Ever since I first made them four years ago, Paula Deen's pumpkin butter gooey cakes have been the star of my family's Thanksgiving feast.
The recipe is quite simple and starts off with a box of yellow cake mix, a stick of melted butter and an egg. After pressing the doughy mixture into a 13x9 inch pan, a fluffy filling made with pumpkin puree, another stick of butter, sugar, three eggs, a few spices and a tub of cream cheese is spread on top. The result is a buttery concoction that's like pumpkin pie on steroids. It's less spicy, much sweeter and blessed with a rich, crumbly crust.
The first year I made them, a pre-Thanksgiving celebration with friends left me tired and careless when it came time to bake. This must be why I accidentally put in an additional 1/4 cup of oil and 3 extra eggs. Everyone in my family, even a couple of pumpkin phobes, couldn't get enough.
After banishing all products with hydrogenated oils from my kitchen the second year, I tried to recreate my own yellow cake mix using Magnolia Bakery's vanilla cake recipe. The crust came out a bit dry, but everyone was still just as obsessed with the little, gloppy squares.
That was the same year that Henry, my 2-year old cousin threw a temper tantrum at 6am the morning after Thanksgiving. After thrashing around for a few minutes, he suddenly looked at me with his tear-streaked face and said, "Do we have any more of that cake?" I immediately cut him a big, fat piece, scooped some whipped cream on top, and just like that, he became cute and peaceful once again.
This year Daniel and I are celebrating Thanksgiving with a different set of relatives, and the hostess herself is an unbelievable baker. I contemplated bringing along a batch of the butter gooeys, but have settled on a side dish instead.
But this weekend, I couldn't stop thinking about the sugar-packed squares. A perfect once-a-year-treat, I decided to serve them at the end of an impromptu pre-Thanksgiving feast I made for Daniel, Judith and Tim last night, and now I'm sharing them with all of you.
This time, I used an organic cake mix that I picked up during my never-ending search for instant yeast on Saturday. I tinkered with the recipe once again, adding only half a box of powdered sugar to the pumpkin filling, rather than the full carton as Paula instructed.
The pumpkin was just as smooth against that rich, buttery crumb, and for some probably still a little too sweet. Next time, I think I'll use a bit less sugar and even cut back on some of the butter.
But that's the beauty of these resilient little suckers. No matter how you change around the recipe, they always taste so good. And, you'll most likely never crave plain, old pumpkin pie again.
Pumpkin Butter Gooey Cakes
Adapted from Paula Deen
(I tried to take a good picture of these, but didn't have much luck. You can find a better shot here).
1 (18 1/4-ounce) package yellow cake mix
8 tablespoons butter, melted
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 (Feel free to play around with this as I did. A little sugar really does go a long way)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
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.
Serve with fresh whipped cream.