Next Best Thing to Tom Selleck Cake (Wisconsin, 1980s, adapted)

Next Best Thing to Tom Selleck Cake is a genteel, Christian take on Better than Sex Cake, which was a randy fixture of otherwise staid cooking magazines in the late 1980s.  This recipe is adapted from a version I found in Country Favorites, a 1980s community cookbook from a Catholic congregation in Wisconsin.  I imagine that the Cookbook Committee in St. Patrick’s Parish appreciated the more delicate title; other cookbooks refer to similar cakes as Robert Redford Cake.  This type of cake has found new life on the internet after being revived by Paula Deen, and this decadent calorie bomb certainly fits with her oeuvre.  The particulars of individual recipes vary wildly, but the general outline goes as follows:

  1. Bake a sheet cake from a mix.
  2. Poke holes in the top of said cake.
  3. Fill holes with something sweet and sticky.
  4. Frost with whipped cream.

The sweet and sticky something can be anything from ice cream topping to chocolate sauce to fruit syrups – Paula Deen’s version is heavy on the pineapple – but among the different variants out there I think I like the one in Country Favorites.  Next Best Thing to Tom Selleck Cake uses sweetened condensed milk and butterscotch sauce.  The end result is something akin to Mexican tres leches cake, albeit with sugar content amped up to eleven.

If there were a convenient way to cut this recipe in half I might make this more often.  It’s easy and delicious but impossibly sweet; I couldn’t even come close to finishing the piece I cut for myself (and I’m kind of a pig).

Next Best Thing to Tom Selleck Cake (Wisconsin, 1980s, adapted)

  • Preparation: 15 min
  • Cooking: 35 min
  • Ready in: 50 min
  • For: 18 pieces
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For the cake:

For the topping


  1. Prepare cake in a 13 x 9 cake pan as per package directions
  2. While the cake is still warm, poke holes in the top of the cake every inch or so with the handle of a wooden spoon, penetrating about halfway through the cake. Spoon or pour condensed milk into the holes, taking care not to overflow to the sides of the cake, then pour butterscotch topping into the holes. Allow the cake to cool completely.
  3. "Frost" cake with cool whip and sprinkle crumbled Heath Bars over the top. Cover and refrigerate 2-3 hours. Serve chilled, directly from the refrigerator.

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