How soon is too soon to start baking with pumpkin? I know. I know! Fall only started a few days ago, and the temps here in Indiana are leaping into the 80s, but I just couldn’t help myself any longer. I’d take fall a hundred times over any other season, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the smell of pumpkin slowly baking up with cinnamon and nutmeg. I had to give in.
This deliciously sinful dessert kicked off my fall pumpkin baking season, and I’m not looking back. I’ve got my sights set high this year (cupcakes! doughnuts! cheesecake!), but I had to start with a classic.
Growing up in St. Louis, everyone and their grandma had a recipe for gooey butter cake, and each was more decadent than the next. This is a spin on the traditional, which is usually filled with a sticky, buttery, sugary topping that caramelizes in the oven.
My version starts with a yeast cake base, but don’t be intimidated by it! It’s a very low maintenance dough that only requires a quick knead and a few hours rest on the counter. My kitchen tends to be cold and drafty–if yours is the same, preheat your oven to 200 degrees for 5 minutes, then turn the oven off and let your dough rise there. This will create a nice warm space for the yeast to do its thing.
Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake
Cake base from Smitten Kitchen, filling adapted from Paula Deen
3 tablespoons milk at room temperature
2 tablespoons warm water
1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
15 ounces pumpkin puree
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
8 ounces powdered sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Whipped cream or powdered sugar for topping
For the cake:
In a small bowl, mix the milk and warm water. Whisk in the yeast and gently stir to combine. Let the mixture sit until it foams slightly.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and salt. Beat in the egg, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add in the flour and milk mixture in batches, starting and ending with the dry, scraping the sides of the bowl between each addition. Beat until just combined, then switch to the dough hook.
Knead with the dough hook for approximately 10 minutes, or until the dough forms a smooth ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Press the dough into a lightly greased 9×13 glass baking dish. Cover and let rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled, 2-3 hours.
(This can also be done without a stand mixer: just use a hand mixer until all the flour is added, then mix with a wooden spoon and knead by hand until the dough is soft and smooth.)
Once the dough has risen, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
For the filling:
In a medium bowl, sift together the powdered sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the pumpkin and cream cheese until smooth. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the vanilla and butter. Once combined, add the eggs one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl between each addition. Slowly beat in the powdered sugar mixture until just combined.
Gently spread the filling mixture over the risen cake dough. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the edges of the cake are just set and the center is still jiggly. Be careful not to over bake.
Allow to cool before slicing into squares and topping with powdered sugar or whipped cream.
Jessica Lampe is a foodie, photographer, writer and DIY’er extraordinare from Indianapolis, Indiana, where she lives with her boyfriend and their incessantly adorable German Shepherd. When she isn’t serving up cupcakes to friends and strangers (baked goods don’t discriminate) she loves getting caught up in a good book and playing/coaching volleyball. Jessica has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and English from Bradley University, is obsessed with all things Harry Potter and lives and dies by the St. Louis Cardinals. Find her on Twitter@lampeshade12.