Cyndee’s Neiman Marcus Cake

by Kirsten on March 30, 2012 · 93 comments

in Cakes, Desserts, Uncategorized


The other week my son brought some cherry poppy seed cake over to our neighbors across the street. The recipe for the cherry poppy seed cake makes a big sheet and I knew that it was way too much for us to eat.  A few days later they returned the dish the cake was delivered in with another treat inside. The neighbor’s son told us it was called Neiman Markus cake. A handwritten note by his mom, Cyndee, on the dish said that you never return a dish empty. The note made me smile, since sharing some cake brought back more to our house, which was really not my intention at all, but how nice of her. Sure enough, we had to try the Neiman Marcus cake right away. It was still warm, had a vanilla cake bottom, and a sweet crunchy creamy cheese topping. It was absolutely fantastic. I called Cyndee the next day to thank her for the cake and ask her for the recipe.

I am sure many of you have heard of and eaten Neiman Marcus cake before, but to me it was something new. My favorite part was the topping that reminded me of a German cheese cake with its creamy, but light consistency.

Cyndee's Neiman Marcus Cake
4.0 from 25 reviews
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12
  • for the cake layer:*
  • 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • ⅔ cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • *{Instead of making the cake layer from scratch you can also use a vanilla/ yellow box cake (one without pudding) mixed with 1 stick melted butter and 2 beaten eggs (nothing else is added!). This is what my neighbor Cyndee does.}
  • for the topping:
  • 1 8 oz softened cream cheese
  • 3 + ¾ cup powder sugar (1 box)
  • 2 eggs well beaten
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9 by 13 inch baking pan.
  2. To make the cake layer from scratch, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. On medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, then the sour cream, vanilla, and lemon zest, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix well. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir just until smooth. Finish mixing by hand to be sure the batter is well mixed. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared baking pan.
  3. Mix the ingredients for the topping and spread evenly on top of the batter.
  4. Bake for about 30 -35 mins and let the cake cool before removing it from the pan.


Vanilla cake recipe adapted from Ina Garten. Neiman Marcus cake recipe from my neighbor Cyndee.

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{ 90 comments } December 30, 2013 at 9:13 pm

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AG September 20, 2013 at 4:31 am

Hi Kirsten, I live in DC and I didn’t know if I should have made a HA adjustments. Don’t know how to. And I bake every week for church potluck and this is my first overflow problem.

AG September 17, 2013 at 6:31 pm

The first time I tasted this cake bought from a bakery, i knew i had to try to make one. today was the day, as my husband was returning home from a long trip abroad. First of all, thank you for the recipe, the cake did taste great and i followed your recipe from scratch. However I had some issues: while baking the cake overflowed and I had to open the oven to place a drip tray. Secondly, the bottom cake did not crust. The top browned too much. It took longer time than 35 mins. The cake I bought from the bakery had some kind of glaze of the top, somewhat like a French pastry type of crusting. If anyone knows, pls share. Overall, I would make it again but with a bigger pan, even though I did use a 9×13 inch pan.

Kirsten September 18, 2013 at 9:14 am

Hey AG, your problems with the cake sound like mine at High Altitude. That’s usually when we see the overflowing. Are you at HA and did you make any HA adjustments?

Party catering September 11, 2013 at 7:04 pm

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and reporting! Keep up the good works guys
I’ve added you guys to my blogroll.

Jayne July 5, 2013 at 12:33 pm

I have to chime in that it just looks like a fancy version of gooey butter cake. And it was first a St. Louis thing.

kay June 10, 2013 at 6:25 am

Hi Kristen,
I have made this twice now and loved it but it never comes out looking like your pictures! I live in Canada (not sure whether this affects the baking or not) and usually the edges rise and the middle sinks and it’s pretty gooey all around..The 2nd time around I made sure to use room temp cream cheese and eggs and got a bit better result but still it rose around the edges and the middle sank although the middle sort of had a semi meringue like appearance. The top was also very brown. Can you please help me figure out what I’m doing wrong? I’ve sent the recipe to my aunt in Phillippines and she along with her friend have also tried making it with the same results…


adrienne May 4, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Kirsten: starting to try Cyndee’s cake again: This time I plan to use a cake mix. In the recipe to make from scratch it calls for lemon zest and cornstarch. Are you sure you should not add
those ingredients to the cake mix? Thank you for your help.

