Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Wash Day Cake - Gooey Butter Cake

Wash Day Cake, or Gooey Butter Cake as it is more well known, is a simple cake using cake mix to form a crust and topped with a powdered sugar and cream cheese filling.
Wash Day Cake, or Gooey Butter Cake as it is more well known, is a simple cake using cake mix to form a crust and topped with a powdered sugar and cream cheese filling.

Wash Day Gooey Butter Cake

Most people associate Gooey Butter Cake with Paula Deen, because it was brought to the forefront of everybody's attention and became famously associated with the Queen Deen, who added a multitude of variations to it.

More of a bar cookie than a cake really, the truth is, it's a recipe that has been around a very long time, even before The Bag Lady lunch delivery, Lady & Son's, or Paula's thrust into fame via Food Network. It is often referred to as a 'Wash Day Cake,' due to its simplicity. This recipe is a tiny bit different from Paula Deen's, with a little less butter, and including a little coconut and nut in the cake crust. You may certainly omit them both if you prefer.

Most of y'all know that I'm not a huge dessert eater which is why you don't see as many sugary treats on my site as you generally will on other southern recipe sites. My taste buds lean more toward the savory side of foods, so for me desserts are not a regular indulgence, but more of an occasional treat. This would be one that should be considered in that category. This cake is as rich and sweet as the day is long, so don't be tempted to frost it, or add any kind of a glaze or sweetened fruit topping because it's just too much. I highly suggest taking this cake to a potluck, church supper or bible study, or any other gathering where there are plenty of folks to share it with. Seriously.

Here's how to make it.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or spray a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with non-stick spray; set aside. Whisk together the cake mix, coconut and pecan. Add one stick of melted butter and 1 egg and mix together.

Pat into the prepared pan and slightly up the sides.

Beat together the cream cheese - I used the lower fat neufchatel cheese here, not because I was trying to save fat, but because that's what I had in the fridge, so either will work - powdered sugar and the remaining two eggs.

Add the vanilla and the remaining melted butter, blend everything well and add to the top of the cake batter.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 to 45 minutes. Center will still appear a little gooey looking but if you stick a toothpick in the middle, it should come back with just a tad bit of crumb to it. Set aside to cool. Cut into small squares for serving.

Recipe: Wash Day Cake

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 10 min |Cook time: 45 min | Yield: About 4 to 6 servings


For the Crust:
  • 1 (2 layer size) yellow cake mix
  • 1/2 cup of grated fresh or frozen coconut, thawed
  • 3/4 cup of chopped pecan
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 large egg
For the Filling:
  • 1 (8 ounce) block of cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 (1 pound) box of powdered sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) of unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or spray a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with non-stick spray; set aside.

For the crust, whisk together the cake mix, coconut and pecan; add 1 stick of melted butter and 1 egg and blend in. Pat into the prepared pan and slightly up the sides. For the filling, beat together the cream cheese, powdered sugar and remaining two eggs, until well blended; add the vanilla and remaining half stick of melted butter. Blend together and add to the top of the cake batter. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 to 45 minutes, taking care not to overbake. The center should still be a little gooey and a toothpick will come out with just a bit of crumb on it. Set aside to cool. Cut into small squares for serving.

Cook's Notes: I used Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Butter Golden cake mix. Okay to omit the coconut and nuts, and substitute shelf stable coconut, but be aware that is generally highly sweetened.


Pumpkin Gooey: Use a yellow cake mix or substitute spice cake. Omit coconut, adding a 15-ounce can of pumpkin to the cream cheese filling. Add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon to the cake. Garnish top of dessert with whole pecan halves, if desired, one for each serving square and serve with a dollop of freshly whipped cream to top. Grate fresh nutmeg over each serving.

Pineapple Gooey: Omit coconut, adding a 20-ounce can of well drained, crushed pineapple to the cream cheese filling.

Lemon Gooey: Use a yellow or lemon cake mix. Omit coconut and pecan. Add the juice and zest of 1 lemon to the cream cheese filling.

Carrot Cake Gooey: Omit coconut. Use a spice cake or carrot cake mix, and add 1 cup of finely grated carrots to the cream cheese filling.

Peanut Butter Gooey: Use a white, yellow or chocolate cake mix. Omit coconut and substitute peanuts in the crust or omit. Add 1 cup of creamy peanut butter to the cream cheese filling. Garnish top lightly with chopped peanuts, if desired.

Chocolate Chip Gooey: Use white, yellow or chocolate cake mix. Omit coconut. Sprinkle 3/4 cup chocolate chips and 1/2 cup chopped nuts on top of filling before baking.

Fruit Gooey: Use a white or yellow cake mix. Omit coconut and pecans, if desired. Add 1 ripe mashed banana, or 1 small can of well drained mandarin oranges, or 1 cup of blueberries, or sliced strawberries, drained if frozen.


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©Deep South Dish
Adapted from Best of the Best from the Deep South Cookbook
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Posted by on February 6, 2013

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  1. I keep seeing recipes for gooey butter cake but just have never gotten to it. I have GOT to change that status quo!

  2. I gave up box cakes a long time ago! :-) Do you have ingredients for a yellow cake (minus the ingredients that are needed when a box cake is made at home) from scratch that you would use instead? Thanks! Love your blog!

    1. Thanks! I don't use them often but there are certain cake mix recipes like this where I do. The yellow cake I have is a little larger than boxed cakes though - you could try this one when subsituting for a box cake mix:

      Standard size mix for 18.25 ounce yellow cake mix - although that box size has actually shrunk the past couple of years

      2 cups of all purpose flour
      1-1/2 cups of granulated sugar
      1 tablespoon of baking powder
      1/2 cup of non-fat dry milk

      Hope that helps!

  3. Kind of like redneck cheesecake, I like it.

  4. Chess Bars! Martha Stewart makes a version of this as well, called Chess Bars. My Family and I make them at Christmas. One of my favorites! Love your web-site and blog, I have tried several recipes and have turned my mom onto your site as well. She just made the irish soda bread last night.

    1. Yeah, I guess it is somewhat similar to what a lot of folks are making as a shortcut chess square these days now that I think about it. Thanks so much for your kind comments & for sharing the site with your Mom!

  5. This is one of my favorite cakes. I never make it because I have zero will power when it comes to it, and usually eat enough to practically make myself sick.

    1. Hey Pam! That is EXACTLY why you don't see that many desserts on my blog!!

  6. Haha, wow... I'm a new (Australian) visitor to your blog and I've never even heard of this cake, or many other Southern specialties (especially grits?!). Deep South food seems so different to what we eat over here... it's like delicious comfort food at it's finest, wrapped up in a blanket of hospitality! I'll have to visit your hometown some time. Even if it's just to try some of that famous fried chicken! Thanks for sharing your traditions with us!

    1. Hello Laura & welcome! I hope that you do get to come and visit the Southern U.S. and sample some of our food one day, but in the meantime, I hope that you'll visit here again & maybe try your hand at a recipe or two!!

  7. Just found your site and love it being a Southern Belle all my life!Love having all the old time recipes esp. now since my Mom has passed!! Thanks!

    1. You're welcome Jan! I'm so sorry for your loss. My Mama passed in 1997 and I miss her every day. HUGS!!!


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