Molly Killeen’s St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake via The New York Times

I'm technically graduating from grad school this month, which means that my student loan is entering its grace period, which means that I had to take this mandatory exit counseling session for the loan I took out before I exited. (By the way, this is my new favorite non-euphemism for graduating--exiting. Congrats, exit-or!) (I know, I know--not all exit-ors necessarily graduate.) Anywaaaay, as the last step, I had to make a budget for my life, only there was no section for gourmet-food-blog-related expenses, so I just added it to food. No biggie, right?  Well, let's not get into specifics here. Let's just say, I was over budget.

So this attempt is a dedication to balancing the budget. Thanks to all the leftover unsalted butter in the refrigerator from Thanksgiving, I had everything on hand for this recipe and you probably do too.

Molly Killeen's version:
 Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

our version:
I am a huge fan of mildly sweet desserts, and so when I read Melissa Clark's article about this two-layer cake with a bottom layer that sounded more like bread than cake, I was totally sold. 
I hadn't baked in a while and forgot about the foresight needed when it comes to room-temperature ingredients. My solution was to put both the milk and butter on top of the hot toaster oven for a few minutes though I didn't feel great about the partially melted butter.

This bready/cakey layer needed to rise for three hours, which would have meant me putting it in the oven around 9pm. Instead, I remembered something from a previous baking attempt (battle challah?) about allowing bread to rise in the refrigerator overnight--that it actually made for a slower, more complex rise. (I might be making this up about the complex part, but I feel like it's true?)
In the morning, I was convinced that I'd ruined it. It was supposed to have doubled in size, but it didn't  look like it had risen even a quarter of its size. I braced myself for failure, put the bottom layer on top of my warm stove (in hope that it might rise) and continued onward with making the top layer--the layer that puts the gooey in this recipe's name.
I took my time, cleaning up as I went along, and guess what? By the time I pulled the cover off the bottom layer, it looked a little puffed up--probably not doubled, but certainly puffed.
Slightly less braced for failure, I poured what was destined to be the gooey layer over the bready layer and put it in the oven.
Uhm. Allow me to explain in terms of The Twilight Saga. Eating this cake is a lot like being a teenager who falls irrevocably in love with an extremely good-looking vampire. You know it's not good for you, but you just can't help yourself. (So I got into The Twilight Saga. So what? Matt started it.)

RECIPE via NY 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
12 tablespoons (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.

1. In a small bowl, mix milk with 2 tablespoons warm water. Add yeast and whisk gently until it dissolves. Mixture should foam slightly.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.


Tara said...

Today was the first time I came across your blog. I love it! The comparison photos are grrreat.
Added you to my google reader : )

George Gaston said...

Amilia, Nothing like a cake with gooey sticky goodness! this is a great recipe, thanks.

Mariana said...

i like how gooey this looks. and i'm totally with you that the refrigerator overnight rise can add to complexity.

next time you need something to rise fast, try heating a cup of water in your microwave until it boils, then putting the thing that needs to rise in that microwave, still with the hot water (but now also with all the steam created). this might be a little gentler than your stovetop...

and congratulations on graduating!

Matt said...

I LOVED this cake. I loved it so much I had it for dessert and breakfast the next day. True story.

Mary Anne said...

this looks awesommmmmeeee.

i bake bread according to the "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" method, which calls for overnight rising in the fridge. (So you don't have to stand around and wait. Hence the claim that you can bake the bread in 5 mins... of active work time. It always takes me way more than 5 mins.) Anywaaaay... mine never rises much either in the fridge! I end up with TINY bread loaves! Like bread loaves for small children. Am I doing something wrong?? Oh well.

Amelia Morris said...

mariana: thanks and thanks for the great tip! If only we hadn't tossed the microwave earlier this year. :(

mary anne: do you have a microwave? maybe you could try this tip? I do think a little warmth goes a long way.

Andrew Scrivani said...

Thanks for the photo credit but I don't see Melissa Clark, the writer of the column, mentioned anywhere. Melissa is a good egg and should get a mention.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on graduating!!! did you see my sister-in-law (KNorm) in Wilmington last week?
Also, I'm curious about the microwave...
PS: Because of your Thanksgiving post, I was inspired that I could actually tackle a real Food Network Recipe. I tried Ina Garten's Chicken Pot Pie. I only forgot the heavy cream. It turned out delicious according to the man of the house. Thanks for the inspiration you guys!

Amelia Morris said...

Anna: I soo sadly didn't see Kara, but am super excited to hear about your Ina Garten success! I feel like Ina puts heavy cream into everything, so I kind of like that you left it out. :)

Andrea said...

This looks delicious! I will say that that particular use of the word "irrevocably" is what did Twilight in for me!

Marsha and Mark said...

Gooey is GOOD!

Heather Taylor said...

i want to make this. you've inspired me yet again!

Mary Anne said...

Why did you label this a non-success? Looks like a total success!

A friend made this for me last night and it was sooooooooo good!! I love how it's not overly sweet. Definitely want to make it myself sometime.

Amelia Morris said...

mary anne: it was a little TOO underdone in the middle... if you look at the pictures. THAT said, it was delicious, so maybe I should consider re-labeling. ;)

emily said...

mm looks delicious! i love your blog