Chocolate Gooey Butter Cake

So, tell me, am I the last person to discover gooey butter cake? This isn’t just my first attempt at making it at home, it’s also the very first time I’ve even tasted it! I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it on a menu at a restaurant or in a bakery case around here so it’s not like I had a ton of opportunities to try it and passed them up. Though, to be fair, I’m not sure I’d have been brave enough to order it anyway.

See, here’s the thing: whenever I’ve seen a description of gooey butter cake there’s always been reference to the topping being custard-like. And while I’m generally pretty open-minded about trying new things, I am not a fan of anything with the consistency of custard. Even something as classic and beloved as pudding holds almost zero appeal to me because of its consistency.

Chocolate Gooey Butter Cake

But earlier this year I began seeing gooey butter cake appearing on quite a few blogs, and curiosity got the best of me. After all, with a name like gooey butter cake, it’s hard to believe this wouldn’t be a pretty amazing dessert, right? And I really do hate to dismiss things entirely without even trying them once. Besides, I’d come across this chocolate version of gooey butter cake, that I suspected might win me over regardless of any textural issues. Worst case scenario, I wouldn’t like it and would give it away. There’s never a shortage of friends and family willing to take desserts off my hands :)

If you’ve never had gooey butter cake before, here’s what’s involved. The bottom layer is a rich, yeasted dough that bakes into an incredibly tender, sweet cake. It was subtle but I could detect the aroma and taste of the yeast in the cake, which I thought was a very good thing. As for the topping, it definitely lived up to its name – it was both gooey and buttery and in spite of my concerns about texture, absolutely divine! I’m not even going to tell you how many bites I snuck as I struggled to get a decent photo of this cake. I worried the gooey topping might make the cake messy and difficult to slice, but that didn’t prove to be the case at all.

Chocolate Gooey Butter Cake

I am absolutely kicking myself for having waited so long to discover the amazingness that is gooey butter cake, especially chocolate gooey butter cake! If you’ve never tried it, I highly recommend that you do so as soon as possible. I’m already brainstorming the next variation that’ll be happening in my kitchen…

Chocolate Gooey Butter Cake
from Cook’s Country, October/November 2008

Dough
1/4 cup warm whole milk (about 100 F)
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 cup plus 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Topping
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons instant chocolate pudding mix
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 200 F and place a rack in the lower third. Once the oven reaches temperature, turn it off. Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on opposite sides. Spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

To make the dough: In bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine the milk and yeast. Beat on low speed to dissolve the yeast. Add the sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, flour, and cocoa powder and beat on low until everything is well combined. Cut the butter into 6 pieces, and with the mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter one piece at a time (waiting until one is incorporated to add the next). Continue until all of the butter is incorporated, then allow the batter to continue mixing for 5 minutes.

Spray a medium bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer the dough to this bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in the warm oven, and let rise until it doubles in size, about 30 minutes. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

To make the topping: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine the granulated sugar, butter, and cream cheese. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes (scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary). With the mixer on low, mix in the corn syrup, egg, and vanilla until incorporated. Stir in the flour and pudding mix just until incorporated. Dollop the topping over the cake batter then use an offset spatula to spread into an even layer completely covering the cake.

Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the edges of the cake turn golden, and the topping just jiggles slightly in the center when the pan is shaken (the topping around the outside should be mostly set). Transfer the pan to a wire rack and allow the cake to cool for at least 3 hours. Use the foil “handles” to lift the cake from the pan. Dust with the confectioners’ sugar before slicing and serving.

Note: the recipe indicated the cake could be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, but I really liked it best on the first day. With refrigeration, the cake portion got hard and a little dried out. If you do have leftovers after the first day and want to refrigerate, I’d be sure to take the cake out with time to let it come back to room temperature before serving. Or, alternatively, a few seconds in the microwave helped.