I was asked "What would you serve for a Great Gatsby party?" We were promoting our St. Margaret's Hospital Guild's Designer Show House and the signature dessert is a "Maggie's Bar". This is a rift on an old St. Louis classic, the gooey butter cake. This isn't Melissa Clarke's NYT recipe--but the version with the packaged cake mix. I took liberties with the Maggie's bar by adding lemon to fit the Gatsby theme and swapping almonds for the pecans in the crust. In the summer, this is a great base for a frozen berry compote with lime zest, cardamon and mint. —lorigoldsby
Combine cake mix, chopped almonds, lemon zest and melted butter. Prep a 9 x 13 pan with non-stick cooking spray or butter and lightly pat mixture into pan.
Gooey Butter Filling
In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese on med-hi for 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time until fully incorporated.
Add juice of lemons. If meyer lemons are out of season, use 2 small lemons and 1/2 of an orange or substitute a small box of lemon pudding mix (you are starting with a box cake mix, so get over yourself!)
Lower your mixer speed to stir and add in your powdered sugar. Slowly increase speed to med-hi and beat for 3 minutes.
Pour cream cheese mixture over cake crust mix. Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes. The edges will be chewy and puffed, the center will be somewhat soft and gooey.
I learned to cook with my Gran. I can still see her reading a recipe and figuring out how she would make it better. She was fearless about substituting ingredients--but also knowledgeable. She approached food in the same way she built her antique business--appreciate quality ingredients and workmanship, but don't be a snob. I think I carry those same beliefs in my approach to cooking. I love family style dinners, I love a fancy ladies' luncheon with my wedding china, or a backyard seafood boil to celebrate my husband's birthday...I love to share food with others.