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Sep 11, 2001 06:25 PM

Butter Cake Recipe?

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I'm not sure if this is a Philadelphia specialty, but I just ~LOVE~ Butter Cake-- the one inch (or so) high cake that's half wet and gloppy and kind of oozes in the bakery case as they take the slab and plop it into one of those white bakery boxes, then tie the box up with string... Mmmmm.

The best Butter Cake I ever had was from a bakery across from the Mayfair Diner in Northeast Philly. Does anyone have a recipe for this rich, gooey delicacy?

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  1. Generally speaking, "butter cake" is a plain dry cake made with butter. Which may get a frosting or filling, fruit and cream, etc. Does it seem they've poured some sort of syrup or buttery glaze over it? It sounds interesting, but as I've never been to a bakery in Philadelphia, I'd be guessing. Try asking the employees how they do that. Now I want to know.

    14 Replies
    1. re: ironmom

      Butter Cake is difficult to describe. There are parts of it that resemble cake but there's nothing dry about it. It may be closer to a cheesecake in texture, but it's more gelatinous, dense, half thick liquid/half semi-solid than cheesecake-creamy. It actually looks slightly gross, like butter that's melted and then partially hardened. I can't even imagine the fat content, but it's worth the calories for the texture and yummy flavor.

      When I was a child, my Mom would often pick up a Butter Cake from Weinrich's Bakery in Willow Grove in the same strip shopping center where our Dentist was located. It was a most "toothsome" reward after all the drilling and torture!

      If no one has a recipe here, I'll try asking (bribing) an employee as you suggested.

      1. re: ironmom

        No, that's the OTHER butter cake. We used to call this "German Butter Cake." I have a recipe that was published in the Evening Bulletin sometime in the 1960s. The bottom layer has yeast in the batter, but I seem to remember that you just mix it up and bake it without rising first. The top layer is butter/eggs/sugar and maybe cream? Very liquid when poured over the (unbaked) bottom layer, and gooey when baked. Sometimes there's a layer of cherry or pineapple pie filling between the cake and the goo.

        I'll look for the recipe tonight. I made it once or twice, but it was a lot of work. (Then again, I'm pretty lazy.) I've also made a reasonable approximation of the topping with eggs, 10x sugar, and cream cheese. Slop that over a doctored up yellow cake mix (made with less liquid and more eggs than the recipe calls for) and voila! cheater's butter cake.


          1. re: ironmom

            And any idea what a the size of a "pack of vanilla sugar" might be?

            1. re: ironmom

              I"Vanilla sugar" is a Dr. Oetker product. You can find it in the German section of your grocery store. I don't know how to substitute real vanilla and sugar for it.

            2. re: ironmom

              Thanks for the recipe, ironmom. It sounds a bit like the one suky was describing and looks like a lot of work as she mentioned, too. As far as the 2 packs of vanilla sugar go, I guess I'll have to try to find a German person who can explain that ingredient.

              I did a quick web search on Google and found two similar recipes using yellow cake mix. The one is from and was submitted by Lisa Wiedner of Union, MO.

              Gooey Butter Cake

              1 (18.25 oz) box yellow cake mix
              1 stick butter, softened (1/2 cup)
              2 eggs
              1 (1 lb.) box powdered sugar (4 cups)
              2 eggs
              1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
              Additional powdered sugar for sprinkling

              -Preheat oven to 350*F.
              -Mix cake mix, butter, and eggs together. Spread in well-greased & floured 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan.
              -Beat eggs and cream cheese together. Mix in powdered sugar. Spread mixture over cake mix.
              -Bake for 35 minutes. Cool and sprinkle powdered sugar over the top.
              Makes 16 servings.

              Here's a similar one from Mountain Laurel Inn B&B, Mentone, AL.

              Gooey Butter Cake

              1 box yellow cake mix
              1 stick of butter, melted
              1 egg
              1 box powdered sugar
              1 8-ounce package cream cheese
              2 eggs

              -Combine cake mix, butter, and 1 egg, & press into bottom of 9 x 13-inch pan. Set aside.
              -Beat together rest of the ingredients for 5 minutes and pour over mixture in pan.
              -Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until top is brown. Sprinkle powdered sugar over top while hot. Do not cut until cold.

              I dunno. These both sound tasty and gooey, similar to what suky described when she tried to concoct her own Butter Cake but your recipe, ironmom, sounds the most promising, buttery-wise and texture-wise. (As I mentioned, the cakes I've enjoyed are oozy with what looks like semi-congealed butter, and they barely hold together when they're out of the pan sitting in the bakery case.) Guess I'll have to try it sometime to see if it measures up to the bakery Butter Cakes. I also found a recipe which calls for light corn syrup and evaporated milk, as well as the butter, eggs, and powdered sugar in the previous two here; It calls for 2 cups all-purpose flour rather than the yellow cake mix. *SIGH* Guess I've got some experimentin' ahead!

