St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake

Glad to report that I made it to Austin this weekend and got to see my pregnant sister and feel lil Kim kick, punch and hiccup a few times.  Babies are amazing.  I don’t think there will come a time in my life that I am not completely and totally in awe of a pregnant woman.  That little kid has fingers, toes, and eyelashes!  Incredible.  I cannot wait to see my little niece in just a few months…

I also got to see my nephew, my parents, aunt, uncle, cousin, and many relatives and family friends at my Grandpa’s 90th birthday celebration on Sunday.  It was wonderful to have the opportunity to spend time with those people.  I am so blessed to have such incredible family and friends!

Back in Amarillo tonight and remembered that I had some of this cake leftover in the fridge.  The piece I ate today wasn’t as good as it was 5 days ago, but it was still tasty.  It was crazy gooey and delicious freshly made!

In my search for the origin of gooey butter cake, I discovered that the cake’s roots are in St. Louis.  I know next to nothing about St. Louis.  I do know that this is the home of the well known Gateway arch, which is the tallest man-made monument in our country standing at 630 feet at its highest point.  It is part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and it located near the starting point of the Lewis and Clark expedition.  I had no idea there was so much historical significance to the arch!  Maybe I will plan a vacation to see some historical sights in the USA someday.  Someday…

Anyway, back to the cake.  After my experience with Paula’s cake I was intrigued, and a bit bothered, by the fact that almost every recipe involved a cake mix as the base.  Surely, at some point, the cake mix replaced a more homemade base.  I found a recipe for an “original” gooey butter cake on this site.  The base of this cake is made with a sweet yeast dough that rises around the sides of the gooey center.  The filling is similar: cream cheese, butter, sugar, an egg and vanilla.  This filling differs from Paula’s with the addition of corn syrup, flour and some water.

This recipe makes 2 8-inch square cakes, which is nice.  One cake for now, and freeze one for later.  I did not freeze my second cake; I brought it to work.  I think this cake would take well to freezing and thawing later.  I haven’t tried it though, so don’t take my word for it.

I liked that this cake was less sweet than Paula’s.  The dough is more bread-like and creates a nice firm base for the gooey filling.  The Paula cake was harder to serve since the cake mix base was not as firm.  One mistake I made, and will correct on my next batch of cakes is the baking time.  I baked these too long and as a result, the dough was a bit dark and not as tender as I would have liked.  The center however was still gooey and yummy.

In a time crunch the cake mix gooey butter cake is a great choice.  With just a bit of extra time and effort though, you can create a cake that tastes truly homemade with no fake tasting cake mix additives.  Enjoy!

St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake


  • 1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees)
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm milk (110 degrees)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided

Gooey butter topping:

  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • Dash salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for sprinkling
  1. For dough, combine water and yeast in mixing bowl of electric mixer; hand-whisk to mix, then let stand a few minutes. Stir in milk, sugar, vanilla, butter, egg, salt, and 2 cups of the flour. Switch to dough hook and knead on slow speed, sprinkling in as much of the remaining 1/2 cup flour as needed, until dough is smooth, about 5 to 8 minutes. Cover bowl with a towel and let dough rise in warm, draft-free place 45 to 60 minutes, or until almost doubled.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare gooey butter topping. Combine granulated sugar, butter, salt, egg, corn syrup, flour, water and vanilla in work bowl of food processor fitted with metal blade; process 20 to 30 seconds, or until mixture is a smooth paste. (Or beat with electric mixer until well mixed.)
  3. To assemble: Generously spray two 9-inch square baking pans with nonstick cooking spray. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  4. Gently punch down dough. Divide dough into two equal pieces. Press one portion into each prepared pan, pressing lightly to fit. Use fingertips to crimp edges about halfway up side of pan to make a border (so gooey butter will not run underneath). Use a fork to prick a few holes in dough to prevent bubbling (do not prick dough all the way through). Divide gooey butter into two equal portions; spread over dough in each pan. Let stand, uncovered, 25 minutes.
  5. Place pans on prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated 375-degree oven 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 15 minutes. Topping should be bubbly and golden brown. Do not overbake; topping will not be gooey if cakes are baked too long.
  6. Remove pans from oven and transfer to wire racks to cool until the topping settles and cake is just a bit warmer than room temperature. Sprinkle tops with confectioners’ sugar.
  7. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  8. Yield: 2 cakes; 10 to 12 servings each.