St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake


st louis gooey butter cake

So here’s the thing. I liked this cake so much that I immediately had to get it out of the house so I didn’t gobble down the entire pan.

Find the logic in that, I know.

The Angry Chef and I brought it with us when we went to hang out with our good friends over at Rippin Kitten, and everyone agreed: It was strange, for a cake. But it was undeniably delicious.

This cake is more of a coffee cake—not a sugary sweet dessert cake. It’s the kind of thing you’d have for breakfast, or serve with brunch.

Truth be told, it’s kind of like a giant danish.

It’s a sweetened yeast dough on the bottom that’s crowned with a layer of ooey-gooey, butter-y goodness that’s the consistency of pecan pie. The surface is just a little chewy, and gets dusted with powdered sugar right before serving.

It’s sweet without being too sweet, making it a perfect thing to have for breakfast.

About St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake

Being a Boston gal, I had to rely on info from the interwebs for this part. If you know about this cake, definitely pipe up in comments!

So, gooey butter cake is a traditional treat in St. Louis, Missouri.

The cake was originally made with a yeasted sweet dough, but now more commonly is built on a base of yellow cake. The top is a sweetened, gooey mixture that includes eggs and cream cheese.

Legend has it that this cake first turned up in the 1930s, by accident. A German baker confused sugar and flour when making a coffee cake, and…voila! The gooey butter cake was born.

(There seem to be a few versions of this story. Check them out here.)

How to Make St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake

I had this recipe from the New York Times tucked away. You can see why I clipped it out in the first place. With the words “gooey,” “butter,” and “cake,” I figured it would be right up my alley.

I was right.

This is a pretty easy cake to make. That said, it’s not fast.

First, you make a yeasted sweet dough and let it rise for 2-3 hours. (Sweet doughs tend to take longer to rise than regular dough.)

Then, you make the topping, spread it on, and bake it for about 40 minutes.

It poofs up in the oven, then sinks and settles as it cools.

St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake

From The New York Times

3 Tbls. milk, at room temperature
2 Tbls. water
1 3/4 tsp. active dry yeast
6 Tbls. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 Tbls. sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 egg
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

3 Tbls. + 1 tsp. light corn syrup
2 Tbls. water
2 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
12 Tbls. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 egg
1 cup + 3 Tbls. flour

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Yields 1 (9×13-inch) cake

Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch glass baking pan. Set it aside.

Dissolve the yeast

Put the milk and water in a small bowl.

milk in a bowl

Toss in the yeast.

yeast in a bowl

Give it a stir to start to dissolve the yeast.

dissolve the yeast in milk

Let it sit for a few minutes while you start the dough.

yeast dissolved in milk

Make the dough

Toss the butter, sugar, and salt in the bowl of your mixer. (Or in a large mixing bowl if you’re using a handheld mixer or beating by hand.)

butter and sugar in a mixing bowl

Beat them until they’re well combined.

beating sugar and butter together

You’re looking for a sparkly paste, like this:

butter and sugar paste

Toss in the egg. Beat until well incorporated.

add the egg to the butter and sugar

Add the flour.

add the flour to the butter and sugar

With the mixer running on low, pour in the milk/water/yeast mixture.

pour the yeast mixture into the butter and flour

When you’ve poured it all in, increase the speed of your mixer a little and beat for a few minutes, until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the bowl easily.

beat the dough until smooth

Like this:

smooth dough

Put the dough in your baking dish.

put the dough in the baking dish

Smoosh it down with your hands…

press the dough into the baking dish

…so that it fills the entire bottom of the pan.

sweet dough ready to rise

Cover the pan with plastic wrap. Set it in a warm place to rise for 2-3 hours, or until doubled in height.

cover the dough and let it rise

Make the topping

When your dough has risen, it will look decidedly poofy. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

sweet dough after rising

Grab your corn syrup. If you’re in America, that most likely means a bottle of Karo syrup. (Find it in the baking aisle of your grocery store.)

light corn syrup

Put the corn syrup, water, and vanilla in a small bowl. Whisk together until it’s uniform. (The corn syrup is thick, so it’ll take a minute or two to distribute.)

corn syrup and water mixture

Toss the butter and sugar in the bowl of your mixer.

butter and sugar in a mixing bowl

Beat together until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

cream the butter and sugar together

Toss in the egg. (Sounds familiar, eh? Don’t worry. The proportions are totally different from the sweet dough you made earlier.)

