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I'm making Paula Deen's Ooey Gooey Butter Bars (also known as Ooey Gooey Butter Cake) for holiday goodie baskets. I'm having trouble getting the top to be flaky like it is on the bars sold at the store - the same kind of flaky top that's on brownies.

I'm guessing I'm either not mixing something long enough or mixing it too long or something. I've seen pictures of the process online and my top batter looks EXACTLY like the batter in the picture, but something is going wrong. In my eight tries, it's only turned out right twice. I can tell when it's going wrong during the baking process, because the top fluffs up and the crust never forms.

For the unfamiliar, this is a bar with a cake mix-butter-one egg crust on the bottom. The topping is a block of softened cream cheese, one stick of melted butter, two eggs, vanilla and two cups of powdered sugar.

Could it be the quality of the ingredients? I've used no-name butter sometimes and other times Land O'Lakes. Help!

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I didn't understand that exactly. Do you want the cream cheese/butter mix to become "flaky" (or maybe you mean crispy? I can't imagine it being flaky) or are you adding another layer on top (e.g. streusel, or more batter)? Also, how well do you control temperature? (Room temp ingredients, correctly preheating the oven, using the correct oven setting and rack height, etc.) –  rumtscho Dec 20 '11 at 11:57

2 Answers 2

You can't really trust how batter looks. A small change in how much baking soda or baking powder goes in would totally change the outcome, but wouldn't affect the batter's appearance.

If you've made it right twice before, it sounds like your problem is consistency. Convert your recipe into one that uses weight instead of volume (grams/ounces instead of teaspoons/cups). 1 cup of flour, packed, can be way more flour than 1 cup of flour sifted--there's really no way to be precise when using volume measurements. I've spent time doing some Googling to convert a recipe from one that uses cups to one that uses grams, then measure out those quantities with a kitchen scale.

The other thing you may want to check is your oven temp. If you're using the built in oven thermostat, those can be extremely imprecise--I'd recommend buying an oven thermometer or borrowing one from a friend. They're typically less than 10 dollars and are very accurate. If it turns out that it's different from what temp your oven reports, trust the thermometer instead.

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With the recipe you mentioned there is no indication as to what temperature the cream cheese and butter should be at and I'm guessing that's one possible item making the difference. Since it looks a little like a creaming or foaming (sponge) method for whipping ingredients, I'd try to make sure my butter, eggs, and cream cheese, but especially butter, were around 70 degrees F. You want them to be able to incorporate air. The first link talks about how to get things crispier or fluffier based on how long you cream, etc. Then you will want to play around with batter temperature when it hits the oven.

Also note that more fat in a cookie recipe, at least, is equivalent to crispier. Are you subbing nuefchatel cheese or low fat or no fat cream cheese for the cream cheese? If so, don't. Moisture in sugar has an impact so make sure you aren't subbing any other sugar for powdered.

Real gooey butter cake is a yeast cake rather than the rip-off versions that use cake mix and not really all that much more complicated, although more time consuming. You may want to try doing a more authentic recipe, or at least one that uses a yeast cake. I have had success with the one linked.

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Thanks! I kept all the ingredients at room temperature, melted the butter on the stove and not the microwave. I also borrowed an oven thermometer and my oven is true to the dial. I used the best butter I had, store brand cake mix and regular cream cheese. And the top was flaky like a brownie and the bar itself was very dense, like it's supposed to be. I also used my digital scale - two cups of powdered sugar in a measuring cup is TOTALLY different from the 16 ounces the recipe calls for, although I'm not sure why (I thought a cup was 8 ounces?). Anyway, it worked this time. –  Christine Dec 21 '11 at 8:39
    
I was going to suggest melting the butter next, which is what I always do for flaky top brownies. Glad it worked. –  justkt Dec 21 '11 at 15:20

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