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Gooey Butter Cake Recipe -- NYT

The New York Times printed a recipe of this St. Louis iconic dessert last week.

Does it seem similar to others?

Was there a definitive version, ever?

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  1. I don't know the lineage of the recipe.

    I did look at it last week and I couldn't tell if I would love it or hate it.

    Would be interested to hear from anybody who's made it.

    2 Replies
    1. re: karykat

      Me again.

      Apparently there is a Philadelphia version also?

      You've probably already seen this thread on the subject, but just in case you haven't:


      1. re: karykat

        This is a great link, karykat, to info on the The Real Deal. Thanks.

    2. I;ve never made it but have had it from a bakery near Philly - it was their specialty and it was out of this world when fresh. Leftovers probably should have been frozen, then thawed in the fridge before bringing to room temp on the counter.

      1. Could not pass a thread with the words "gooey butter cake" in the title. I am from Toronto and have never heard of such a thing, but I am making it real soon. Oh yeah!!! Thanks!!!!

        1. I thought this was Paula Deen's specialty...gooey butter cakes....google it and you'll see...doubt she created it but she has surely made it popular and I've seen plenty of references to it on this board.

          9 Replies
          1. re: Val

            All other recipes I've seen, including Paula Deen's, start with cake mix. I might give the NYT one a try as the first scratch recipe I've come across.

            1. re: chowser

              yep! You're correct...all of hers start with a cake mix-- I thought it was only her pumpkin gooey cake. Thanks!

            2. re: Val

              The one I mentioned was like a flat, yeasty dough of the sort you'd have in a danish or a pecan ring, then covered with a sweet, buttery goo and some granulated sugar for crunch.
              It is a different animal from Paula Deen's creation of the same name.

              1. re: greygarious

                Paula Deen's cake is an imposter. There, I said it. But it does have lots of butter.

              2. re: Val

                There's two different animals when it comes to Gooey Butter Cake, the one Paula has popularlized, and one from St. Louis which is more a coffee cake, with a yeasted cake base. And No, Paula didn't invent it for sure, because my mom used to make them, and she died before Paula started The Bag Lady, much less The Lady & Sons. Tho I will credit her Pumpkin one with inspiring me to create my own variations :)

                1. re: mhalbrook

                  My cousin used to bake gooey cakes for family reunions. I'm 36 and she was baking them when I was a young child so I don't give Paula credit for creating it, just for making it famous. It took me years as an adult to find a recipe because my cousin always called it a "chess cake". Then I saw Paula make one on her show and knew I had to try it.

                  1. re: alliedawn_98

                    But this is nothing like chess pie, right?

                      1. re: maria lorraine

                        I've never had chess pie but know from the ingredients I've seen that they are not alike.

              3. I know I'll be in the minority... but I can't do the Gooey cakes.

                For me it's like eating uncooked batter.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Jennalynn

                  Oh, well maybe I won't like it, either, but as of right now, I NEED it, hahaha.

                  1. re: Jennalynn

                    You're right, Jennalynn, Gooey Butter Cake is pretty buttery and sweet.
                    It's a cultural phenomenon, from St. Louis and Philly, and around long before Paula Deen.

                    1. re: Jennalynn

                      Oh, and one more thing, I like uncooked batter!!! Always the best part of my mom's baking when I was a kid...

                      1. re: Full tummy

                        No child's life would be complete without uncooked batter.

                        I get the textural association of gooey butter cake with uncooked batter. But I grew up in St. Louis, where GBC is iconic, and it was everywhere around the city and frequently on our Sunday breakfast table. The gooey-ness of GBC is just like the gooey center of a Danish, but that -- combined with the sugary sweetness and richness -- isn't for everyone.

                    2. STL native here. Like anything old and authentic, you find some variations. THE NYT version is ok basically in terms of ingredients. And though typically the GBC here is baked in 8 or 9 inch square pans, its only for 25 to 35 minutes at 350 (depending on recipe) and then left to cook/cool in the same pan for 2 or 3 hours before serving. 45 minutes in the oven, no wonder the top of the NYT version looks burnt. A slighty golden top, not brown is the goal.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: mtomto

                        Do you have a better recipe to suggest? Or stick with the same recipe but adjust the baking time?

                        1. re: Full tummy

                          Full tummy,

                          There are authentic GBC recipes around, maybe even on the Midwest board.

                        2. re: mtomto

                          Good post, mtomto.

                          You're right, the NYT recipe photo looks slightly crusty and a bit too brown. I'm used to *gooey*
                          Gooey Butter Cake, yellow-y, moist and glistening.

                        3. I pulled this recipe out of the paper to try it, but would love to have someone else be a guinea pig first. Has anyone tried this recipe?

                          I had GBC once - it was when I was pregnant (and had a huge sweettooth) so I'm not really sure how I'll feel about it now, hormones back in check. But I sure did love it then.

                          1. As asked for, here a two local verions that I use, depending on my mood. The first yields a buttery goodness cake, the second is more of a creamier verion--both being very STL rooted though. Note the ingredient differences to see how they vary. As I mentioned before, they have shorter bake times than the NYT verion. Your really looking for a yellow/gold finish in the oven and let sit in the baing pan for 2 to 3 hours to finish and set. I do recommend trying both to satisy your GBC curiousity and determine which you may like best. I like both, and have add other slightly different but close verions that are terrific. The NYT version is likely terrific too--I was just caught by the longer bake time.

