If I were to say my baking is influenced by a place, I’d call it a hodge podge of my Tennessee-raised grandmother (who may actually have been from Alabama), my California-raised father who loves figs and fruit pies, my California roots that may entertain coconut oil and avocado as substitutes for butter, and my New Orleans present who LOVES BEIGNETS WITH ALL
HER HEART. Throw in a few classic French pastry books, all of Dorie Greenspan’s advice and here we are… Joy the Baker.
But I have a blindspot: cozy, homey Midwestern baking – most prominently a real-deal St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake.
It’s a wonder – a cake that is all at once a yeasty sweet bread and a buttery, dense, sweet topping that resembles the most intentional under-baked cake batter. A delight I had never fully known until now.
My only other experience with Gooey Butter Cake is a cake mix version that felt overly sweet and less compelling that I wanted it to be. This is the real deal.
This recipe is from Shauna Server’s new book Midwest Made!
I adore this book! The recipes are so heartfelt, so well explained, so reliable!
Where I had questions making this funky, yeasted, new-to-me cake, Shauna was there with answers – anticipating any baking worries I may have had. My next baking adventure from Shauna’s book is the cherry squares on the cover. Yes, indeed!
Midwest Made is a sweet cookbook to add to your cookbook library and a great gift for a beginning, enthusiastic baker – the recipes are fun, delicious, and approachable!
Start by greasing a 9×13-inch pan. I liked baking this cake in a glass pan because I could see how much the cake was browning along the bottom and sides of the pan . It’s sometimes hard to tell is the top of the cake is done because it’s so ooey gooey, but the sides of the cake help tell the story.
Let’s talk about the bottom layer of this cake!
It’s a yeasted dough enriched with plenty of whole milk, butter, and eggs.
What feels different about this dough is that it comes together in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, not a dough hook . It’s a very wet yeasted dough. Nothing that you’d consider kneading. It’s much more pourable than kneadable.
If you’ve never made this cake before, expect a wet dough. In fact… expect a wet batter. It’s more of a batter than a dough. Resist the urge to add more flour. You’re doing it right.
Dollop the batter into the well-greased baking pan.
It should stretch thanks to the yeast – that’s the fun part.
I used lightly floured hands to press the soft batter into each corner of the baking dish.
Set the first cake layer aside and make the topping.
The topping is a glorious mixture of cream cheese and butter, sugar and fl0ur.
Cream cheese should be at room temperature and I like to cream the cheese on its own in the mixer before adding the butter. Cream cheese can be more stubborn with its lumps and chunks than butter. Me too, honestly. Give the cream cheese a head start before adding the softened butter.
Smooth both to creamy.
Add sugars: brown and granulated.
Add an egg, vanilla extract, and sweetened condensed milk.
Whip the mixture to a smooth and spreadable batter. It will feel like you’re spreading frosting on a bready unbaked cake.
Yep – that’s on the adventure we’re on!
Bake the cake to golden from top to bottom. The top layer may look like golden ripples, and still feel loose if you were to jiggle the pan. That’s about right! The top layer will firm to gooey as it chills so keep an eye more on the golden bottom layer if you can see if through the bottom of the pan. You don’t want to scorch the bottom.
Allow to cake to cool to a warm room temperature and brush lightly with melted butter.
This is a bonus… because what’s a bit more butter at this point?
Sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar.
You’re also welcome to skip the butter and sprinkle the warm cake with powdered sugar.
There is no wrong answer here, but you knew that.
You know a cake is good when you need to put your face in it.
Slice and enjoy! This cake, especially with the cinnamon sugar, tastes like something between doughnut and deliciously under baked cake. It is, well… truly irresistible.