Day 5: Mathew Rice + Gooey Butter Cookies

I first had one of Mathew Rice’s desserts at my friend David’s birthday party. The party was in the cozy downstairs of Nightwood, where Mathew is the pastry chef. Everything at Nightwood is always delightful, but this was a particularly fun night. Mathew made a brown butter cake with rhubarb filling and some sort of cream cheese pistachio frosting, or at least that is how I remember it. It was really delicious and it got me excited to try more of his desserts.

The thing that is brilliant about the sweets that Mathew makes is that they are at once familiar and comforting and yet totally original. In my book, that is as good as it gets. And every time I eat at Nightwood I look forward to dessert.

I was thrilled that Mathew agreed to share this recipe for one of my favorites, Gooey Butter Cookies. Mathew came to Chicago from St. Louis, famous for it’s gooey butter cake, and so this is the perfect contribution to our city and to the 12 Days of Cookies.

Also, these are amazing. Bryan and I could not stop eating them. They taste like the top of a gooey butter cake. For those of you unfamiliar with gooey butter cake, think: baked cream cheese frosting, which isn’t far from the truth of this recipe. Raw cookie dough eaters will love these. Honestly, I couldn’t be happier to have this recipe in my life. It is taking a lot of self control to not make these every week.

Mathew completed the food quiz, which is below. Next time you are at Nightwood, say hello to Mathew and let him know you made his cookies!

LOTTIE + DOOF FOOD QUIZ with Mathew Rice

Why this cookie? 
It’s always a favorite with guests, and most people haven’t heard of it.  I created a scratch version from a recipe that called for a boxed cake mix.  Somehow I figured it out.

Sweet or salty? 
Sweet!  I even have a tattoo on my hand that says sweet.

Chocolate or vanilla? 
Vanilla.  Nothing beats an awesome vanilla ice cream.

Hot or mild? 

What won’t you eat? 
I stay away from all offal meats.  I get that it can be cooked to be tasty, but it’s not for me.

Most memorable meal? 
A “meal” of all desserts by my favorite pastry chef, Mindy Segal.

Favorite object in your kitchen? 
My citron green KitchenAid mixer.

What are you scared of in the kitchen? 
I got a nasty cut on a Japanese mandoline once.  I stay away from those now.

Do you prefer to cook alone or with others? 
With others.  Just cooked Thanksgiving with my boyfriend and we had a great time.

What country would you like to travel to for the food? 
Italy.  I’m a huge fan of gelato and semifreddo.

If you were a fruit or vegetable, what would you be? 
Maybe a passionfruit.  It’s my favorite.  It’s out of the ordinary.  It’s fruity.  It’s sweet.  Just like me.

Favorite thing about winter? 
Snowy days and eggnog lattes.

This makes a whole mess of cookies (40+). Feel free to cut recipe in half if you are not cooking for a crowd.

Gooey Butter Cookies (recipe by Mathew Rice of Nightwood Restaurant)

  • 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 pound cream cheese
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, scraped (optional (Tim thinks it is optional, but important))
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Confectioner’s sugar for rolling and dusting

Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese, butter, vanilla bean seeds, and sugar together until fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla extract.

Incorporate the flour mixture.  Chill for at least 30 minutes.  Scoop roughly 1-ounce balls and toss in the confectioner’s sugar.  Place on a baking sheet, lined with parchment, a couple of inches apart.  Bake at 325° F until they spread and puff slightly, about 12-16 minutes.  They will be really soft in the center.  If they start to brown, they’ve gone too far.  Cool to room temperature.

From this point, Mathew usually refrigerates them on the tray because as the cream cheese and butter get cold, they’re easier to pick up. It is a good tip.  Dust with more confectioner’s sugar before serving.  Mathew always serves these cookies straight out of the fridge. He thinks they don’t taste as good warm.  I agree with Mathew! Store these in the fridge and you can serve them cold/cool.

These will keep for up to a week in the fridge. Yeah, good luck with that.


Previously, on THE 12 DAYS OF COOKIES

Day 1: Maple Pecan Cookies

Day 2: Fig and Date Swirls

Day 3: Evergreen Shortbread

Day 4: Rugelach


57 comments to “Day 5: Mathew Rice + Gooey Butter Cookies”

  1. Perfect! I was looking for an easy but different emergency cookie recipe for a cookie exchange. I think this is it.

  2. I love that you followed up a multi-step cookies with an easy, yet just as fabulous one! My fam will love these!

  3. I hate you. Because now I have to make these and I will be powerless against them. Dammit.

  4. Wow. These are amazing. I’ve had gooey butter cakes before, but never cookies. Luckily I have a few parties coming up that I can bring these to. The fear of eating them all myself is overwhelming.