egg, butter, and sugar in a mixing bowl

Beat until you have a happy, uniform paste.

beat the egg butter and sugar together until uniform

Toss in the flour.

making sweet dough

With the mixer running on low, drizzle in the corn syrup mixture.

drizzle the corn syrup into the flour mixture

Beat until it’s incorporated.

sweet dough for st louis gooey butter cake

Assemble the cake

Spoon the topping in big blops on top of the risen sweet dough.

how to assemble the st louis gooey butter cake

With a spatula, gently spread the topping so that it covers the dough. Be careful not to push down too hard. You don’t want to deflate the dough underneath.

st louis gooey butter cake ready to bake

Pop the pan into your pre-heated 350-degree oven. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

bake the st louis gooey butter cake

As it bakes, the topping (which has a ton of butter) will liquify and smooth out.

st louis gooey butter cake in the oven

Yank the pan out of the oven after about 40 minutes. It may still be a little wobbly. That’s just fine.

The middle of the cake should look about like this.

brown surface of st louis gooey butter cake

The edges will be a little darker, like this. (Your cake may be poofed up when you take it out of the oven. It will settle after a few minutes.)

the edges of st louis gooey butter cake

Cool the cake in the pan to room temp before slicing.

Serve dusted with powdered sugar.

st louis gooey butter cake dusted with powdered sugar

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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie serves as an Associate Creative Director at PARTNERS+simons, a boutique ad agency in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.


  1. I can’t be the only St. Louis native who is a fan of the Hungry Mouse! It’s such a standard in St. Louis that it is among Entenmanns offerings in the metro area – don’t try the Entenmanns one, though. Make this recipe instead! Just like there are some really awful danish’s out there, I’ve had some really awful gooey butter cake. But when it’s good, it is oh so good. I think I may have to give this recipe a try, if my family doesn’t disown me for making a St. Louis classic from a recipe found in the *gasp* New York Times 🙂

    (Didn’t you do toasted ravioli a while back? That’s another St. Louis favorite.)

    • Awww, thanks Lisa, honey! And if it makes you feel any better, I got the impression (though the Times doesn’t explicitly state it) that the author may have gotten the recipe from a St. Louis native.

      And yeah…I did do toasted ravioli! I think I need to take a trip to St. Louis! 😉


    • I am hoping this is the cake of my childhood since I haven’t lived in St. Louis for nearly thirty years. Now the thing that I would love to see is the delicious and unique thin crust pizza I used to eat in the sixties.

  2. this is something I would definitely have for breakfast… everyday until it’s gone hehehe I love cakes like this especially since it is almost like a cousin to the coffee cake.

  3. I also am a St. Louis native. I actually didn’t realize until I moved away that not everyone had gooey butter cake! My boyfriend says that they are the same as Chess Bars, but I swear they are different!
    (I also almost lost it when I found out that I had friends at college that didn’t know what toasted ravioli was!)

    • Ha! Yeah, I don’t know where this cake has been all my life. It’s a-ma-zing! So glad I found the recipe! (Toasted ravioli, too! I think I might have lived in St. Louis in another life…)


  4. I made one of these for my daughter’s state project on Missouri. They are AMAZING. So amazing, in fact, that my dog managed to eat an entire 8×8 pan of just-cut pieces when I stepped out of the room for a moment, and she’s usually VERY good about leaving food alone. So yes, my dog and I are both fans of this delectable treat!

  5. I guess I did something wrong when trying to post my comment yesterday. I apologize if this is a duplicate. I was wondering if this could be made without the corn syrup? I’m out since having made a butter tart, and just went to the grocery store. I don’t keep maple syrup or honey on hand, as my will power is so minimal that I might use them all up in one day. I do have cream cheese. *sigh* I guess I’ll just have to wait to make this after I go to the grocery store again. By the way, your Strawberries & Cream Cake is absolutely AMAZING! That was the first recipe of yours that I ever made, and I’ve made it several times since. I was glad to hear that you’re feeling better. *hugs* Dani

    • Nope, not a duplicate! Not sure what happened…

      Ya know, I’m not sure how this would be w/o the corn syrup. My bet is that the top wouldn’t be quite as chewy. Let em know if you try it?

      (And I’m so glad you like the Stawberries & Cream Cake! That’s one of my favorites!)


