I’m terrible at making decisions. Particularly when the decision is between two or more fantastic things that each has its own merits – if you want me to choose between a Chinese, Indian or Spanish restaurant for a night out, the decision will likely be that I hate you. Or that we stay in and order takeaway from all three. I will stumble guiltily away from a Ben’s Cookies shop laden with anywhere between two and four small paper bags because the choice between white chocolate cranberry and oatmeal raisin (and coconut, and chocolate chip, peanut butter etc etc) will nearly have me in tears.
Where I’m going with this (apart from making myself sound like prime dating material) is the concept of Give Me All Of The Above. If you make me choose between a cookie or a cake, I may very well spend the time it takes to eat the one baked good quietly wishing it were the other (and vice versa). Decisions are stupid. The answer to “cookie or cake?” is “both”. Cookies that are made of cake are the way forward.
Gooey Butter Cake, in addition to being comprised of three of the best words ever, is a creature of the American Midwest, which folklore claims came about when a baker got his measurements of butter and flour wrong (and yet, apparently, oh so very right). I’ve never tasted this cake, but when I chanced upon a recipe for a cookie version, I decided this incarnation of the cakey creature definitely needed to come kick it in my little English kitchen.
Mainly because cream cheese.
I’ve followed the Dessert for Two recipe more or less to the letter, but have written up My Own Version of it with a few UK-friendly measurement and temperature adjustments, and the odd note or two about stuff (and things). I also took some photos for those of you who enjoyed my deceptively pallid soup recipe, and would like to further explore the versatility of ecru food.
The beginnings of the mix were most promising indeed – give me an extra egg yolk for velvetiness and a few scoops of cream cheese for softness and creaminess and I’m a happy (if impatient to lick the spoon) little baker.
The whisked up flour is added gradually, so as not to form lumps or distribute itself all over your kitchen as soon as the mixer switches on. (I am obsessed with my tiny whisk – I saw Nigella doing unto an egg with one and had a major ‘gimme’ moment.)
The batter, which is soft, gooey and dangerously tempting, must be chilled for at least half an hour before being rolled into dough balls for baking, otherwise it will spread into delectable vanilla-scented puddles as soon as it hits the heat of the oven.
The good news: you have at least thirty minutes to lick every last speck of don’t-even-talk-to-me tasty cookie batter off the (ejected from the mixer, please, because come on) mixer blades. Do not skip this crucial, delicious step. TBH: I doubt you will be physically capable of skipping this step.
Cookie time: What I ended up doing, after the half-hour of dough chilling, was scooping and dredging the first half-dozen dough balls and, once they were in the oven, scooping and dredging the next six and chilling those in the fridge, to be popped onto the baking try once the batch before them was done. Call it efficiency, call it inability to sit still for 12-14 minutes… Call it genius and we’ll move on.
While the mixture was gooey as anything and barely held shape long enough to be covered in icing sugar, I found that the resulting cookies were in no way gooey at all – very cakey though.
Between this bake and the rather lengthy, traumatic one I’ll be hitting you with next time (don’t worry, veteran readers will confirm that my version of baking trauma mainly involves photos of collapsed/burned/checking-into-the-Priory cakes and mild swearing from their disgruntled creator), I have decided that my oven reaches a higher temperature than the faded number on the dial would have me believe. It can’t be a coincidence that my last few bakes have been overdone, despite cutting their time in the oven short and making sure the dial was set to the correct temp. My next mission: oven thermometer acquisition. I promise not to write a blog about it. Unless something hilarious and/or insane happens, obviously.
Gooey they may not have been, but cake in cookie form may be a new favourite of mine – and the flavour… I know vanilla is a magical bean and its scent/taste is about as close to a comforting hug as an ingredient can get, but these brought back some strong yet non-specific sense memory of being in kindergarten and eating those impossibly delicious, yellow, made-from-a-mix birthday cakes that were de rigueur in the 80s and 90s (mine is a generation of just-add-water-and-fat foods – neon Kraft macaroni and ‘cheese’, rolls of ready-to-bake cookie dough, usually eaten straight from the packet, and Betty Crocker cake mixes are big, unabashed loves of ours). Very strange to be standing at my darkening London studio window, biting into an unexpectedly dry cookie and suddenly being transported to a small plastic chair at a formica-topped table, in a schoolroom somewhere in 1980s Massachusetts.
The key to these is keeping an eye on them in the oven, I think. They (unlike mine) should not cook completely: go for gooey. I can happily confirm that if you do leave them too long and they bake completely, they are still delicious and are very much a marriage of cookie and cake.
Warning: may cause uneventful 80s flashbacks.
Coming up next time: from bad to worse. If you thought slightly overcooked cake cookies were silly, just wait till I tell you about this $%£@*& cake… We have fun here.