Chocolate Mocha Gooey Butter Cake

Chocolate Mocha Gooey Butter Cake

Day 83

Think brownies, but then think bigger. Today’s dessert is the easiest I’ve tried in a long time, but it’s so smooth, rich, and delicious that it’s very deceiving when  served. You know how, sometimes, a dessert just tastes complicated? This is too delicious to be so quick and painless, you think. You’ll get that very same feeling with this dessert, but it will prove to be just as easy as promised. 

I served it with store bought vanilla ice cream, which was a nice touch. Talenti and Haagan Daaz make excellent vanilla bean ice creams with minimal ingredients. If I had the energy and had planned ahead a bit better, I like to think

Copyright 2014, Doug Kapustin Photography

I would have made homemade coffee ice cream as the topper. The best coffee ice cream I’ve ever had is a recipe from Ree Drummond that I’ve only found in her book The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from my Frontier. Look for it at your local bookstore; it’s worth the shopping trip. 

When I first tasted this chocolate dessert, my well-exercised culinary imagination conjured up a thick-crusted, upside-down chocolate chess pie, if such a thing existed. The texture and flavors are similar, to be sure. As thoughts go, each bite brought to mind some fond memories of my grandmother’s chocolate chess pie—a dessert I’d request frequently when I visited my grandparents’ house. This was my mother’s mother, who really was quite a good cook, but perhaps not quite as good as her husband, my grandfather. Between the two of them, they could lay a spread on the table that could have served as the quintessential cross-section of the American South at dinnertime. Country fried steak or pork chops, fried chicken, chicken livers, biscuits, cornbread, slow cooked beans and greens, and a sideboard of pies and cakes of every variety. It’s hard to imagine that all of these could be served for the same dinner, but they were, at least on special occasions. My grandparents, Nanny and Pawpaw, I called them, were old-fashioned, country Southern cooks. I remember Pawpaw telling me that he began making biscuits at four years old, when his mother gave him a stool on which to stand so he could reach the block for rolling out biscuit dough. I desperately wish I had paid better attention to their cooking styles as a child, but I was concerned with other things, of course. 

At any rate, holiday or Sunday meals at Nanny and PawPaw’s were delightfully bloating and story-worthy affairs. There were days afterward of endless recounting, trying to remember how certain conversations or strange and awkward episodes began. We were always privy to some major burst of someone’s anger, as well as a moment or two of shocking or hilarious misplaced showmanship. Looking back, I’d love to have another opportunity to experience a family meal there because, no matter what, there was no other place any of us would rather have been. 

I suppose the reason I’m reminiscing about these meals and reunions today is that our family lost a very special person last week. My uncle—my mother’s brother Robert—died at home, with his loving wife and one of his sons by his side, following an extended battle with Fronto Temporal Degeneration (FTD). This is a form of dementia, although distinct and faster in its decline than all other types, from what I’ve learned.  Most assuredly, FTD is a terrible, quickly debilitating disease that robs a person of independence, both in mind and in body. It is a disease that, as it progressed, must have been very horrific to watch and even harder to nurse.  God bless his wife and bedside nurse, Judy, for selflessly and lovingly caring for him through this surely trying and often hellacious experience. 

I know I can speak for our entire family when I say that we would give anything to rewind the years together to enjoy a delicious and surely eventful meal around Nanny and Pawpaw’s table, set upon the stage of their 18th century historic home. Uncle Robert would have been the center of the room—the veritable star of the show, so to speak—using his light-hearted, fun-loving, and gentle-spirited demeanor to entertain every single attendee. 

Robert, we miss you. I’m sorry we didn’t spend more time together when you were here with us, and I’m praying today that you are feasting at the Lord’s table with all of your pets, friends, and loved ones who passed before you. You were a treasure. 

Chocolate Mocha Gooey Butter Cake*


1 egg, lightly beaten

½ cup butter, melted and cooled

1 -2-layer-size pkg. chocolate cake mix

1 -8 -ounce package cream cheese, softened

2 eggs

1 -16-ounce package powdered sugar

½ cup butter, melted and cooled

¼ cup chocolate fudge topping

2 tablespoons very strong brewed coffee or espresso**

1 teaspoon vanilla

Powdered sugar (optional)

In a medium bowl, stir together 1 egg and ½  cup melted butter. Stir in dry cake mix until combined (You may need to work the mixture together by hand, as it will be thick). Press evenly into the bottom of a greased 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Bake in a 350 degrees oven for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add 2 eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Gradually add 16 ounces powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating on low speed until smooth. Slowly add ½ cup melted butter, the chocolate topping, coffee and vanilla, continuing to beat on low speed until just combined. Pour batter over baked cake crust.

Bake for 35 minutes*** more (center will not appear to be set). Cool completely in pan on a wire rack before cutting into bars. If you like, sprinkle with additional powdered sugar. Cut into bars.

* The recipe was pulled from an older magazine I found; I had torn it out months ago and couldn’t remember the magazine name, but I researched it and found it at this link, also: http://www.midwestliving.com/recipe/chocolate-cakes/chocolate-mocha-gooey-butter-cake/

**I used 2 tbs. instant coffee powder mixed with two tablespoons water to make the strong coffee for the recipe. 

***The second time I tried this recipe, I baked it about 30 minutes instead of 35 to have a softer dessert, and I liked it better. You might want to try it the original way first, then bake for less time the second time to compare. 

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