              1. re: ironmom

                The dough for the bottom layer is definitely not quite so breadlike. More of a batter than a dough. And the topping is beaten till fluffy, then spread across the unbaked (or maybe, now that I think about it, partially baked) batter.

                And of course I couldn't find my old faded newspaper clipping.

                Sandi, the Gooey Butter Cake is exactly the same as my cheater's recipe.


                1. re: suky

                  Thanks for trying to find the old newspaper clipping, suky, and for your input. When I get a chance to try making one or all of these from the recipes ironmom and I found, I'll report back. I'll also make some inquiries about Butter Cake recipes/ingredients at bakeries in the future as I continue my Butter Cake Quest.

                    1. re: suky

                      WOOO-HOOOO, suky-- You're my hero! Looks like the Real McCoy and I can't wait to try it! I'm not the most knowledgeable or adventuresome cook goin' so can you tell me if you think I can find "extra-fine sugar" for the topping at my local grocery store (I shop at Genuardi's) or do I need a specialty store? They don't mean powdered sugar, do they? Also, I'm a scaredy-cat about baking with yeast. Is there a way to test the warm milk to be sure it's neither too warm nor not warm enough? Would a candy thermometer work?

                      Again, many thanks for finding the recipe!

                      1. re: Sandi

                        Superfine sugar is right there with the regular sugar, usually sold in boxes (1 lb, I guess) rather than bags. Or you can whiz some granulated sugar in the food processor. It's not the same as confectioner's (10X) sugar.

                        Milk warm enough to put in a baby bottle is fine for yeast. Just warm to the touch. Better to err on the side of too cool, because hot liquid will kill the yeast.

                        Be sure to let us know how it turns out!

                        1. re: Sandi

                          Sandi ; Make sure your Yeast is FRESH. Thats the ticket.
                          Always check the date.

                2. re:

                  I have been looking for this recipe for 30 years and I think the ironmom one is it! I had a friend get one from his mom in Bucks County Pa. and I thought it was so tasty and Yeah, Gooey.
                  Thanks, ironmom.

                3. re: ironmom

                  I love how people guess and make assumptions about something they never ate. Did you really think the OP couldn't figure out how to make a plain dry cake made with butter. It's a yeast based bottom layer with a gooey BUTTERY top layer, German in origin called .Butterkuchen


                  Wow - an 8 year old thread about Gooey Butter Cake... My friend would always talk about this, as he grew up in Philly in the 1950s and kept talking about it. I haven't actually tried the recipe below, but have made another recipe once before. It is definitely NOT yellow cake with cream cheese on top. It is a yeasty dough on the bottom, with a rich buttery/sugary goo on top, kind of like those old breakfast horn pastries, but with mostly the filling all on top. It is nasty-good. :) The recipe below sounds about right, and hope it approximates what you remember it to be. The first part of the recipe is the nutritional info - eek. 1/16th of the cake is 43% of your allotted saturated fat intake for the day...


                  Nutrition Facts
                  Serving Size 1 (91g)
                  Recipe makes 16 servings
                  Calories 348
                  Calories from Fat 147 (42%)
                  Amount Per Serving %DV
                  Total Fat 16.4g 25%
                  Saturated Fat 8.7g 43%
                  Monounsaturated Fat 5.0g
                  Polyunsaturated Fat 1.5g
                  Trans Fat 0.0g
                  Cholesterol 75mg 25%
                  Sodium 58mg 2%
                  Potassium 69mg 1%
                  Total Carbohydrate 46.4g15%
                  Dietary Fiber 0.7g 2%
                  Sugars 28.4g
                  Protein 4.3g 8%
                  Vitamin A 420mcg 8%
                  Vitamin B6 0.0mg 2%
                  Vitamin B12 0.2mcg 3%
                  Vitamin C 0mg 0%
                  Vitamin E 0mcg 2%
                  Calcium 26mg 2%
                  Iron 1mg 7%
                  detailed view...
                  how is this calculated?

