A timeless dessert with a modern twist! This cinnamon roll gooey butter cake is super rich and decadent, and tastes JUST like a gooey cinnamon roll without all of the work! Made without cake mix (100% from scratch!) this recipe features a silky and gooey cinnamon cream cheese topping and an easy to make bottom cake layer - all baked together into silky and rich perfection. This is a slightly smaller batch for more manageable portions!
what is gooey butter cake?
Gooey butter cake is not your average cake recipe. Originally created in the early half of the 1900s in St. Louis, Missouri, this cake is made up of a super thick cake batter with a looser topping poured on top.
The result is 2 distinct layers: a rich and buttery cake on the bottom and an ooey gooey (hence the name!) top layer. Most modern recipes (this one included) use cream cheese for the topping - which isn't exactly traditional, but it is super delicious and easy to make!
While a lot of modern recipes also use store bought cake mix for the bottom layer, for this recipe, we're using a quick and easy homemade cake batter! It's about the same amount of work, but the homemade cake has an infinitely better taste and texture in my opinion.
is gooey cake underbaked?
No! This is a common concern, but gooey butter cake is fully baked through and safe to eat.
The gooey topping is a result of a specially crafted cream cheese topping that remains sticky and custardy, even after being heated and baked to a safe temperature. This cake sits in the oven for around 35 minutes - more than enough time to bake through!
why this cinnamon roll gooey butter cake is perfect
Now onto this take on gooey butter cake! It's well into cinnamon roll season, and I felt it was the PERFECT time to take on a modern twist to this retro dessert. If you've ever had one of those cinnamon rolls that kind of taste like a million pounds per bite, this cake is channeling all of that delicious flavor and richness!
This ooey gooey cake is super easy to make and is EXTRA buttery. The cream cheese topping tastes like a combination of cinnamon roll filling and icing all in one. And if you're not a big cream cheese person, the flavor is very subtle! You still have that distinctly tangy cream cheese flavor that you find in cinnamon roll icing but it's not sickeningly cheesy.
This recipe also yields a slightly smaller batch of gooey butter cake, making it perfect for smaller gatherings or for making to treat yourself / your family!
reverse creaming method
The cake base for this recipe is made using the reverse creaming method. While more traditional cakes are made by creaming butter and sugar together, and gradually building off of the wet ingredients to make the batter, reverse creaming involves cutting the butter into the dry ingredients and then adding in the wet ingredients.
The result is a one-bowl cake batter, that's easier and more failproof. It's a 2 step process and is much less prone to overmixing than traditional cake batters.
The cake itself has an extra firm crumb, but still remains perfectly soft and moist. Its texture is almost like a combination between classic vanilla cake and chocolate chip cookies. It's also the method I use to make my favorite apple crumb cake!
how to make cinnamon roll gooey butter cake
Make the cake base
1. Cut together butter and dry ingredients. The butter pieces should be very fine and crumbly.
2. Make a well in the center and add in wet ingredients. Whisk until smooth and combined. That's all there is to making the cake batter!
3. Spread the cake batter evenly into the bottom of your cake pan. The batter will be quite thick!
Make the cream cheese topping:
1. Cream together cream cheese and brown sugar until smooth.
2. Whisk in powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, until dissolved.
3. Whisk in remaining ingredients until smooth.
4. Pour the cream cheese mixture over your cake batter. The mixture should easily self-level, but if needed, you can swirl the pan around to get it to the edges of your baking dish.
5. Bake & cool! Cool the cake completely in the pan before trying to open the latch. Run a knife along the edges before unmolding to pull off any pieces of the cake that may be stuck to the pan.
Dust with some more powdered sugar before slicing and serving!
how to tell when gooey butter cake is baked through
You can't really use a skewer test to check the doneness of the cake because the top is supposed to remain gooey and soft. Instead, here are the telltale signs that your cake is ready to come out of the oven:
- the top will be crackly and slightly matte
- it should be evenly puffed all around
- the edges will be a rich golden brown color
- the center will still be jiggly if you shake the pan
how to serve gooey butter cake
Dust some powdered sugar over your cooled butter cake before slicing and serving! You can serve this cake straight from the fridge (for a firmer top) or let it sit out for about 30 minutes at room temperature (for a softer top). I personally prefer room temperature because your get that extra gooey factor!
Can I use brown sugar in the cake batter?
I wouldn't recommend it. Brown sugar is grittier than granulated, and that can cause your cake to have a grainy texture because we're mixing it into the dry ingredients directly.
Can I use granulated sugar in the cream cheese topping instead of brown?
You would lose a lot of that cinnamon roll flavor. But if you don't want to / can't use brown sugar in the topping, you can swap it out for an equal amount of powdered sugar. You can also make your own brown sugar at home if you don't have any on hand!
Can I use a different pan?
Yes! If you don't have a springform pan, you can use any 9 inch round cake pan or an 8x8 inch square pan. Just keep in mind that if your pan doesn't have a removable bottom, then it's best to just slice the cake right in the pan. Trying to pull it out would be a nightmare!
The center of my cake sank, did I do something wrong?
No! The center is supposed to sink. That's totally normal!
How sweet is this cake?
This is a sweet cake and is best compared to the sweetness of a cinnamon roll. It's very indulgent and a little slice goes a long way!
Since this cake contains cream cheese, it should be kept stored in the fridge until you're ready to serve it. It's totally fine to let it sit out for a few minutes to come to room temperature before serving - but otherwise, make sure it stays in the fridge!
Cover with plastic wrap, and this cake will keep for around 4 to 5 days in the fridge.
check out these other recipes!
Cinnamon Roll Gooey Butter Cake Recipe
For the butter cake:
- 1 & ½ cups (180g) all-purpose flour, spoon and leveled
- ¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ cup (1 stick / 115g) cubed unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- ¼ cup (60mL) milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the gooey cinnamon cream cheese topping:
- 6 ounces (170g) block cream cheese, at room temperature *see notes
- ½ cup (100g) packed brown sugar, light or dark
- 2 cups (260g) powdered sugar, plus more for serving
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan with parchment paper and grease the sides with butter or oil. Set aside. **see notes on different pan options
Make the butter cake:
- In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and butter. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until very fine and crumbly.1 & ½ cups (180g) all-purpose flour,, ¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ cup (1 stick / 115g) cubed unsalted butter,
- Make a well in the center of the butter / flour mixture and add in the egg, milk, and vanilla. Beginning from the center and moving outwards, whisk together until well combined and you no longer see any streaks. The batter will be thick.1 large egg,, ¼ cup (60mL) milk, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Pour the cake batter into your prepared springform pan and spread out into an even layer. Set aside to prep the cream cheese topping.
Make the gooey cinnamon cream cheese topping:
- In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and brown sugar. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a wooden spoon by hand, beat together until smooth and creamy.6 ounces (170g) block cream cheese,, ½ cup (100g) packed brown sugar,
- Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is smooth.2 cups (260g) powdered sugar,
- Add your cinnamon, cornstarch, and egg, and whisk together until smooth and liquid.1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1 large egg,
- Pour the cream cheese topping over your cake batter. If needed, tilt the pan from side to side to get it into an even layer.
- Bake the cake in the center of your preheated 350°F oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until puffed on top and golden brown along the edges. The center should still be jiggly.
- Cool the cake completely to room temperature in the pan. The center will sink as it cools. Run a thin knife along the edges to release any cake that may be stuck to the sides, and unlatch your springform pan.
- Serve at room temperature for a gooier top or chill in the fridge for a more set topping. Keep stored in the fridge if you don't plan on serving within 4 hours of baking. Dust with powdered sugar before enjoying if desired!