I think this will be one of those cakes that haunts me forever and ever until I get it right. It's also one of those cakes that folks are likely to swoon over when you do get it right, and that puts an immense amount of pressure on a girl to produce a blue-ribbon worth confection. And, of course, it's the sort of cake that has 8,460 different versions of the recipe, that's just 8,459 over my I Can Make This Without Question threshold! Here's to positive thinking!
This is the second version I've tried for this cake, and with the difference in the recipes, I am wondering how they can even be called the same cake. The first try was from a spiffy book that I must use more often, a gift from my one and only Aunt Trish, that boasts a cake recipe from every state in our fine nation and Missouri takes the win for the St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake. That recipe called for a double layered cake - as most of them do - but the topping for it was almost a cheesecake batter, just a bit thinner, and much to my disappointment it nearly dissolved into the first layer so cleanly there wasn't a divide to be found.
I remember the directions called for an odd-size pan, a 10 inch square or something that nobody but Ina Garten would own, but it also gave the option for cupcakes. It should've been a red flag that it said, "Butter a 10 inch square cake pan...or use a cupcake tin." Easy enough, thanks for the flexibility, Warren. Unfortunately, nowhere does he clarify how many cupcakes this will make, and I easily ended up with nearly three dozen overflowed, crackly topped cupcakes.
On a sidenote, I think I might start referring to cupcakes as "cakies." I don't know if that is officially a British thing, but there's a guy at my office who hails from England and he always says, "Thanks for bringing in the little cakies!" whenever I leave cupcakes in the break room. I love that. Cakies. Cake-ees.I haven't officially decided, but I wanted to keep you in the loop.
Anywho, the second recipe is shown here, it doesn't have a stitch of cream cheese in it, but it tastes like it does. Senseless! It's a barely sweet yeast cake on the bottom (and if you're me, your yeast was foaming like crazy and then the cake stayed heavy as a brick despite three hours of rise time - yeah, that makes sense) topped with gobs of buttery, gooey, corn-syrup, chewy-ooey goodness that, miraculously, taste as rich as a cheesecake, although it fights you a bit more on the bite.
This was delicious, although very sweet, so it's best cut into smaller squares. It bakes up to a handsome shade of golden brown with a soft-set center and crispy edges. Now that I've conquered this one, I'm going to buy a 10 inch square pan. Sigh.
St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake
Adapted from The New York Times
3 tablespoons milk at room temperature
1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
For the topping:
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Confectioners’ sugar, for sprinkling.
In a small bowl, mix milk with 2 tablespoons warm water. Add yeast and whisk gently until it dissolves. Mixture should foam slightly.
Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Alternately add flour and the milk mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition. Beat dough on medium speed until it forms a smooth mass and pulls away from sides of bowl, 7 to 10 minutes.
Press dough into an ungreased 9-by 13-inch baking dish at least 2 inches deep. Cover dish with plastic wrap or clean tea towel, put in a warm place, and allow to rise until doubled, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. To prepare topping, in a small bowl, mix corn syrup with 2 tablespoons water and the vanilla. Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Alternately add flour and corn syrup mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition.
Spoon topping in large dollops over risen cake and use a spatula to gently spread it in 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. Allow to cool in pan before sprinkling with confectioners’ sugar for serving.