                  Gooey Philadelphia German
                  Butter Cake Recipe #24308
                  This is great breakfast cake. The topping should be gooey. Cherry
                  pie filling can be added as a topping for variety.
                  by *Kathy*
                  2_ hours | 2 hours prep
                  SERVES 16
                  1/4 cup granulated sugar
                  1/4 cup butter flavor shortening or butter
                  1/4 teaspoon salt
                  1 large egg
                  1 (1/4 ounce) packet active dry yeast
                  1/2 cup warm milk (105-115 degrees F)
                  2 1/4 cups flour
                  1 tablespoon vanilla extract
                  1 cup unsalted butter
                  2/3 cup flour
                  2 cups superfine sugar (Must use Extra Fine!!)
                  2 extra-large eggs
                  4-5 tablespoons milk
                  1 teaspoon clear vanilla (optional)
                  1. Mix sugar, shortening, and salt in a bowl.
                  2. Add egg, and beat together for 1 minute.
                  3. Dissolve yeast in warm milk.
                  4. To egg/sugar mixture, add flour, then yeast mixture and
                  vanilla, beating about 3 minutes.
                  5. Turn dough onto lightly floured board and knead 1 minute.
                  6. Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a towel and let
                  stand in a warm place to rise 1 hour or until double.
                  7. Make Topping: Cream butter in a mixer.
                  8. Mix together flour and sugar; gradually beat into butter.
                  9. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
                  10. Add vanilla.
                  11. Gradually add just enough milk to bring mixture to an easy spreading consistency, being careful
                  not to make it too runny.
                  12. When dough is doubled, punch it down and divide in two sections.
                  13. Roll or pat halves into bottom of two well-greased 8" square pans (or a 13x9 pan).
                  14. Crimp edges halfway up sides to hold topping. Prick dough with a fork to reduce bubbling.
                  15. Spread topping evenly over dough. Let stand 20 minutes.
                  16. Bake at 375F 30 minutes for 13x9 or 20 minutes for 8x8 or until top is just golden and crusty, but
                  still gooey.
                  17. DO NOT OVERBAKE!
                  © 2009 Recipezaar. All Rights Reserved.
                  Share your experience with others, and post your comments on the recipe. Type 24308 in the Search
                  box at the top of Recipezaar, to get back to this recipe easily.
                  Recipe Notes & Rating: 5 stars 4 stars 3 stars 2 stars 1 star

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: homonculus

                    Well, that's kind of a buzzkill...

                    Anyhow, the Mayfair Bakery's version is one of the best. My family and I also hit a place in Somers Point, NJ called the Crabcake and Grilled Cheese Co. right on the way into Ocean City which had outstanding butter cake. It's firmer than the kind from Mayfair, but it was excellent. The plain my was my favorite, but they had other flavors, some topped with fruit, others with fluff and peanut butter.

                    1. re: homonculus

                      After looking all over the place (even in BOOKS...Yikes), this is IT. Many thanks...a present for my all male (hungry) family !!

                    2. I have an original recipe in German for Butterkuchen but I only know a few words in German. Can anyone translate information? Or even measures


                      Zutaten fur 2 Backbleche:
                      1 kg Mehl, 80 g Hefe
                      knapp 1/2 l Milch (milk)
                      4310 g Zucker (sugar), 450 g butter
                      1 gestrichener Teel, Salz
                      2 Eier (eggs), Zimt
                      1/2 Tasse Zuckerwasser

                      Zubereitungszeit: 40 Minuten (minutes) (ohne Ruhezeit)
                      Backzeit: etwa 25 Minuten

                      Omas beliebter Butterkuchen.
                      Wichtig ist, dafs der Teig dunn und die Butter-Zucker-Schicht obenauf fur Zunge und Auge deutlich spurbar wird.
                      Das Mehl in eine gewarmte Schussel sieben und in die Mitte eine Mulde drucken. Die Hefe zerbrokkeln, in etwas lauwarmem Wasser (water) auflosen, in die mulde geben und 1 Teel. Zucker daruberstreuen. Diesen Borteig, mit einem Tuch bedeckt, an warmem Plastz gehen lassen, sich verdoppelt hat (etwa 15 Minuten)
                      Dann die dauwarme Milch 200 g zerlassene Butter, 125 g Zucker, das Salz und die Eier zugeben und alles zu einem lockeren Hefeteig schlagen. Nochmals 15 minuten gehen lassen.
                      Dann den Hefeteig knapp fingerdick ausrollen und zwei Backbleche damit belegen. Die Rander Glattschneiden und ie Teigplatten weitere 15 Minuten zugedeckt gehen lassen. Den Backofen auf 250 degrees C vorheizen.
                      In den Teig in Kurzen unregelmasfsigen Abstanden mit dem Finger Vertiefungen eindrucken, jeweils eine Kalte Butterflocke hineinsetzen. Daruber eine dicke Schicht Zimtzucker streuen.
                      Die Kuchen im vorgeheizten Ofen bei 250 degrees C etwa 25 Minuten backen - sie durfen nicht zu braun werden. Die fertigen Kuchen mit dem Zukkerwasser besprengen, erkalten lassen und in schmale Streifen schneiden; ergibt ungefahr 40 Streifen.