  5. I love the cracks on top, I’ve never tried them but they are now on my list

  6. Yep, I’m sold on the word “gooey”. I’ll be making these for my cookie exchange next week.
    Saw your spread at Dose last weekend – everything looked delicious!

  7. “Delightful” is a very apt word to describe Nightwood- I always leave there feeling happy. And these cookies look fantastic. I love gooey butter cake, so I’ll definitely be taking a crack at these this weekend.

  8. Holy smokes, those look good.

  9. Whoa. I feel my blood sugar rising just reading the ingredient list. Can’t wait to see what’s up next.

  10. Fabulous sounding gooey cookies! Do you really incorporate the vanilla bean pod or just the seeds? Thanks.

  11. Hi Martha! Thanks, I fixed it.

  12. Will make this weekend!!

  13. Love the feature/recipe from the very talented Matt Rice. I went to school with Matty and love hearing how he is making it happen! I’m also glad that I discovered Lottie+Doof; it’s amazing and subscribed today. Cheers from Washington DC!

  14. How original! I was searching for one more unique recipe and her she is. Thanks and Happy Holidays!

  15. Matthew is awesomeness and sorely missed in The Lou!

  16. Wow! I love Nightwood, and I LOVED the sound of gooey butter cake when Amelia attempted it…gonna have to try these fo sho. Thanks, Tim!

  17. Woah! This sounds fantastic! I am a true raw cookie dough lover.

  18. here i was, thinking i’d baked every cookie under the sun, but THESE are unlike anything i’ve yet seen. thinking i’m going to need to squeeze these into the list…

    it would be so nice to legitimize all that raw cookie dough, secretly snitched behind my kids’ backs…

  19. I love seeing a cookie that’s new to me! I’ve been trying to find some new, “exciting” xmas cookies. I love the gooey, sorta raw thing, too. Thanks!

  20. Diana @ a girl, a dog & an oven says:

    December 12th, 2011 at 8:27 am

    Yummy! As someone who loves both cream cheese and raw cookie dough, this cookies are right up my alley. Can’t wait to try them!

  21. OMG they look amazing. Cannot wait to try them out.

  22. Amber of LMT says:

    December 12th, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Hey Tim! I made these yesterday. They are soooo good. Thank you. It was great to see you and Bryan last weekend!

  23. Can someone tell me on a scale of 1-10 how hard these are to make and have them turn out well??

  24. I am not sure about the texture of these cookies, wouldn’t guests just think they tasted a bit under done? However, I need to try them just to work out the raw cookie/ cake dough effect!

  25. Lauren- They are a 3. You can do it! Just watch carefully so they don’t brown.
    Laura- Your guests will love them, and you can assure them they are perfectly well done.
    Amber- yay! It was so good to see you and Jeff and your sisters. We need to make sure that happens more often.

  26. this is my first time commenting =)
    but i just made these cookies and i’m so impressed!! they were super easy to make. on a scale of 1-10 (10 being hardest), they would be a 2. they taste amazing – and i’ve only tried them a couple minutes out of the oven. i can’t wait to taste them out of the fridge. i’ve never had a cookie turn out exactly the way it looks in the pictures. thank you!

  27. Angela- that is such great news! I am glad you liked them and am excited for you to try them chilled. Happy baking!

  28. Nicole Locke says:

    December 13th, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    I am so excited to give this recipe a try! I am hosting my first cookie/ornament exchange party this Friday…I know my guests will LOVE them!!! Thank you!!!

  29. Whoa. These are going to be my downfall. I’m wondering if you can keep in them in the refrigerator in a container, layered, instead of on the tray? Might take up less room that way…

  30. I made these but was under-whelmed. The white flour doughy taste dominated the gooey part of the cookie. But it must have been only me, because my family liked it. I will try some of the others now :-)

  31. Hi Laura- Of course. You initially chill them on the tray to make them easier to handle. You can transfer them to whatever container you like.
    June- Sorry you were underwhelmed, but I’m with your family on this one! ; )

  32. These were fantastic! I made them for one of my Midwestern friends who has decided she’d rather have these than a cake for her birthday next month. High praise indeed! The texture is really interesting: crackly on the outside from the sugar but perfectly cakey on the inside. I’m going to try the maple pecan cookies next, but I can’t imagine them being as surprisingly good as these. Thanks for the recipe!

  33. Made these today T! However, I still haven’t learned how to adjust for altitude and when I removed them from the oven they flattened into paper-thin pancakes. However, they still taste delicious. Thanks for sharing Tim and Matthew!

  34. Hi. I love your recipes. I noticed in this recipe you mentioned the creator works at Nightwood. When I visited Chicago this summer (prior to discovering your website) that was one of the restaurants I decided to dine at after extensively researching all of Chicago’s finest spots. An amazing meal. But, what stuck with me was the braised cabbage served along my fish. I have tried- at length- to replicate that braised cabbage, to no avail. I don’t like any of the other recipes I have found for braised cabbage either. If somehow you could get that recipe and post it, I would be forever greatful! If not possible, I understand, and appreciate the recipes you do post. I made ANZAC biscuits for a cookie exchange and they went over well. Thank you and Happy Holidays!

