Friday, September 21, 2007

Treebeards' Butter Cake

It's been a slow week in the kitchen, after the event last Sunday. So, here's a recommended recipe to keep things moving along. It can be found in the Treebeards Cookbook and about a million times in the Houston Chronicle's Food section.

This is a clear winner every single time. I made it a few times in rapid succession and the same thing happens every. single. time. Everyone asks what they are and comments about how rich they must be. Then everyone makes an obligatory comment about their diet. A few people say they'll just have half of one. As they moan, everyone else takes one to see what the fuss is about. And then the carnage begins.

I've been adding a sharp Chinese cinnamon and using my Mexican vanilla to these lately to give it more of a punch, but they're awesome plain, too. A friend once tried these with egg substitute and low fat cream cheese and they were okay, but nowhere near awesome.

Do they even make those little 3 ox packages of cream cheese anymore? For the past few years, I've had to buy 2 of the 8 oz. packages and save the remaining 7 oz.


There is nothing quite as decadent as our buttercake. The buttery crust is topped with a rich cream cheese layer.

3 cups Pillsbury Plus yellow cake mix*
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 egg

3 1/3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 3-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

* Each box of cake mix yields 3 cups dry mix.

FOR CRUST: Generously spray a 10 x 15-inch jelly roll pan with non-stick spray. With an electric mixer, blend dry cake mix, melted butter and 1 egg on low speed until moistened. Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Pat onto bottom and sides of prepared pan. Set aside.

FOR FILLING: With electric mixer on low speed, mix 3 1/3 cups sifted powdered sugar, 2 eggs, vanilla and cream cheese until ingredients are moistened. Carefully cover mixer with a large, clean kitchen towel (making certain no part of the towel comes near the beaters), turn mixer to high speed and beat for 5 minutes. Turn mixer to low speed and remove towel. Add remaining 11/2 cups sifted powdered sugar and mix until well blended. Carefully replace towel and return mixer to high speed; beat for 5 minutes. Pour mixture over crust in pan and spread evenly.

Bake at 350F for 40 minutes, or until golden brown. When cool, slice into squares.

Tidwell, Dan, Jamie Mize and Janie Baur. Treebeards Cookbook. Houston: Treebeards, Inc., 1993, p. 94 .


Chris Shipman said...


Treebeard's Butter Cake.

I shouldn't. I'm on a diet.

Oh...maybe just one bite.

Ohhhhh! my, my, my!

Diet my eye!! Hey, give me another slice.




Janie Baur said...

Hal, I was poking around the Internet this morning and came across this. When I wrote the Treebeards cookbook nine printings ago, we converted this recipe from a gigantic recipe that was used in the restaurant, hence the 3 ounces of cream cheese...and no, I don't believe they even make it any more. At least I haven't been able to find it for a few years. I put the leftover in my Food Saver bags and it stays good almost indefinitely.

Try experimenting with flavor variations like these:

Toffee — Fold a cup of almond toffee bits or chocolate-covered toffee bits into the filling before adding it on top of the crust

Chocolate — Use a chocolate cake mix in the base and add 3-4 tablespoons cocoa powder and fold in an optional 1 cup chopped nuts in the topping

Lemon — Use a lemon cake mix in the base and for the base, add a teaspoon of lemon extract plus 3 to 4 tablespoons of finely shopped lemon zest

The flavor combinations are endless once you start moving away from the traditional buttercake. I also make my buttercake the day before I'm going to serve it. It's always better the second day. I don't know why -- it just always is. At Treebeards, the day-old buttercake is always marked with a piece of tape on the bottom of each piece of individually wrapped piece and those are always the first pieces of cake to go first -- and there's a very specific reason for that -- they're clearly the best!

Have you ever used Penzeys double-strength vanilla? In my book, vanilla doesn't get any better than that.