Don’t they all look delicious? I wish I could say they were cupcakes made by me, but they’re not, not a one of them. But, looking at them reminds me of my friend, Penny. She passed away over the weekend and…

She loved to bake. I mean, every time I would go by the house she shared with her husband and daughter along the St. John’s River in northeast Florida, she would be baking something. Mike, her husband, was the cook. Penny was the baker. And their daughter, my daughter, my family, all our friends were always the recipients of her baked goods.

And, she loved Paula Deen recipes. The Food Network, too. They had a small wall mounted flat screen television in the kitchen that was only slightly bigger than my walk in closet and it was always tuned to the Food Network. Emeril, Bobby, Sara, Mario, Giada, Rachel, and yes, Paula.

It was Penny that first turned me on to Paula Deen’s Not Yo’ Mama’s Banana Pudding with Chessman cookies rather than vanilla wafers. Gooey Butter Cake. Both of which I have made a multitude of times over the years.

Penny also made the best chocolate crinkle cookies. I have torn my cookbook shelves apart looking for the recipe Penny had written down for me a few years ago and so far, I haven’t found it. It’s like losing her more than once, with each piece of paper I turn over only to discover it’s not the one I’m looking for.

I wasn’t a very good friend over the last few years. We had lost touch. Penny wasn’t one to use the internet for anything beyond printing out recipes and I did always ask my daughter when she talked to their daughter to please say hello for us. But, that wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough. I should have done more; a letter, a phone call. But I didn’t and I can’t now except to tell her husband how very sorry we are for his loss, except to cry with her daughter who is a teenager just like mine.

So, I’ve done the next best thing I can think of to honor her. I’ve baked Paula’s Gooey Butter Cake. I’ve tweaked it for my household because I’ve had to. With my husband’s diabetes and my Weight Watcher’s, I’ve adjusted some of the ingredients. The thing about this cake, is that there are so many variations on the theme. Just change a few things out and you’ve got a whole different cake. Most people love the pumpkin, some love the chocolate…

I’ve posted the recipe below as it is on Paula Deen’s website and I’ve listed my changes, as well. Below that, I’ve listed the Weight Watcher’s recipe for Lemon Squares that I baked a couple of weeks ago and that people have asked me about. They were delicious, tangy and tart, and perfect.

Gooey Butter Cake

Cake:
1 18 1/4-ounce package yellow cake mix (I used a reduced sugar yellow cake mix)
1 egg (I used 1/4 cup fat-free egg substitute)
8 tablespoons butter, melted (I used 8 tablespoons light stick butter)

Filling:
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened (I used Neufchatel Cheese/Light Cream Cheese)
2 eggs (I used 1/2 cup fat-free egg substitute)
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 tablespoons butter, melted (I used 4 tablespoons light stick butter and two mashed bananas)
1 16-ounce box powdered sugar

Combine the cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well with an electric mixer.  Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13 by 9-inch baking pan.  Prepare Filling

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth.  Add the eggs, vanilla, and butter and beat together.

Next, add the powdered sugar and mix well.  Spread over cake batter and bake for 40 to 50 minutes.  Make sure not to over bake as the center should be a little gooey.

Now, her website says serves 6-8. Not in a 13 x 9-inch pan it doesn’t. I cut the 24 squares in mine, so, mine serve 24. They’re not big squares, but this is a rich cake, so you can’t eat a whole lot all at once! And with the bananas, it tastes like banana pudding.

Making the substitutes that I did, it is about 5 points on the Weight Watcher’s points system.

Weight Watcher’s Lemon Squares

1 cup all-purpose flour (I used 2/3 cup white whole wheat flour and 1/3 cup oat flour)
1/3 cup sifted powder sugar
1/3 cup chilled stick butter, light, cut into small pieces
Cooking Spray
1 cup granulated sugar (I used 1/2 cup Splenda blend instead)
1 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 T all-purpose flour (I used white whole wheat again)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon butter extract or vanilla extract
3 large egg whites (I used the equivalent of egg white substitute)
1 large egg (I used 1/4 cup fat-free egg substitute)
2 Tablespoons powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Combine first two ingredients; cut in light butter with a pastry blender or food processor until mixture is crumbly. Press firmly into bottom of an 11×7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
3. Combine granulated sugar and next 8 ingredients; stir with a whisk until blended and pour over pre-baked, slightly cooled crust. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until set. Let cool on wire rack. Cut into squares, and sift 2 tablespoons powdered sugar over bars.

It said it makes 24 bars, but I don’t know how. I was only able to cut 15 out of mine. So instead of the 2 points the cookbook says, it’s about 3. This was taken from the Weight Watcher’s cookbook All Things Sweet.

I hope all of you are having a wonderful week so far. I must get back to writing.

~lissa