Gooey Cinnamon Cake Squares
My excuse in making these is that I volunteered to bring some treats for my thesis class this week. Someone in my small class usually brings in a snack to share with the others, but up until now I hadn’t got the chance. How excited I was when no one beat me to volunteering to bring something this week! I had a lot of thinking to do, though: I had to bring something that everyone would enjoy, but everyone (as in random, normal people, not you foodie-like people who read this blog) usually enjoys philistine-ish cheesecake-cookie-dough-stuffed brownies or some such thing that I am much too snobby for. But I wanted them to like what I brought, and be happy and pleased and impressed that I made something so tasty.
(Vanity is a very bad fault of mine. As if that wasn’t already self-evident by the fact that I have a blog, or have made it my life goal to bake and cook for everyone I like so they will in turn like me more.)
Of course, while these are pretty gluttonous, they come from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, so that automatically meant that they were then not only satisfactory in my anti-philistine endeavor but that everyone would like them—because really, everyone likes anything produced by Smitten Kitchen. Seriously, it is a little crazy how Everyone, foodie or not, likes Smitten Kitchen. In fact, the only reason someone might not like that blog is just because it is seriously mind-boggling how universally appealing and wildly popular she is.
Anyway, so I knew these would be a winner. And, alas, they were! Everyone liked them, including my thesis adviser who said she usually doesn’t find baked goods “worth it.” (Some really aren’t worth it.) They are basically like slightly under-baked snickerdoodles in cake form. It’s a good thing. They’re made up of two different cake layers: one being a structured butter cake-like one, with the second having a more satiny smoothness which makes it “gooey” after it’s all baked up. The liberal sprinkling of cinnamon sugar on top brings the whole thing together and makes for a nice little crust. My photographs don’t really do the squares justice—I cut them up for packing after they had cooled down for only about 2 hours, and while they were definitely still good at this time, the longer they sat the more gooey the top became. Once again, it’s a good thing.
At the moment I am having something of a love-hate relationship with them, shared by my roommate, who earlier today said, “It’s a shame they taste so good.” Make them when you have people—lots of people!—to share them with. This recipe yields a whole lot of little devilish squares of goodness, and you don’t want square after square taunting you, distracting you, from the first draft of a thesis you happen to have due in two weeks.
One Year Ago: Chana Punjabi
Soft Cookie Base
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cream of tarter
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch glass baking dish with aluminum foil, allowing the ends to hang over. Coat the aluminum foil with cooking spray or melted butter. Set aside.
For the cookie base, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add in the egg and milk and beat until combined. The mixture will look a little curdled, but that’s okay–just make sure it’s all incorporated. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the wet and stir on low until just incorporated. Spread the dough in little dollops over the prepared pan, and smooth evenly. Set aside.
For the gooey layer, whisk together the corn syrup, milk, and vanilla in a small bowl; set aside. In the same bowl of the stand mixer that you just used (you need not wash it between layers), cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (once again, about 2 minutes). Add the egg and beat until combined. Add 1/2 cup of the flour and stir until fully combined, then follow this with half the corn syrup mixture. Repeat this with another 1/2 cup of flour and the remaining corn syrup mixture, and then finish by combining in the last 1/4 cup of flour. Scrape down the bowl as necessary. Dollop the batter over the unbaked cookie base and spread into an even layer.
Mix together the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle it in an even layer over the top of the batter. Use it all! Bake in the preheated oven until the edges have set but the center still looks gooey (this is important!), about 35 minutes. Let cool completely, about 2-3 hours. Lift the cake from the pan using the foil overhang, cut into 1 to 2-inch squares. Keep covered at room temperature for up to 3 days.