Kirsten May 4, 2013 at 8:16 pm

Yes. Just follow the instructions.

Judy Navarre April 27, 2013 at 12:34 pm

How do you keep topping from running to the center of cake while baking?

kim April 19, 2013 at 8:51 pm

This looks yummy.
I am from St Louis, this is not Paula Dean, nor nieman Marcus. The gooey butter cake was, is and always will be from and originated in st louis.

Eliazabeth van Tubbergh April 3, 2013 at 9:19 am

This was so ridiculously sweet we could not eat it!

Kirsten April 3, 2013 at 10:40 am

Elizabeth, I am so sorry the cake was too sweet for you. Some American desserts are too sweet for my taste, too. I would recommend omitting some of the sugar for a less sweeter cake.

f.f March 3, 2013 at 10:20 pm

tanx for this cake, but where is the Instructions for filling..???!!!

Kirsten March 4, 2013 at 6:38 am

Hi, which filling? This cake has a topping, but no filling. Thanks.

Azuki January 27, 2013 at 1:34 pm

I made this with the from-scratch cake recipe, and did not care for it. I think almost 6 cups is far too much sugar for one 9×13 dessert. It was especially apparent in the topping — the tang of the cream cheese was completely overwhelmed by all the powdered sugar. If I make this again, I will reduce the sugar in the cake by half (1 cup instead of 2 cups) and for the topping, make it with the same amount of cream cheese but use 1 egg rather than 2 and reduce powdered sugar to 1 1/2 cups, or even less (so the consistency is about the same) and see how things go. Also, I found it needed about 45 minutes to bake in my mom’s oven. Served with fresh blueberries, which helped a little bit to cut the sugary taste. I really wished I had some black tea to wash it down. I am glad I tried it but don’t think I’ll be making it again as the recipe directs.

Kirsten January 27, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Azuki, I personally prefer cakes less sweeter, too. Please, adjust the sugar to your liking and let me know how it came out. I would love to hear! Baking times always very, depending on the oven and the altitude. Thanks for your feedback. Kirsten

Evaray January 26, 2013 at 8:05 pm

I tried this cake and boy was I in for a surprise. It was an easy cake to make. yet when it went into the oven, things went a bit weird. First, the cream cheese topping, sank into the cake. Second, the cake took 50 minutes to bake. All in all it was still good. Hence, I was disappointed that it didn’t come out as nice as your photo.

Kirsten January 27, 2013 at 9:44 am

Evaray, was your topping at room temperature? January 23, 2013 at 5:00 am

“Neiman Marcus Cake” seriously causes me think
a small bit extra. I personally appreciated each and every single part of
this blog post. Thanks for the post -Odessa

Toshia Y. January 10, 2013 at 9:45 pm

Here in the south that’s called an ooey gooey butter cake, and it is great!

Chef Jessica December 23, 2012 at 10:41 am

I love Neiman Marcus cake, though I have always heard it called Neiman Marcus bars here in TX!! Trying this today as a gluten free version!!!

adrienne December 22, 2012 at 12:30 pm

HI after 35 minutes the cake was not cooked the top was getting very brown but the inside was loose?

Kirsten December 22, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Hi Adrienne,
I am so sorry that happened. Something must have gone wrong along the way. This is my neighbor Cyndee’s recipe and she has been baking this cake successfully for many years. It always comes out fine.
Did you bake it from scratch or use the cake mix? Were all the ingredients at room temp.?

adrienne December 22, 2012 at 11:59 am

I am baking the cake now…it is the oven for 35min. and it is so loose. It seems like it is not cooking??