      • For my topping, I just us: 8 oz of cream cheese, 2 slightly beaten eggs, tsp of vanilla extract, and 3 cups of powdered sugar. It’s more gooey than chewy, but you get the chewiness from the crust (usually).
        The base layer is usually a box of yellow cake mix, one stick of unsalted butter, and one slightly beaten egg. If you use melted butter, it becomes more dense and less chewy.

  6. I was hooked at ‘gooey’ and the part about it being the kind of thing you have for breakfast sealed the deal. Cake for breakfast is my kind of meal – the best part of waking up . . . ! 😎

  7. I read about this after showing my friend a recipe for Momofuku crack pie. I looked at others, but your recipe looks the best – no cream cheese. I also love the fact that you have photos of the whole process. I must admit, I will have to wait a while to make this – maybe March, but I’m going to print it out now. I’m sure I’ll love it!

  8. My grandmother made this for me when I was young. She called them “Kentucky Wonders”. How delightful to stumble upon this recipe, albeit with a different name! I’m definitely going to track down the origin of this now… 🙂 I’ll let you know if I find out anything interesting!

    • Hey Ella,

      It keeps well, tightly wrapped on the counter, for 2-3 days. You could keep it in the fridge, if you like. Not sure about how it freezes. Haven’t tried that. (Anyone?)


  9. I made a gooey butter cake years ago when Gourmet or Saveur or one of those food mags had an article on St Louis foods. What I don’t remember is it having a yeast dough base, and that would make it quite different.

    The one substitute I would make (ok, St Louisan’s, stop reading here) would be to use Lyle’s Golden Syrup instead of Karo.

    • Does Lyle’s golden syrup work? I don’t live in the US anymore and it is very difficult to get corn syrup. I never thought about substuting golden syrup! I grew up in St Louis and absolutely love gooey butter cake! so glad to find a recipe without the yellow cake mix. That is another thing almost impossible to find!

  10. It looks like lemon bars in its appearance, but obviously no lemon bars use a yeast base! Nor do they use corn syrup and sugar; just powdered sugar. I wonder if you could add lemon to this for a really excellent lemon bar.

  11. I’m from St. Louis and we never once made this cake! My father would go to the bakery every Sunday morning and bring a fresh one home for our breakfast after church. I’ve since tried a couple of recipes but none seem to recall the deliciousness I remember from those days so I’m trying this recipe in hopes of actually recreating it.

    I think previous attempts did include a more cake like base but that a yeast dough would be more in keeping with that fond memory…it was all about the topping!

  12. I just stumbled onto your site this morning, and was immediately grabbed by the \gooey butter cake\. I have never heard of this but will absolutely be trying it (today if the pantry gives up everything I need). My grandsons, who stay with us every Wednesday night, will think they have died and gone to \cake heaven\. It is definitely not like the chess cake recipe; sounds and looks even better.
    Thanks for a greeeeaat-looking recipe; I\ll let you know how it turns out!

  13. I was wondering when you get this all assembled can you throw a smattering of fresh blueberries on the top for an added kick? I love gooey butter cake and am glad to have this recipe and am going to make one later on today. Thanks a bunch

  14. St. Louis resident here who came across your recipe via Saveur. I’ve made this recipe two or three times and it really is good stuff — scads better than the requires-yellow-cake-mix-and-or-cream-cheese recipes that are the standard for most folks who bother to make it at home. (Gooey butter cake is available at many restaurants and most grocery stores and bakeries around town; there are a few bakeries dedicated solely to the stuff as well. Problem is, I find they’re all too sweet, and I find this recipe to have a much more acceptable level of sugar.) Steaming, strong black coffee is my favorite accompaniment to GBC.

    By the way: I use honey in place of corn syrup. I just don’t keep corn syrup around when honey, Steen’s cane syrup, and sorghum do the same thing and taste better.

    And on that note, flavor variations of GBC abound, but I haven’t yet tried them. Lemon is high on my list, though.

  15. I love your close-up step-by-step shots, they really remind you of how it feels to bake (the texture of the yeast, what flour looks like when its slowly getting incorporated into wet ingredients). You could almost smell the yeast granules in the milk:)

  16. thank you for posting this! i babysat for a family a few years ago and they had made gooey butter cake… i ate so much of it (i couldn’t stop myself!) that i was never asked to babysit for them again! but needless to say i’ve been searching for the recipe since! can’t wait to try it!

  17. I it this weekend for my boyfriend who originally hails from St. Louis. He and his family LOVED it! The only thing I’d change is the cooking time. I pulled the cake out of the oven after 25-30 minutes b/c it was already done cooking and was on the brink of burning.

