Off the Wall: Treebeards Buttercake

Categories: Recipes

In last week's Tunnel Explorer, Nicholas Hall provided us with an interesting look at a new, but old favorite - Treebeard's in the tunnel. Perhaps his slightly more than adequate meal of catfish, dirty rice, and squash casserole lacked excitement because he forgot to order the most important part of the meal - dessert! In particular, Treebeard's famous, much raved about Buttercake.

Two EOW readers chimed in with their admiration:

Red Bean: Love Treebeards. I regularly make their mustard greens and buttercake from my Treebeards cookbook. I wish they'd open a location outside of downtown.

csoakley: ¡Buttercake!

An upside down exclamation mark and a right side up one? Say no more. I had to make it for myself because, sadly, I'm a Buttercake virgin. And while I'm sure the restaurant's version is 10 times better than my own, I have to give my novice baker self credit for pulling it off in my shitty, 30-square-foot kitchen.

Though it's not like it's a difficult recipe to master, especially since the copycat version calls for Pillsbury's boxed yellow cake mix. And at two different points in the process, you're actually required to set the mixer on high and walk away. Of course, my insecure, nervous self sat glued to the spinning beater, with my finger ready and waiting to flip the power switch should anything go awry. Better safe than sorry. Thankfully, no intervention was necessary. This is a simple and quick process, with a deliciously rewarding end. It might just be the worst thing you could possibly eat, but that gooey, sweet, creamy, buttery cake and that crispy, crackly layer of crust are nearly impossible to say no to. Just try it. I dare you.

Treebeard's Buttercake - recipe found here

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 three cups dry mix.

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

FOR FILLING: With electric mixer on low speed, mix three-and-a-third cups sifted powdered sugar, two 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 five minutes. Turn mixer to low speed and remove towel. Add remaining one-and-a-half cups sifted powdered sugar and mix until well blended. Carefully replace towel and return mixer to high speed; beat for five 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.

A few things to note about this recipe:

  • Watch your cake carefully! Mine only needed 30 minutes in the oven.

  • Don't be alarmed if it looks like the crust mixture spreads too thin onto the pan. Somehow, it all gloriously works itself out.

  • There are tons of variations of this recipe you can also try - like using different cake mixes (lemon, chocolate, etc) and experimenting with different nuts for the filling.

  • Let it cool completely before trying to slice. It's very gooey, people! I even recommend letting it harden a bit more in the fridge before slicing.

  • Don't beat yourself up about the fact that this cake has a whole stick of butter, a block of cream cheese, and practically an entire two-pound bag of powdered sugar in it. Everyone deserves an indulgence once in a while. Just make it count!

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    Location Info


    315 Travis, Houston, TX

    Category: Restaurant

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    My Voice Nation Help

    Jesus! I'll take one to go, please!

    Ginny Braud
    Ginny Braud

    Ok so I tasted the Buttercake you made. The rest of the day I'll be hopping around the office singing "Butt-butt-Butt-Buttercake Butt-Butt-Buttercake to the tune of Gaga's Pokerface. I'm irritating everyone around me. Thanks dear, it was wonderful!!


    I've had that recipe taped to my refrigerator door for years, but I can't bring myself to make it because I know I'll eat the whole pan in one sitting and immediately make another.  Kudos to you for even letting it sit long enough to take a picture!  I'll stick to budgeting this treat one square at a time with each visit to Treebeards.

    Red Bean
    Red Bean

    That's not a copycat version, that is Treebeard's recipe, from their cookbook.  It's worth the extra effort and clouds of powdered sugar.  The square they sell in the restaurant always has a better texture than mine, but both are wondermous.


    Did you bring that into the office today? If so I'mma come down there and steal some. I'll forge a HP work badge and everything.

    I think your recipe is off because I swear there's a whole stick of butter in each slice.

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