Gooey Butter Cake

By Mark Bittman
August 22, 2016
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Author Notes: This labor of love is ideal for snow days and slumber parties. It looks like a lemon bar, but it tastes like nothing else—an oozing toffee-ish topping over a sturdy, bready crumb. Eat the day (or night) that it’s baked to enjoy maximum gooeyness. Text excerpted from HOW TO BAKE EVERYTHING, © 2016 by Mark Bittman. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
Mark Bittman

Makes: one 13 × 9-inch cake, at least 12 servings

For the cake:

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, softened, plus more for greasing
  • 1/3 cup milk, warm
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 cups flour, plus more for kneading
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the topping:

  • 1 3/4 sticks butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups superfine sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  1. To make the cake layer: Grease a 13 × 9-inch pan. In a small bowl, mix together the warm milk and yeast. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture begins to foam slightly. Set aside.
  2. Whisk together the flour and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the butter and granulated sugar until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the flour to the egg mixture, combining by hand and alternating with the milk. Stir until just smooth. This will be a dense, slightly elastic dough.
  3. Turn the dough out into the prepared pan. Press the dough evenly into the pan to fill it. Cover the pan loosely with a dish towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to rise, about 3 hours. The cake should double in size and look bubbly and irregular.
  4. To make the topping: Use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until combined. Whisk together the flour and salt, then gradually add it to the butter mixture, alternating with the milk; the mixture should be spreadable but not too runny. Set aside.
  5. Heat the oven to 350°F. Use a fork to prick a few holes into the dough so that it doesn’t bubble too much. Spoon the topping in generous dollops over the surface of the cake, then gently connect the dollops, spreading the topping evenly over the dough. Bake until the cake is a light golden brown on top, 35 to 45 minutes. The cake will still be liquid in the center. Serve slightly warm or cool.

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