  35. Amirah, I am glad you liked Nightwood! You should call the restaurant and ask about the recipe. If they have it, I am sure they would be happy to give it to you or at least explain what they did. They’re a friendly bunch.

  36. It says 1/2 vanilla bean? 1/2 cup? Sorry, never used vanilla bean before, just extract… I’m new at baking :)

  37. Hi Danielle- the vanilla bean is the seed pod that provides the vanilla flavor. You can buy them at most grocery stores these days. Here is more info on them:

  38. Kellie B & Nana G says:

    December 23rd, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    These were delightful. A hit with all. And, as suggested; we ate them chilled. The texture was perfect.

  39. Hooray!!! Thank you for posting a recipe for gooey butter cake cookies that doesn’t involve using a cake mix. I am from St. Louis and I grew up eating these cookies but I don’t want to make them from cake mix. Thanks again and I can’t wait to try them.

  40. Thank you so much for posting this delicious recipe! I made them–so easy for such a big payoff–and posted them to my own blog. They were a huge hit with coworkers who needed some extra Christmas cheer! Thanks for your 12 Days of Cookies series, I absolutely love it!

  41. Ok, I know it’s after Christmas, but there is still New Year’s so I baked these up today to share with family and friends in Boston for this wkend. Man! are they good! May be my new favorite cookie! Thanks for sharing!

  42. made these tonight, halving the recipe & baking in batches – the first round spread and baked up super thin so i put the remaining dough in the freezer along with the the baking pans. the next batch came out better, but still no cute cracks. i’m in new york city so i doubt it’s the altitude, but then again i am in a 5th floor walk-up…

    still, i’m happy with the results because the cookies turned out delicious despite the fact that i am not a terribly precise baker (sortof creamed the butter by hand, ran short of sugar, tossed in vanilla w/o measuring). reminds me a little of the birthday cake truffles at milk bar….

  43. Just made these in Denver, cut the baking powder in half and they were picture perfect. A big hit in my office!

  44. I made a batch yesterday and they are great. In the fridge now and ready to be shared. Thanks!

  45. good to hear, jack! they’re great in the summer…

  46. Cannot stop eating the batter. 40+? Haha. More like half that now. YUM.

  47. Ha, Jeni, yeah- it is pretty great.

  48. Vanilla beans are not common to buy where I live. Will vanilla extract do? What would you recommend?

  49. Hi Laura- you can use vanilla bean paste, or some vanilla extract. Either one will work.

  50. Made these last night for a New Year’s Eve party, and I’ve been struggling to keep my hands off them ever since. They are the best cookies I’ve made in a long time. I halved the recipe and still ended up with five dozen two-bite cookies. Someone said they were reminiscent of those miniature powdered doughnuts at the grocery store, only way better, of course. I bet they would taste amazing with a little lemon juice and zest thrown in. But as is, they are amazing little bites of pillowy, cakey, velvety goodness. Thanks so much for the wonderful recipe, and Happy New Year!

  51. Tim,

    I am making a whole load of desserts for a funeral, and was thinking these cookies would be great for the kids who will be there. Do you think that instead of confectioners sugar for rolling the cookies in that sparkling white sanding sugar would work?

    Thanks! I love your blog!

  52. Hi Anne- Nope, the sanding sugar would not work. It definitely needs to be confectioner’s. Also, not to discourage you, I am not totally convinced these are a kids cookie. Maybe they are? I have a feeling adults would like these better than kids.

  53. Coming from St. Louis, I’ve made these for years and have never heard of putting them in the fridge. Just tried that….YUM!!! I didn’t think they could get any better! Thanks for the tip.
    Also, Anne and Tim, my kids LOVE these cookies. They gobble them up, but why wouldn’t they!

  54. I never comment on blogs but my 4 year old daughter and I made these earlier this week and they were the best gooey butter cookies ever. It is my new fav recipe, thank you so much for this!

  55. Tim, I love your blog, thank you for such delicious inspiration. Do you think you could freeze the dough for a week or two before baking these cookies? Would the cream cheese affect that? I am looking to make these for my Christmas party and would like to prepare as much as possible in advance. Thank you!

  56. Hey Vic- Thanks. I dunno. I haven’t tried. My guess is that it would be okay, but I can’t say with certainty. They keep for a while in the fridge after being baked, so worst case scenerio you can make them a day or two early and just hold them in the fridge. Happy baking!

  57. I was craving these favorite go-to cookies, but did not want to break out the cookie sheets. My solution: put half of the dough in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. The result was DELICIOUS as evidenced in my Instagram photo. Thank you! <3

What do you think?