Old-Fashioned Gooey Butter Cake

10 things I've learned in my 10 days at Cornell and Ithaca, NY. Saturday, June 2: Crashing weddings is fun and dangerous bad bad bad. So is wandering around the giant, gorgeous building where the wedding took place and taking pictures as if you're a guest.

Sunday, June 3: Ithaca is full of full, beautiful, vegan hippies and I absolutely love it.

Monday, June 4: Cornell University is basically situated on a giant hill. And you still have to climb it even when it's raining.

Tuesday, June 5: Venus crossing the Sun is a big deal. It won't happen again until 2117. It's good that I got to see it now. I don't think I can wait that long for the next one.

Wednesday, June 6: GPS lies.

Thursday, June 7: New friends are wonderful. Especially when they fill your belly with food.

Friday, June 8: Cornell has the most beautiful gardens and tiny hide aways. It's like a theme park for horticulturists.

Saturday, June 9: The Farmer's Market is the home to all great things including tasty Sri Lankan food, ice cream, flowers, and the hippies whom I lovingly met on Monday.

Sunday, June 10: When you park your car at the top of a steep hill and run down it, you have to run back up it.

Monday, June 11: If you get a smoothie sample every time you walk into Wegman's, the smoothie guy will eventually remember you. And proceed to question you. Telling him that that must have been your twin will just get you a blank stare.

Tuesday, June 12: Hot yoga? Yeah, it's basically like stretching and lunging and pulling and reaching in the middle of a tropical rainforest. I felt way zen-ed out. And kinda sweaty too.

I totally needed something sweet after today's sweat session and this cake immediately came to mind. It's sweet, buttery, and completely indulgent.

You may have seen gooey butter cakes around the internet world. While most are made with cake mix, my cake is a yeasted version (it does take a bit longer), but oh so delicious.

It's the perfect combination of gooey-ness to cakeiness to deliciousness (that's quite a lot of -ness for one dessert. It must be good).

Old-Fashioned Gooey Butter Cake

This cake is delicious, but a bit time consuming. It's worth every minute though!

I used honey instead on corn syrup. I really can't say what the corn syrup version tastes like, but I know that mine was amazing so I think either is fine. 

The baking times on the cake can vary depending on the pan you are using. If you're using a metal pan, you may want to cook it for less time. My recommendation: check it after 30 minutes. If it still seems too gooey (is that even possible? haha) put it back in for a few more minutes.

Makes 16 - 20 servings (or more/less depending on desired size)


For the Cake

  • 3 tablespoons milk at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

For the topping

  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon honey (see notes)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour


1. Make the cake dough: In a small bowl, mix milk with 2 tablespoons warm water. Add yeast and whisk gently until it dissolves. Mixture should foam slightly.

2. Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Alternately add flour and the milk mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition. I switched to a dough hook at this point to beat dough on medium speed until it formed a smooth mass and pulled away (just a little, my dough was still very soft) from sides of bowl, 7 to 10 minutes.

3. Press, stretch and nudge dough into an ungreased (although Smitten Kitchen recommends greasing - I had no probelms ungreased) 9-by 13-inch baking dish  at least 2 inches deep. Cover dish with plastic wrap or clean tea towel, put in a warm place, and allow to rise until doubled, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

4. Make the gooey topping: Heat oven to 350 degrees. To prepare topping, in a small bowl, whisk honey with 2 tablespoons water and the vanilla.

5. Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Alternately add flour and corn syrup mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition.

6. Spoon topping in large dollops over risen cake and use an offset spatula to gently spread it in an even layer. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes (see notes); cake will rise and fall in waves and have a golden brown top, but will still be liquid in center when done. Allow to cool in pan before sprinkling with confectioners’ sugar for serving.