Cook On: Confined Confection

By Mary Ann Ebner

For the past two weeks, I’ve been camping out in my kitchen. To acclimate a four-legged family member, we gated off and puppy-proofed the room. We may come to regret the choice of training grounds, but it seems to make sense for a baby who needs to go outdoors on quick notice.

Gooey butter cake’s dense crusty base holds a thick and rich filling. (Photo by M.A. Ebner)

Denver, like our older dog Cammie, loves tiny pieces of raw carrot. Cammie trained with carrots starting at 8 weeks, and they remain her favorite perk. It’s impossible to bring a bunch into the house without her waiting patiently in hopes that one will fall to the floor. When we were training Cammie, we learned from a devoted dog lover to curb her mouthing and nipping with a slather of chilled butter. With a bit of the butter on our hands, we encouraged pet kisses and within 48 hours and lots of praise, she stopped nipping and went head-over-heels for unsalted organic butter.

As it turns out, a little butter helps prevent the rest of the household from nipping at each other, too. When a cake appears around our place, we’re suddenly on our best behavior. (Just as behavioral experts advise to have a puppy toy ready at all times, it might be wise to have a slice of cake ready at all times for people.) If there’s a stick or two of quality butter on hand, use them to make this dense, cake-based crust that holds a gooey layer of cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar.

Golden gooey butter cake (Photo by M.A. Ebner)

You’ll be restricted to the kitchen for a short time while preparing the cake, but the rewards are worth the investment. To boost the flavor, add shaved carrots to the filling. In St. Louis, where locals claim to have created the confection, bakeries offer it laced with everything from chocolate chips to key lime.

Gooey Butter Cake

Crust

1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1¼ teaspoons baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten

Filling

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar

Topping

¼ cup powdered sugar

Sift dry crust ingredients together. Add beaten eggs and melted butter and stir until thoroughly mixed. Press thick, sticky dough into greased 9×12 baking pan.

Mix cream cheese with eggs, butter, vanilla and powdered sugar. Beat at medium speed 2 minutes. Pour over unbaked dough.

Bake 35 minutes at 350 degrees until puffy and golden. Cool completely and dust with remaining powdered sugar.