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The cake was originally made with a yeasted sweet dough, but now more commonly is built on a base of yellow cake.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
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 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 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.
Toss in the yeast.
Give it a stir to start to dissolve the yeast.
Let it sit for a few minutes while you start the dough.
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.)
Beat them until they’re well combined.
You’re looking for a sparkly paste, like this:
Toss in the egg. Beat until well incorporated.
Add the flour.
With the mixer running on low, pour in the milk/water/yeast mixture.
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.
Put the dough in your baking dish.
Smoosh it down with your hands…
…so that it fills the entire bottom of the pan.
Cover the pan with plastic wrap. Set it in a warm place to rise for 2-3 hours, or until doubled in height.
Make the topping
When your dough has risen, it will look decidedly poofy. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
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.)
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.)
Toss the butter and sugar in the bowl of your mixer.
Beat together until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Toss in the egg. (Sounds familiar, eh? Don’t worry. The proportions are totally different from the sweet dough you made earlier.)
Beat until you have a happy, uniform paste.
Toss in the flour.
With the mixer running on low, drizzle in the corn syrup mixture.
Beat until it’s incorporated.
Assemble the cake
Spoon the topping in big blops on top of the risen sweet dough.
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.
Pop the pan into your pre-heated 350-degree oven. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown.
As it bakes, the topping (which has a ton of butter) will liquify and smooth out.
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.
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.)
Cool the cake in the pan to room temp before slicing.
Serve dusted with powdered sugar.