This cake has a great origin story. Maybe too great. The suspiciously charming little fable - that it was a mistake, a baker got the proportions wrong and baked it anyway and it was a Bob Rossian happy accident - made me want to follow up and see if the story was real. The findings are inconclusive, though there is plenty of interesting controversy around the genesis of the cake, including an elusive bakery that might not have even existed!
I tried this highly mythologized cake a couple different ways. From my hunting around, I saw that there seem to be two main varieties - one with a yeasted cake base and one with a more traditional yellow cake base. I did it both ways and I wasn’t very happy with the results from the yeasted version. It was tasty, but the layers were a bit too distinct and the goo sort of just sat there on top instead of getting involved and really smooshing in with the cake layer.
In this version, you still get distinct layers of cake and goo, but with a much less stark boundary between them. The good sinks and pools into the base in spots, creating a rolling topography of crackling, crispy surface, a squooshy goo layer and just enough fluffy cake to keep everything together. This is an unfussy, unfancy perfect snack cake for serving with coffee for afternoon or taking along to a potluck. Or hoarding and eating all yourself.
gooey butter cake
From Bon Appetit
1½ cups granulated sugar
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg, room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup light corn syrup or golden syrup
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Using a stand mixer or electric beaters, beat butter and sugar until well combined and soft, about 3 minutes. Add egg, beating until incorporated. Add in all remaining ingredients and beat until evenly mixed. Set aside.
¾ cup butter, room temperature
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup (packed) brown sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
1¼ cups sour cream
Line a 9” x 13” pan with parchment paper and heat the oven to 350.
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
In a stand mixer, beat butter and sugars together until soft, 3-4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing and scraping the bowl between additions. Add vanilla and beat to incorporate.
On low speed, add sour cream and flour alternately in 2 additions each. Scrape bowl well to make sure there are no unmixed ingredients left.
Pour batter into prepared pan and dollop goo mixture over the top. Use a small metal spatula to evenly spread the goo over the cake.
Bake about 50 minutes, or until the top is golden and the center is just slightly still wobbly. Let cool and slice into small squares.