Melanie November 7, 2012 at 9:39 am

I made this last weekend. It was very good, but I would call it Lemon Cake, as it was very lemon-y! That isn’t a bad thing, it just wasn’t exactly what I was expecting :). If you left out the lemon, you could do so many other variations, I am sure! Still very tasty, though! (BTW, I made the entire recipe, no box mixes…)

Kera November 5, 2012 at 6:26 pm

Hi I really want to make this but all of the cake mixes I have at my house right now have pudding in them. Does anyone know if it’ll still work? And I wanted to try it with a strawberry cake mix.

Jenny Davis October 28, 2012 at 4:09 pm

I pinned this on Pinterest and was so excited for a Sunday dessert. It all looked delicious but the middle came out like pudding after baking 35+ minutes. Any tips on how to avoid that for next time?? Thanks!

Kirsten January 27, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Jenny, you need to use a cake mix without the pudding and it will be fine.

Z October 10, 2012 at 1:49 pm

I need new neighbors (and family for that matter), as I always get my dishes back empty!
This is a beautiful cake (regardless of where it originated from)! I have a Potluck Brunch to go to next week and I am taking this.

I found your site via Pinterest! Off to see what over yummy recipes you have posted.

Emily October 3, 2012 at 7:17 pm

Justice this and looks and smells Delish!!! Maybe this is a dumb question but how do I store this cake? With the cream cheese toppig I assume it needs to go in the fridge. Is this correct?

Vanessa September 22, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Quesion with the box mix. You just add the box mix and the two ingredients? Or you make the box as derected and in addition do the butter and eggs?

Kirsten September 22, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Yes, just those two ingredients. Happy Baking!

Chelsey B September 20, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Hello, I am making this as I type this, and I think there might be a typo in the recipe?? I am subbing a box of cake mix since I have it handy, but I think it needs to be 1.5 sticks of butter instead of just 1 stick? I put 1 stick in originally and it would NOT even come close to pouring into the casserole dish, it was so thick. Just a thought…

Kirsten September 20, 2012 at 7:19 pm

The batter is pretty thick and needs to be spread into the form. No other liquid is added. the box mixture is one without added pudding. Hope yours comes out fine.

Didi September 19, 2012 at 2:21 pm

Hello just have a question when you wrote mixed with 1 stick of melted butter & 2 beaten eggs those that mean don’t use what the box ask for and replaced with the butter and eggs just a little confused. Thank you

Felicia October 14, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Yes, just the melted stick of butter, 2 beaten eggs and the dry cake mix.

Didi October 18, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Thank you

~ callee ~ September 19, 2012 at 10:07 am

This looks amazing! I can’t wait to try it!

Laura September 10, 2012 at 8:17 pm

I have never heard of this cake either but I am pinning and making for sure! Anything that uses a cream cheese topping has got to be delish!

CD September 2, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Making this today. Can’t wait to try it

Tara August 31, 2012 at 7:28 pm

Silly me! I made this according to the directions and wondered why it came out weird…I came back to the site looking for comments from others on why the consistency would be off. Then I noticed your “High Altitude Baking” link and figured it out. Guess I’ll have to make this again with adjustments for sea level!

Kirsten September 7, 2012 at 5:02 pm

This cake is not adjusted to my altitude. Like I mention often, a lot of sea level recipes do work at my altitude as well, you just never know.I am so sorry it didn’t work out for you. Did you have all the ingredients at room temp? Did you use a baking mix without the pudding?

Kirsten August 17, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Paula, All your ingredients should be room temperature while baking. If the topping is too cold it could easily sink. Hope that helped.

Paula Rouse August 17, 2012 at 2:24 pm

I made this today, and It was delicious. However, every time I make one, the gooey part sinks to the bottom, and the cake rises over and around the top. Can anyone suggest how to eliminate this?

stephanie August 13, 2012 at 1:52 pm

Found this on Pinterst. I am having a party at the end of the month and this will be perfect. Thanks, Awesome!

