Help. I have fallen down the rabbit hole that is the Paula Deen. Whereas my first foray into Mrs. Deen’s pantry was more an exercise in novelty—a Halloween aberration—I have only idle curiosity (and the unqualified recommendations of 1,889 Food Network fans) to thank for this latest undertaking.
Behold, the Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake.
Apparently (read: magnificently) it is one of several gooey butter cakes in her oeuvre—an autumnal twist on an old St. Louis tradition. Pumpkin aside, the basic equation remains the same: a yellow butter cake base, topped by layer of baked goo. In that way, it’s very consistent with Deen’s culinary aesthetic. (One glance at the ingredients list will tell you as much: packaged cake mix, two sticks of butter and an entire box of confectioners’ sugar.) Which made it an interesting, if unnerving experiment in the kitchen.
As much as I appreciate the culture, and the concept of the gooey butter cake, I felt pretty ambivalent about the results. The cake was a little too cloying, I thought at first, with a piercing sweetness that called to mind caramelized marshmallow fluff, and a cardiac response akin to mainlining crack.
Fortunately, with the help of some crème fraiche and a generous sprinkling of Maldon sea salt, I was able to reconcile myself to eating a second slice. And it was delicious.
Like I said, please send help.
Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake
Adapted from Paula Deen
Were I ever to attempt the gooey butter cake again, I’d probably opt for Melissa Clark’s version, which abstains from prepackaged cake mix. That said, the genius of this cake is really the ease with which it all comes together. It might have a place at a future holiday party, cut into small squares and served with the aforementioned garnishes of sea salt crème fraiche whipped cream, but for my Thanksgiving or Christmas table, I would always rather have Marcey’s pumpkin pie, or Pichet Ong’s kabocha squash cheesecake.
For the cake:
1 (18 1/4-ounce) package yellow cake mix
8 tablespoons butter, melted
For the filling:
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 tablespoons butter, melted
1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of ground cloves
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup crème fraiche
Maldon sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well with an electric mixer. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13-by-9-inch baking pan.
To make the filling: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, and butter, and beat together. Next, add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and mix well. Spread pumpkin mixture over cake batter and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Make sure not to overbake as the center should be a little gooey.
Meanwhile, beat the heavy cream to soft peaks. Beat in crème fraiche.
Sprinkle each slice with sea salt and serve with crème fraiche whipped cream.