Gooey Butter Cake: there is no part of these three beautiful words that is wrong. This cake, which is actually more like a two-part bar cookie, is the pride of St. Louis, MO, a cake steeped in legend and even a little controversy.
It is also unique in that recipes almost always call for a cake mix, and many will argue that this is the "traditional" method of preparation—and yields the best end result.
This version twists the tradition slightly, using a chocolate cake mix instead of the usual yellow, and employs cocoa in the filling. The result is an addictively sweet variation on this rich regional treasure.
- Yield:20 bars
- Active time: 30 minutes
- Total time:1 hour
- 1 box (18.25 ounces) chocolate cake mix
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
- 2 teaspoons vanilla, divided
- 4 eggs
- 1/4 cup nuts or chocolate chips (optional)
- 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
- 3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
Grease a 9x13-inch pan and set aside. Preheat your oven to 350 F.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the cake mix, melted butter, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and 2 of the eggs on medium speed until it forms a soft, cohesive dough. If you'd like, you can add 1/4 cup of nuts or chocolate chips to add a little flavor and texture contrast.
Remove the dough from the mixer; you don't need to clean the bowl or the beater, you can just re-use for the filling. Pat the dough into the prepared pan, with a slight "lip" on the sides of about half an inch to accommodate the cream cheese batter, which will be poured on top of this crust.
Sift together the confectioners' sugar and cocoa powder; set to the side for the moment.
Back at the mixing bowl, beat the softened cream cheese until fluffy, about 2 minutes on medium speed. Add the remaining 2 eggs and the remaining 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and continue mixing on medium speed until incorporated, about a minute more.
Add the confectioners' sugar and cocoa powder bit by bit, pausing occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, until it has all been added and the mixture is smooth and creamy.
Pour this batter into the waiting crust. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the top has a dull finish (if a few cracks have formed on top, it's OK. Just top it with some whipped cream or confectioners' sugar. It will still taste fine).
Transfer the entire pan to a wire rack to cool (do not remove the cake from the baking pan). Let cool completely, then cut into squares to serve.