Linda August 11, 2012 at 8:53 am

I make a cake like this called Butter Squares. The recipe calls for a cup of chopped pecans sprinkled on top before baking. My family loves it.

Carolyn July 6, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Oh my- I was so excited. This has a beautiful cake batter, that looked heavenly, and it smelled wonderful while baking…. for a while…. 🙁 It overflowed the pan, thank goodness I had placed it on a baking sheet before baking. I live in Salt Lake City, maybe my altitude is too high. I will try this again but make it in a larger pan.

Kirsten September 7, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Carolyn, this recipe worked at my altitude without adjustments. Sounds like you live higher up and need to adjust some.

kathy- KDM Photography June 30, 2012 at 4:12 pm

thansk for the recipe! I am going to make this for a party tomorrow and I think I am going to add a lemon layer in between the cake and cream cheese layer. YUM!!!!

Chelle June 28, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Oh I am so sad 🙁 I know better than to use the exact time for a recipe. I usually check it 5-10 minutes early. I totally forgot and went the whole time. Let me just say this totally smelled like a burnt marshmallow. I still could eat it, but the corners were toasty and the top golden brown. Definitely will be making this again. And it’s going to be perfect looking like yours lol. Regardless, it tasted amazing. So tell your neighbor.

Elaine June 25, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Made it and loved it! Took it along to some friends for dinner last night, and we all enjoyed it. (except for one guy who claims to dislike cream cheese. oh, the insanity!) thanks for a great recipe!

Jenn @therebelchick June 22, 2012 at 8:32 pm

This looks divine!!

Susan June 22, 2012 at 11:24 am

I would add some vanilla to the topping. I know it is a delicious cake. They used to sell it at the gourmet take out store in Oklahoma City.

Aerica June 21, 2012 at 10:10 pm

Not to be negative or anything but this is a gooey butter cake recipe and it originated in St. Louis. It has nothing to do with the store.

Kirsten September 7, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Thanks Aerica, good to know!

CHRIS R. June 21, 2012 at 10:10 pm

This wonderful and lucious dessert is known as” chess bars” in C.C. TEXAS. All my familia loves it!!!

martha in the middle June 20, 2012 at 5:36 pm

this is almost exactly the recipe I use to make the St. Louis breakfast cake known as Gooey Butter Cake. Paula Deen acts as though it was her idea/recipe. But I can assure you, this cake has been a hit at every grocery store and bakery in St. Louis for several decades. It is sugar-overload-awesomeness! Mmmm!

Sherry June 21, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Martha in the middle…you are correct! it’s Gooey Butter Cake in the St. Louis area…and I’ve made it for years!

Janna@littlemagnoliakitchen June 19, 2012 at 8:38 pm

This is my son’s favorite dessert. I have made it so many times using the box cake mix but I think I will give the “from scratch” recipe a try! Looks so yummy….wish I had one right now!!

Eunice June 12, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Just made this. I hope there will be some left for my husband when he gets home… : )

Kerry May 29, 2012 at 5:40 pm

This actually sounds a lot like Paula Deen’s Gooey Butter Cake. I make one at Thanksgiving adding a can of pumpkin (not pie mix) and some pumkin pie spice to the cream cheese mixture. Top it with whip cream and it’s better than pumpkin pie. YUM!

Jo May 26, 2012 at 7:07 pm

I was wondering if all your recipes are made for Denver altitude. That will make a difference when baking at lower altitude. Learned that lesson well when I baked (or tried to) in Breckenridge and Vail.

Kirsten September 7, 2012 at 5:07 pm

Jo, some are, some are not, just depending . I usually specify the High Altitude adjustments to avoid confusion.

Phyllis May 2, 2012 at 4:11 am

Being from Texas this is what I’ve always called this cake; I now live in the “deep south” where they call it Chess Squares!