                            ST LOUIS GOOEY BUTTER CAKE 2 RECIPES

                            adapted from Fred and Audrey Heimburger of Heimburger Bakery, published in St. Louis Days, St. Louis Nights


                            For crust
                            1 cup all-purpose flour
                            3 tablespoons granulated sugar
                            1/3 cup butter, softened
                            For filling
                            1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
                            3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
                            1 egg
                            1 cup all-purpose flour
                            2/3 cup evaporated milk
                            1/4 cup light corn syrup
                            1 teaspoon vanilla
                            Powdered sugar


                            Prepare the crust. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine 1 cup flour and 3 tablespoons sugar. Cut in 1/3 cup butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs and starts to cling together. Pat into the bottom and sides of a greased 9-by-9-by-2-inch pan.

                            Prepare the filling. In a mixing bowl, beat 1 1/4 cups sugar and 3/4 cup butter until light and fluffy. Mix in egg until combined. A bit at a time, alternately add 1 cup flour and evaporated milk, mixing after each addition. Add corn syrup and vanilla. Mix at medium speed until well blended.

                            Pour filling into crust-lined pan. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until cake is nearly set. Do not overcook. Let cool in pan.

                            RECIPE 2: From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch


                            For dough
                            1/4 cup whole milk, heated to 100 degrees
                            1 1/2 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
                            1/4 cup granulated sugar
                            2 large eggs, at room temperature
                            1/2 teaspoon vanilla
                            1/2 teaspoon salt
                            1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
                            6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces and softened
                            For topping
                            1/2 cup granulated sugar
                            4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
                            2 ounces cream cheese, softened
                            2 tablespoons light corn syrup
                            1 large egg, at room temperature
                            1 teaspoon vanilla
                            1/3 cup all-purpose flour
                            3 tablespoons instant vanilla pudding mix
                            2 tablespoons powdered sugar


                            Adjust an oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 200 degrees. When the oven reaches 200 degrees, shut oven off. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with a sheet of foil that extends over two edges. Grease foil and a medium bowl.

                            Prepare the dough: In bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix milk and yeast on low speed until yeast dissolves. Add sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and flour; mix until combined, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium-low and add butter, one piece at a time, until incorporated, then continue mixing for 5 minutes. Transfer batter to greased bowl, cover with plastic and place in warm oven. Let rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes. Spread batter in prepared pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

                            Prepare the topping: Using paddle attachment, beat granulated sugar, butter and cream cheese on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low; add corn syrup, egg and vanilla until combined. Add flour and pudding mix; beat until just incorporated. Portion dollops of topping evenly over batter, then spread into an even layer.

                            Bake in preheated oven until exterior is golden and center of topping is just beginning to color (center should jiggle slightly when the pan is shaken), about 25 minutes. Cool in pan at least 3 hours. Use foil overhang to lift cake from pan. Dust cake with powdered sugar. Serve. (Cake can be refrigerated for 2 days.)

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: mtomto

                              The topping from the first recipe on the dough from the second would be most like the GBC I had in the Philly area.

                              1. re: greygarious

                                Just reread mtomto's recipes and realized I misread them last month - the second recipe (St. Louis) would be what was made in the suburban Philly bakery

                                1. re: greygarious

                                  I think mtomoto's first recipe is the traditional St. Louis version: at least, for those that I have eaten the last 30 years or so. pj

                              2. re: mtomto

                                Wonder what the 3 tablespoons of instand vanilla pudding is for in the second recipe. What could that add that the other ingredients wouldn't, if you changed the proportions some.

                                1. re: chowser

                                  That's for the filling, and my guess is that the vanilla pudding -- being pudding -- is part of what creates gooey-ness. It's also a bit of a thickener.

                                  1. re: maria lorraine

                                    Would 3 tablespoons make a difference? It just caught my eye because it's such a small amount and doesn't seem necessary, as long as you adjust the other ingredients, or even add cornstarch or something like that. What would you do with the rest of the box? It seems odd to add something that artificial to a scratch cake that starts with yeast.

                                    1. re: chowser

                                      Agree with your last sentence, but I imagine the recipe is adapted for home use from a very large bakery (or "manufacturing") recipe. Bakeries and manufacturers use pudding mixes rather often.

                                2. re: mtomto

                                  MTOMTO -- thank you *so* much for this post. I made both of these cakes and they were both a hit. VERY different! I am interested in making the NYTimes recipe now, to see how that compares to these two. I posted pics/details of these cakes on my blog: http://pret-a-gourmet.blogspot.com/20.... Thanks again.

                                3. PS I hope Im not breaking any rules. These are previously published recipes and I have given credit to the source. ,

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: mtomto

                                    You can post ingredients, as is, but need to paraphrase the directions.

                                    1. re: chowser

                                      Here is a picture of Philadelphia butter cake for those of you who are unfamiliar with it. Philadelphia butter cake comes from Germany while the St Louis version was discovered by accident when a baker screwed up while mixing. (at least that's what I read)

                                      Philadelphia Buttercake aka German Buttercake


                                      1. re: phillybeer32

                                        Definitely different from our STL classic, which is not as firm (we leave it in the pan for cutting as it is gooey) and doesn't have a layer of white sugar icing on top.
                                        Thanks for the pic.
                                        p.j. .

                                  2. I printed the NYT recipe awhile ago and have decided to give it a try.

                                    Now question for you guys who have made any version of the gooey butter cake. Is it better to store this cake at Room Temperature or stick it in the fridge the very same day?

                                    The topping sounds wonderful but I'm worried that for this type of cake, room temperature would spoil it very fast.


                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Lorry13

                                      Umm, here in St. Louis, it never lasts long enough to worry about.
                                      You could wrap it tightly, refrigerate, and then bring to room temp, or warm up a bit before serving.
                                      It is best still warm from the oven.
                                      Good luck, p.j.

                                      1. re: p.j.

                                        The cake was amazing but one person can't eat that much in one sitting!!

                                        I ended up putting it in the fridge and I must say it still tasted great after a few seconds in the microwave.