There are certain foods that I make because I am a virtuous and smart eater, someone who understands the importance of eating an abundance of fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains and local and sustainable foods. Then there are foods that I make because I don't give a damm that day about being a well-balanced eater, I just want to eat something that is really bad for you for but tastes really good.
This cake falls firmly into the latter category.
This is not a cake you want to make when you don't have people who you can pass it on to because if you make this when you are home alone, I promise you, you will eat the entire thing. You will be shocked that you were capable of doing so, but it's not surprising, it's that good.
A barely sweetened yeasted cake base is used simply as a vehicle for which to transport the gooey topping to your mouth. The gooey topping is a combination of sugar and butter and flour that when mixed together manages to create a topping so magically delicious you will honestly wonder where it has been all your life. Go make this. Now.
This cake is insane and addicting. It’s one of the things people request the most from me, which I hope sells it to you if my comment this is absurdly amazing did not.
About the baking vessel: The recipe says to use a 9×13 baking dish (often glass or ceramic). I used a 9×13 cake pan (which was metal) and ended up with something that browned a bit more than I would have liked. I’d use a “dish” next time, which I believe will brown the bottom less aggressively.
Yields 16 to 20 servings.
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 light corn syrup
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
Confectioners’ sugar, for sprinkling.
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. (Very slightly in my case.)
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. 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.
Press, stretch and nudge dough into a greased 9-by 13-inch baking dish (preferably glass) 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. You can also rise it overnight in the fridge. Just take the dough out of the fridge about an hour before baking.
Make the gooey topping: Heat oven to 350 degrees. To prepare topping, in a small bowl, whisk corn syrup with 2 tablespoons water and the vanilla. 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.
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 (Start checking at 30 minutes and then every 2-3 minutes after. You do not want to overbake!); 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.