Germany, for example, has a butter cake, a yeasted confection topped with ample amounts of butter and sugar, sometimes almonds. Philadelphia and St. Louis also have butter cakes, sometimes yeasted, sometimes not, and always considerably more gooey than Germany's.
Then there are the Southern gooey butter cakes. They generally start with a cake mix and have a gooey cream cheese custard on top.
So why not add one more version to the mix, this one based more on season than location, and borrowing ideas from all of the above?
We incorporate pear for a cake perfect for fall. They can simply be omitted for the straight-up gooey version. We also added a touch of cardamom, but feel free to use cinnamon or ginger if it's more your style.
Lastly, we kept the almonds of the German butter cake, but they are easily left off if you prefer.
Gooey butter pear cake
For the cake:
2 medium fresh pears, peeled, cored and diced (or 1 1/2 cups diced canned pears, patted dry)
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 cup milk, room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons instant yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
For the topping:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup corn syrup
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Toasted sliced almonds
Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
In a small bowl, toss the pear with the cardamom, then set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the milk, yeast, sugar, salt, egg and flour. Mix on medium until a smooth dough has formed. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter and mix until fully incorporated. Repeat with the remaining butter. This should take 6 to 8 minutes.
Scrape the dough into the prepared baking dish and, using greased hands, spread over the bottom of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle the pears over the top of the dough.
To make the topping, in the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter, cream cheese, sugar and salt. One at a time, add the eggs, beating until well mixed. Stir in the vanilla and corn syrup, then mix in the flour. Dollop this mixture over the pear covered dough.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the center is slightly set but still jiggly. Allow to cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and toasted almonds to serve. Refrigerate any leftovers.
Makes 16 servings.
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