Food & Drink

Gooey Cinnamon Squares are everything that’s right about dessert

"The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook" by Deb Perelman includes a recipe for Gooey Cinnamon Squares.
"The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook" by Deb Perelman includes a recipe for Gooey Cinnamon Squares.

While searching for inspiration for this week’s recipe, it became apparent that I’ve been talking a lot about salads the last few weeks. While we all love fresh salads, sometimes we just need a good dessert – particularly this time of year, when gatherings around the pool are so frequent.

Part of my inspiration to write about dessert came from a 12-year old’s birthday baking party I taught last week. This co-ed party of giggly pre-teens was very well-mannered and enjoyable. We baked donuts with strawberry glaze, made an Oreo Icebox Pie, and baked vanilla cupcakes with buttercream frosting. It seems like this is about the right age to get kids interested in cooking and baking because they are old enough to orchestrate solo, including cleanup.

This week’s recipe comes from “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook” by Deb Perelman. Hopefully you’ve read her blog, but if you haven’t, add it to your to-do list, although make sure you have plenty of time because it’s quite easy to get lost her in her recipes, photography and stories. This Gooey Cinnamon Squares recipe is about everything I love in a dessert – you eat it with your hands, it’s chewy, soft, cinnamon-y and of course buttery. The only adjustment I’d suggest in this recipe is to cut them larger because one-inch-squares just aren’t big enough, and these are irresistible.

Adriene Rathbun is an enthusiastic Wichita cook who offers cooking classes through her business, Social. Reach her at or

Gooey Cinnamon Squares

Cookie Base:

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan

1 ½ cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¾ cup sugar

1 large egg

¼ cup milk

Gooey Layer:

¼ cup light corn syrup or honey

¼ cup milk, half and half or heavy cream

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

12 tablespoons butter at room temperature

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

¼ teaspoons kosher salt

1 large egg

1 ¼ cups all purpose flour


2 tablespoons sugar

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch cake pan with at least 2 inch sides with parchment paper and either coat with butter or spray with baking nonstick spray. Set aside.

To make the cookie base, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the 8 tablespoons butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and the milk, and beat until combined, scraping down bowl and then beating for 10 seconds more. Beat in dry ingredients until just combined.

Dollop cookie base over the bottom of the prepared pan and spread it into an even layer with a butter knife or offset spatula. Set pan aside.

To prepare the gooey layer, whisk corn syrup or honey, milk and vanilla together in a small bowl and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, scrape down sides of bowl and mix 10 seconds more. Add 1/3 of flour and mix, then ½ of vanilla mixture and mix. Repeat again, twice, until all of the flour has been mixed until combined. Dollop over the cookie base and spread carefully with an offset spatula or butter knife.

To make the topping, mix the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle it over the entire gooey layer. It will be thick but will come out of the oven almost like the top of a crème brulee.

To bake and serve, bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the cookies have bronzed on top. The gooey layer will rise and fall in the oven but will still be a bit liquid-y under the cinnamon crust when the squares are done. Let cool completely on a rack, then cut into 1 inch squares.