Gooey Butter Cake

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.


Gooey Butter Cake is one of St. Louis' food inventions. One I prefer to toasted ravioli. I do like St. Paul Sandwiches, another St. Louis food invention, but not with breakfast or for dessert.

On to the real deal.

Gooey Butter Cake is a yellow/white cake topped with an almost jello like mixture of butter and sugar. It is baked and then topped with a solid dusting of powdered sugar. It is every bit as good as almost two cups of sugar and more than a stick of butter split between 9 servings can be.

Two different German St. Louis bakers lay claim to the accidental over portioning of butter that resulted in the invention of Gooey Butter Cake, the Heimburgers and the Hoffmans. It was the 1930's. Throwing out a could be sold cake was out of the question. And a good thing too. If I ever get my hands on a time machine, finding out who was first (what's on second) will be on the list. Until then, both lay claim and both follow almost identical recipes to this day.

The Saint Louis Days/Saint Louis Nights Cookbook presented by the Junior League of St. Louis has become the defacto repository of many of St. Louis' classic recipes. I use my mother's 1994 first edition often. As of 2003 they have published more than 50,000 copies. I think the one I picked up last week is my third.

One page 43 is the recipe from Fred and Aurey Heimberger. Fred's father made one of the sweetest mistakes in St. Louis history and his family still bakes a ton of Gooey Butter Cake every year. I have followed the recipe many times. If you watch your tempurature and avoid any healthy substituions, you will end up with a St. Louis classic.

Here you go

Yield:  9 servings

Crust:

1 cup all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup butter

Filling:

1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1/4 light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
Powdered sugar

Crust:

  • In a mixing bowl, combine flour and sugar. Cut in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs and starts to cling.
  • Pat into the bottom and sides of a 9 X 9 X 2 inch greased baking pan.

gooey butter cake sliceFilling:

  • In a mixing bowl, beat sugar and butter until light and fluffy.
  • Mix in egg until combined.
  • Add alternately flour and evaporated milk, mixing after each addition.
  • Add corn syrup and vanilla. Mix at medium speed until well blended.
  • Pour batter into crust lined pan.
  • Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
  • Bake at 350° for 25 to 35 minutes until cake is nearly set. Do not over cook. Cool in pan

gooey butter cake recipe

Notes on the recipe. You can find some recipes online that call for yellow cake mix. Why? This recipe lets you control the flour and sugar. There are also recipes that call for cream cheese. That is a chess pie. I don't know why. Make the real deal.

Who knew the St. Louis Convention and Visitor's Center had a page on Gooey Butter Cake? I didn't. But if you are in town, I would certainly make sure you have some.

Of course it has a wikipedia page.

What you won't find on my page are any links to paula deen's theft of a chess pie recipe that she says she invented and calls a gooey butter cake. If you follow her recipe, you will get a nice chess pie. And it tastes good. Or at least as good as plagiarizim can taste.