happy to report that neither the cake nor its tasters suffered any ill effects as a result! My sister really enjoyed the dessert, but her husband's overwhelmingly enthusiastic reaction took the cake, quite literally. I still owe him the recipe - so without further ado, here's a brand new tooth-aching, artery-blocking favorite from my recipe binder!

Gooey Butter Cake
adapted from this Paula Deen recipe
1 18 1/4-ounce package yellow cake mix
1 large egg
1/2 cup butter, melted

1 8-ounce package cream cheese
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large mixing bowl, combine dry cake mix, egg and one stick of melted butter (do NOT follow the instructions on the box!). Stir until well combined. Pat mixture into the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking pan (if you're worried about over-browning, use glass!). Set aside.

In another bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth and fluffy. Stir in eggs, vanilla and remaining stick of melted butter until well mixed. Gradually add powdered sugar and beat in until filling is smooth, creamy and fluffy. Spread evenly over cake batter. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until edges are slightly browned. Center should still juggle a little when the pan is shaken - be careful not to over bake! Cool for at least 30 minutes and sprinkle with confectioners sugar before serving.

A few notes: The original recipe calls for rather more powdered sugar but, as sweet as it already is, I don't think I'd dare add more! I baked one version in a loaf pan and another in a 9-inch round pan. Baking was much more even in the loaf pan, so I'd probably stick to rectangular pans for this recipe. Of course, I don't think anyone will mind if their slice is a little extra gooey! When baked just-right, the filling should be like the sweet, buttery love-child of frosting and cheesecake - sometimes I'm simply amazed and the mysterious alchemy of baking!

And the Statue of Liberty?...
Well, when I whipped up this little dessert at home, I also tried out a fruit-studded version. It was a very photogenic combination of fresh berries and sliced, South Carolina peaches (which I actually liked even better than the original!) but, sadly, I didn't have a chance to download the pictures before I flew out the next morning. Later in the week, in my excitement at seeing the Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry, I ended up deleting all of my beautiful, berried photos. How sad! Of course I consider it a pretty good trade, since I can always make another cake but don't know when I'll next get to visit NYC. So, instead of a lovely berry dessert, I give you Lady Liberty herself:

P.S. I've put this post in the 'Breakfast' category because apparently that's when it's traditionally eaten. I think I'd have to be either very young or very much in need of a sugar high to try this recipe before noon, but if you're fond of a super-sweet breakfast, go right ahead and make it - I won't judge!

This post is linked at:
Sweet as Sugar Cookies: Sweets for a Saturday
Delightfully Dowling: Mangia Mondays
Lark's Country Heart: Made it on Monday
Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms: Melt in Your Mouth Monday
33 Shades of Green: Tasty Tuesday
Blessed With Grace: Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
Two Maids a Milking: 2 Maids a Baking
My Girlish Whims: Your Whims Wednesday
Ginger Snap Crafts: Wow Me Wednesday
The King's Court IV: What's Cooking Wednesday
Blue Cricket Design: Show and Tell Wednesday
Lady Behind the Curtain: Cast Party Wednesday
This Chick Cooks: These Chicks Cooked
Remodelaholic: Recipe Linky Party
Miz Helen's Country Cottage: Full Plate Thursday
Something Swanky: Sweet Treats Thursday
Crazy for Crust: Crazy Sweet Tuesday


  1. I had Gooey Butter Cake for the first time this summer! It was yummy! And actually just asked the cook who made it for me for the recipe all of two days ago! :)

  2. Well, then it looks like it's meant to be! I'm actually planning on trying out a new version this weekend (less sugar, no cream cheese) - I'll have to let you know how it goes!

  3. OH. MY. Yum-o!! Thanks for sharing on 2 Maids a Baking!

  4. I've never had butter cake. I don't think I've ever made a Paula Deen recipe either, for the reason you mentioned, all that butter! Good job though, the cake looks great!

  5. This looks amazing! You caught my eye with the gooey in the title. How can you go wrong? ~ Courtney

  6. I really like the concept of your blog, and your recipes always look so good! Here from the Something Swanky blog hop!

  7. Oh my goodness, this sounds divine! I have never had or made a butter cake...must try it now!

  8. That looks so good! Can't go wrong with butter and Paula Deen :)

    Stopping by from Mangia Monday!

  9. Lady Liberty never looked so good and in such good company with your delicious Gooey Butter Cake. I can't wait to make this recipe! Hope you are having a great week end and thanks so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
    Come back soon!
    Miz Helen

  10. I've always wanted to try gooey butter cake. Thanks for the recipe! Thanks for sharing on Crazy Sweet Tuesday.