Lacy April 8, 2012 at 10:09 am

Hi Kirsten! It was lovely to meet you on Friday at the Wellness Center.

This cake looks divine! Your neighbor must be from the south, because my mother taught me the same rule about never returning a dish empty. I wondered when I saw the name if it was related to the Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookie, but your other commenters cleared that up. Love a recipe with a story!

Carmen April 6, 2012 at 7:56 pm

This is very similar to Gooey Butter Bars made famous by Paula Deen. I’ve been making Gooey Butter Bars for years and have friends and family request them!

Erin April 6, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Making this for our Easter dessert! Thanks for sharing!

Jennifer April 5, 2012 at 7:49 am

This cake is very much similar to the famous St. Louis ooey gooey butter cake. I have to have one whenever I am visiting family there. I have tried making other recipes before but they do not compare to the original. This recipe is different and looks much more like it. Can’t wait to try it very soon.

Mandy April 3, 2012 at 2:22 pm

You can also do this with a German chocolate cake mix and it is wondrous!

Adita May 22, 2012 at 7:03 pm

You must have read my mind! Thanks for answering my question before I asked it :O) I have tried it the original way and it’s absolutely decadent!

Erin @ Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts April 3, 2012 at 8:07 am

This looks moist, and delicious! I have never heard of this kind of cake before, but I would love to try it!

TastefullyJulie April 3, 2012 at 7:01 am

That. Looks. Heavenly.

It almost looks like a gooey butter cake only tastier.

Amy April 1, 2012 at 7:30 pm

This cake is otherwise known as gooey butter cake. Made simply with minimum ingredients (i.e. yellow cake mix, butter, cream cheese, eggs and powdered sugar). It is absolutely decadent! Adding various berries or even pecans just ups the amazing flavor of this super rich dessert.

cshelleywatkins394714 April 1, 2012 at 6:47 pm

There are a lot of variations on this. One is Paula Deens Gooy butter cake. I have been told because the cake is so “rich” in flavor that is why they call it Neiman Marcus. The upscale store for the rich. 🙂

Kristin @ Treat. Eat. Repeat. April 1, 2012 at 12:16 pm

I’ve never heard of Neiman Marcus Cake! I wonder why it’s called that..

Susan April 1, 2012 at 5:50 am

That was my mother’s mantra too–“never return an empty dish.” Both of your families are lucky to live near one another and reap the benefits of such wonderful bakers. I shared this recipe with my sister and we both can’t wait to try it. <3 Susan

sara March 31, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Yum, this looks so tasty!! 🙂 Will totally have to try this, it looks wonderful!

Medeja March 31, 2012 at 3:37 am

It looks just beautiful!

This is How I Cook March 30, 2012 at 9:33 pm

I’ve tried their chocolate chip cookies but not this one. Looks good! I’m also enjoying your photos. Calorie free that way!

Jessica March 30, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Looks really good, but that’s an old southern “cake”. It’s actually called Cheese Squares or Ooey Gooey

Jennifer Neef March 30, 2012 at 4:24 pm

This cake is new to me but it looks delicious!

Lea Ann March 30, 2012 at 4:06 pm

my GOSH, this cake looks fabulous. I’ve never heard of it and you can bet I’ll me making it soon. Maybe for Easter, as we’re invited over to a pot-luck brunch. Thanks for sharing the recipe Kirsten.

Sue/the view from great island March 30, 2012 at 10:24 am

This cake looks so good with that crackled top—I’ve never heard of it. I missed the cherry cake, glad you mentioned it.

Cooking with Michele March 30, 2012 at 10:06 am

I am totally stealing that “never return a dish empty” idea – LOVE that!

Karen Harris March 30, 2012 at 9:27 am

Being from Texas I am wondering where this recipe has been all my life? Well, thanks to you I’ll be trying it very, very soon. It looks so delicious!

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