                      Etwa 240 Kalorien/995 Joule pro Stuck

                      If anyone can translate, I would be grateful. I used to purchase butter cake at (German) Belmar Bakery in Overlea, MD. The recipe was a secret even when the bakery closed in the 1970s. Have not found any close Belmar's cake.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: bluebabe

                        Here is an edited translation from the Google translator, hope this helps. Ani

                        BRAUNSCHWEIGER BUTTER CAKE

                        Ingredients for 2 baking sheets:

                        1 kg flour
                        80 g yeast (probably 2 packs? my note)
                        1 / 2 liter of milk
                        4310 grams of sugar (sugar)
                        450 g butter
                        1 level T, salt
                        2 eggs
                        1 / 2 cup of sugar

                        Preparation time: 40 minutes (minutes) without a rest
                        Cooking time: approximately 25 minutes

                        Grandma's favorite butter cake.

                        It is important that the dough and the butter-sugar coating on top for the tongue and the eye is clearly felt. (?? not sure what this mean?? my note)

                        Sift the flour into a bowl and make a well in the middle of flour. Dissolve yeast in a little warm water (water) and add to the bowl measuring 1 teaspoon of sugar. Cover and let ferment. (about 15 minutes)

                        Then add warmed milk, 200 g melted butter, 125 g sugar, salt, and add the eggs and beat to a loose dough. Let rise covered for 15 mins.

                        Then roll the dough barely an inch thick and occupy two baking sheets with them. Crimp up the edges all around to contain the topping, cover and let rise 15 mins more. Preheat oven to 250 degrees C.

                        Using your fingers, make indentations all over the dough, into each hole make sure to put a cold butter flake. Sprinkle over with a thick layer of cinnamon sugar.

                        Put the risen cake into preheated oven at 250 degrees C for about 25 minutes baking - do not allow to brown too much. The finished cake sprinkled with Zukkerwasser (suger water? my note), cool slightly and cut into narrow strips, is approximately 40 strips.

                        1. re: playdoll

                          The first line says roughly that it's important that the dough be thin and the butter and sugar layer be obvious to the tongue and to the eye (i.e. when you eat it and when you look at it - I like the eating part being the first aspect cited).

                      2. Thank you for posting this topic. I try to explain butter cake to people here but unless you've experienced it, there's no describing it.

                        It resembled a giant Danish pastry with an extremely dense, rich, sweet filling. "Gooey" is one description. It was like a buttery caramel custard to me.

                        The place I associate with butter cake is Bauer's (sp?) Bakery on Bustleton Ave. I believe the place was destroyed in a fire years ago. If I do get back to Philly any time soon, I'll remember the diners mentioned here by the other posters.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: SFer

                          I used to live right behind Bauers bakery. What a treat. I would wake up to the smell of bread and pastry baking. It was a family owned German bakery. After two generations, the Bauer boys, and Betsy, were not interested in the demands of the bakery business. It was sold and only a few years later burned to the ground (Nov 2000) . Arson was suspected. I actually saw the fire, just after it started. No need to call 911 as the Fire dept was right across the street.

                          Butter Cake, Germanic


                          1 1/2 tsp. dry yeast
                          1 cup warm milk (115F)
                          3 3/4 cups (500g) four
                          1/4 cup (50g) sugar
                          3 egg yolks
                          2 1/2 sticks of melted butter
                          1 tsp. lemon juice
                          1 dash of salt


                          2 1/2 to 3 sticks unsalted butter
                          3/4 cup (150g) sugar
                          2 packs of vanilla sugar

                          Dissolve yeast in milk, and mix 1/2 of the flour to it. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes in warm place. Add the rest of the flour, sugar, egg yolks, melted butter, salt, and lemon juice. Knead well. Let rest for additional 20 minutes. Spread dough out on large greased (use butter) baking pan or sheet. Let dough raise again. Slice (than smaller than better) unsalted butter sticks, and put the pieces on top of dough. Mix sugar with vanilla sugar and sprinkle over the dough. Put loaf pan filled with hot water in the bottom of the oven. This will make the cake fluffy. Preheat oven to 400F. Put in the middle of the oven, and bake for about 25 minutes.

                          Note: Use only unsalted butter for the topping or the cake will be salty.