    However I used a metal baking pan b/c we had no ceramic or glass. So mebbe a side note for your readers – if you are using a metal pan, cooking time is cut in HALF.

    Much love!

  18. What a small world!
    Would you believe that I visited your site because I Googled your Irish Cream recipe, loved your site, and then stumbled onto this recipe …. only to see that you are a friend of Rippen Kitten!! I love her site and we “know” eachother through Twitter! Crazy!

  19. Although I’ve not lived in St. Louis for decades, I grew up there and remember getting butter cake – no “gooey” in the name – from a bakery on Delmar at McKnight. It was delicious, but I never knew it to be a St. Louis “institution” until recently. I’ve been making the Paula Deen version for several years and love it, but am eager to try the less-sweet-but-longer-in-the-making yeast version. In answer to earlier questions, leftovers from the Deen version freeze beautifully and are very quick to thaw – although we’ve been known to eat it frozen!

    Treebeard’s Restaurant in Houston also makes an excellent butter cake using the cake mix base. They recommend using a 10″ x 15″ pan instead of 9″ x 13″ and that is now my preference as well.

    I’ve made variations, adding lemon to the basic filling, but the most popular variation seems to be chocolate mint, using a chocolate cake mix for the base and adding a few drops of Oil of Peppermint to both the base and the filling. Talk about gilding the lily!

  20. I was born and raised and still live in St. Louis, and I remember two Bakeries that were known for thier Gooey Butter Cakes first was and still in business is Federhofer’s Bakery, in Affton, Mo which is in St. Louis County, the other has been closed since the 1980’s and Ican’t remember their name but it was located at the corner of Lindbergh Blvd. and Baptist Church Rd. My fave is when its made with 80% Gooey Butter and 20% Cake. I just called Federehofer’s, and asked about buying one and the man said they bake them every day and usually sell out every day, but if you call them early in the morn they will set one aside for you.

    • The bakery at Lindbergh & Baptist Church was Heimberger’s. About the best one you can buy these days is at Helfer’s bakery up in Florissant. None of them beat the homemade though.

  21. My mom used to make this for me once in awhile as I was growing up in St. Louis. It is by far the best cake I have ever eaten in my life. No joke. I am eager to make one myself…theres a pumpkin one as well, and im really looking forward to trying that one as well.

  22. I read another similar recipe that said to use a 7×11 inch pan. Don’t do it! I like tall cakes and thought there would be room in the pan, the topping melted and rolled all over the sides of the cake pan and all over the bottom of the oven before I checked on it. A 9×13 pan is a must, it tastes great, but I have a large mess to clean up.

  23. I tried making a sourdough version and it came out really nicely. I like the contrast between the two layers but it was a challenge not deflating the yeast-risen layer while putting the topping. I might try parbaking the bottom layer so that it’s a little firmer when I add the topping.

  24. I have to say, I’ve made pretty much every sweet dish on here exept this one. All of them come out amazing by the way! Im goin to give it a try because it looks amazing, huge fan of the hungry mouse.

  25. After making and enjoying the Treebeards Butter Cake (same as Paula Deen Ooey Gooey Cake) I came upon this one. I like things “original” so I made it, but I used only 1 cup sugar in the gooey topping. It came out great, and looks just like the photos here. Definitely one I will make periodically. I wouldn’t say one is better than the other, just different approaches to similar confections. My wife and I (and our neighbors!) like both of them, for different reasons.

    BTW, the topping is plenty sweet with only 1 cup sugar, it might even be good with 3/4 cup. As we age, we need to be careful of sugar intake! Mike

  26. This doesn’t represent the true Gooey-Butter I grew up on. Kruda’s bakery in Collinsville, IL (across the Miss. River) makes a gooey-butter that simply OOZES golden gooey goodness when you cut into it —- almost like a lava flow of buttery sugary goodness. This one is way too much like a danish …. which is NOT what a gooey butter cake is. Google/call Kruda’s …. there’s no substitute anywhere in the world for theirs.

  27. We used to go up to the St. Louis area 3-4 times a year as my then husbands family lived there. I have tried the cake mix gooey butter cake, but they really never fit the bill. They were too sweet. I think this will be much much closer to what we always had up there. It was sweet, to be sure, but not cloyingly sweet like the cake mix versions, so I am definitely trying this.

