Thursday, September 13, 2018

Cheating with Your Wood Cookstove: Gooey Butter Cake

A quick internet search reveals that Gooey Butter Cake is a pretty common recipe, but I didn't know that several years ago when I found this recipe in the back of my mother-in-law's mini-van.  It had been written on a fancy recipe card and then photocopied onto an 8 1/2" x 11" sheet of paper.  It was attributed to someone named Hilda and neither Leona nor anyone else in the family knew where the recipe had come from.  No one knew Hilda, and no one even recognized the handwriting on the recipe card!

I made this according to the recipe the first time, but I wasn't that impressed.  I tweaked it just a bit this time, and the reviews are better, but I still wouldn't call this a stellar dessert.  However, if you need something a little exciting but don't have much time, this could do in a pinch, and because it is so rich, a little goes a long way.

For the bottom layer, here is what you will need:

1 chocolate cake mix (this is why I call this recipe cheating)
2 eggs
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp. vanilla

The original recipe called for a yellow cake mix, but my first change was to use a chocolate one.  I would say that yellow cake is probably my favorite, and if given a choice, chocolate cake is the last thing I would take. However, the bottom layer of this cake has kind of a brownie texture, so I opted for a chocolate cake mix, and that suits my eaters much better.   Lately, I've taken to putting about a tsp. of burnt sugar flavoring into brownies, so I also added that.  If you are unable to find burnt sugar flavoring, you can fairly easily make your own burnt sugar syrup.

As always when baking in a wood cookstove, the first step is to build your fire and begin heating your oven to the desired temperature.  You need a moderate oven for this cake, and I think it is best to shoot for around 325ºF.

While your oven is heating, begin melting your butter over the coolest part of the cooktop.

Combine the melted butter, cake mix, eggs, vanilla, and burnt sugar flavoring.  This could be done by hand, but I used an electric mixer because the mixture is so stiff.

Once everything is thoroughly combined, transfer to a greased 9"x13" baking pan.

Press the mixture into the bottom of the pan, spreading evenly all the way to the edges.  Buttered fingertips make this process a bit easier.

For the second layer you will need these ingredients:

1 pound of powdered sugar
8 oz. softened cream cheese
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine all of these ingredients until smooth.  Again, I used an electric mixer.

Spread the cream cheese mixture on top of the cake mixture.  I am careful to not let it touch the edges of the pan.

Bake in a moderate oven for about 40 minutes.  "Hilda" forbid me from peeking during this time, but I did take a gander in the oven at about thirty-eight minutes.  I think it is generally bad wood cookstove practice to never peek.  Mind you, I'm not advocating opening the oven door every few seconds, but we have to be reasonable.  When Meme taught me to bake, she never used a timer for anything.  In fact, she didn't even own a timer. Instead, we would take casual looks at the kitchen clock and rely on the sense of touch and sight.

I used to have a blind friend who could tell whether something was done baking by the smell of it.  However, wood cookstove ovens are not vented into the kitchen, and the Margin Gem even has a gasket around the oven door, so you can rarely smell baked goods until you open the oven door at least a crack.  

What Gooey Butter Cake looks like when it is done baking.
If you look closely at the oven thermometer, you can see that
the oven was running at about 325ºF.  I wouldn't go much
hotter than that.

Remove from the oven and cool completely.  You could eat this cake at this point, but I have to say that I think this one benefits quite a bit from being covered very tightly and refrigerated for at least a day.

These are extremely rich, and I find that a 1"x1" square is plenty to satisfy my sweet tooth for quite a while.

I hope you enjoy them!


  1. The cake looks delicious!
    I found a Charter Oak stove that I would use in a summer kitchen. It’s plain, nothing ornamental, has a warming shelf and no water reservoir. Would this be a good choice?

    1. Hi, Nancy!

      I think the Charter Oak sounds fine. Because of the lack of a water reservoir, the oven side of the stove will radiate more heat into the kitchen for you to have to deal with, but that is not a big problem to overcome. Just be sure to be careful with your clearances all the way around.

      Be sure to send me pics when you get it all up and running, please!

  2. Thankyou for the information!
    I sure will. It’s different than any stove I’ve seen so eventually I’d like to send a description and pictures of those things that are unlike the Qualified.
    If anyone has any knowledge of this type I’d love to hear it.