  28. I found it! Thank you for posting this recipe. I grew up in Springfield, Illinois during the 50’s and 60’s. As children, we would stop by Rechner’s Bakery every day after school. It was a family-owned business located on 12th and Reynolds Streets. Mr. August Rechner Sr., a native of Baden, Germany, immigrated to Springfield in 1895. Over the years, he and his wife had 10 children. All of the sons worked in the bakery and store and they made the BEST BUTTER CAKE in the state! In addition to baking rolls, they also baked fantastic oatmeal cookies (2 for a nickel in those days!). I’m now in my 60’s and it’s still one of my best childhood memories.
    Go read “Made by God, delivered by Rechner’s” (by Bob Cavanagh) at You’ll love his article about the Rechner family and bakery.

    • I agree with JR. I was born in E.St. Louis and had a bakery in Springfield IL in the 80’s, I would get calls all the time for this cake…NOT the cake and cream cheese version. People who went to school in Springfield in the 50’s got sheet pans of this gooey butter cake delivered to their grade schools for an afternoon snack. I contacted the Rechner family but they would not share the recipe. This recipe looks like what many have described to me as that Butter Cake….Thanks for the recipe. I am a pastry chef at a country club in SW Florida now and they are going to get this on the Easter Buffet! Thank you so very much!

  29. Wow here all these years,I have been using cream cheese and yellow cake mix…when I was young and living in E St.Louis,Il. My mother always,always bought this from Krutus bakery on on bowman ave. Many many moons ago.Gonna have to givr this recipe a try. Thanks for the memories!

  30. WOW!! I was actually looking for the deep dish crumb like they have a Ferhoffers in St Louis but I confess this is a love of mine as well, although very fattening mmmmmm good I cant wait to make it!! thank you!!!

  31. Greeting up in St. Louis in the 60s and 70s, before Mega grocery stores took over, every neighborhood had a bakery and every bakery had gooey butter cake. Mine was Bretcher’s Bakery on So. Grand. The best by the way. I remember hearing an interview with owner chef of the then newly opened Union Station diner in NYC. He is a native St. Louisans and had but the gooey butter cake in his menu, but New Yorkers were not impressed so he took it off. The yeast cake is the original recipe, and is so much better then the cake mix. Just remember to back it long enough to get that crispy buttery crunch edging. The corners were always the best part of the cake

  32. My lifetime of buying “Gooey Butter Cake – A St. Louis Tradition” was at neighborhhod bakery. Then when they closed, two grocery stores: Scnuck’s (the old Bettendorf) which sold the original bankery’s cake (HAAS bakery established 1925) and then Dierberg starting making it also. Once moved from state and internet boomed. I tried contacting HAAS to order Gooey Butter since homemade is not the same as their’s. Had relatives bring when visiting. One relative (from MO but not STL) could not find HAAS at either store. Went to another off-brand chain and found a gooey butter (off brand) and brought it. It was better than nothing but too cakey. This is suppose to be SWEET and GOOEY. Last year, 2013, I went home for visit and found it in Straub’s and the Chase had it daily. HEAVEN. Then I realized it was every where. I guess when HAAS closed it was no longer just bakeries and those who had the recipee. It has now gone viral. Which is great. But we St. Louisans are picky, it’s powder sugar, not honey or syrup. It used as a coffee cake, but I would never classify it as one. It is in it’s own class when prepared correctly. If you change the ingredients to make less sweet, or less gooey; then please call it gooey coffee cake or syrup goo cake. Because neither is the St. Louis Tradition. (Grant you, I can only speak as St. Louis City girl, not County or Illinois. Can only assume bakeries listed above in the County and nearby Illinois are just as good. Truly have absolutely no idea as to when or how Southern Pauline got it.) Ditto above comments about baked ravioly. But let’s not forget Rich and Charlie Salad and local Crab Raggon … mmmmmm!!)

  33. Awesome! But I believe this is a Philadelphia Butter cake, as it has no cream cheese and is more bready than cakey. The St. Louis version has a cakier base and includes cream cheese in the topping.

  34. Great website for a Nicky New Guy cook. I appreciate the pics because I’m fairly new to a lot of these recipes. I’ve been cooking for most of my 62 years but it’s always been the same old things and now that I’m trying new recipes it’s great to be able to see what things should look like. I am baking this cake right now as I type; specifically I’m at the waiting for the dough to rise stage. Also I noticed in your recipe above you didn’t say when to add the salt in the topping section. You had a link to the NYT recipe so I got it but I thought you should know.
    Thanks for a great website.