The first time I visited Missouri was around Thanksgiving in 2000. I met my then-boyfriend’s (now husband’s) family for the first time. It was also the first time I ever tasted gooey butter cake. My husband’s grandparents are from St. Louis, and apparently this was where the cake originated. The first bite I’ve ever had of this cake was cloyingly sweet — So sweet that I could only stand a sliver of it. But it had potential to be GOOD.
I was watching Paula Deen a few months later and she featured gooey butter cake, but in a pumpkin version. It was a version that I made many times and enjoyed. It cut down the sweetness of the original version. But after years of following her recipe I still wondered about the original version. I searched and searched online for a good recipe but couldn’t find something similar to what I had in St. Louis.
Forward to a few months ago. I finally found a recipe that was sounded similar to the original version and was intrigued. We visited St. Louis in October and I was on a mission to get the best gooey butter cake in town. My husband’s grandparents usually get theirs at a grocery chain called Dierberg’s. I did a little research and found that St. Louis locals favored Park Avenue Coffee’s version. We grabbed a cake at Straub’s (an exclusive grocery chain) on the way out of St. Louis. It took everything in me not to eat it until we got back to California.
Oh. My. Goodness.
It was the best gooey butter cake I’ve ever eaten. The ingredients on the package were pretty simple, and surprisingly, it had cream cheese in it – which I didn’t see in the “original” version that intrigued me. But what made it better was the cake. The cake was slightly carmelized, almost crust-like and had some depth and nuttiness to the flavor.
So I did more research and modified a few recipes I found online. The result – a crusty cake that didn’t overload you with “sugar flavor” on the first bite. This version was acceptable, but I’m going to work hard on finding the ULTIMATE gooey butter cake recipe.
Okay… now to the recipe.
There are several versions of the crust. One is a yeast-dough preparation and another uses boxed yellow cake mix. I made my own “yellow cake mix” crust.
1-1/2 cups Sugar
2 cups All-Purpose Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup of cooled browned butter (melt 1 stick of butter until it browns)
1/4 c milk
1 8oz package of cream cheese
2 large eggs
1 lb of powdered sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350°F
Make the crust:
Spray the bottom of a 9″x13″ baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Mix together sugar, flour, salt and baking soda. Add egg, milk and browned butter to combine to a loose crust. Press mixture on the bottom of the baking pan.
Make the filling:
Place the cream cheese in a mixing bowl and beat until softened. Add eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly combined. Scrape down bowl as necessary. Slowly add powdered sugar in small increments (otherwise it will explode all over the place). Scrape down the bowl and add butter and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Pour over crust.
Bake for 45-50 minutes until center is jiggly. Don’t overbake or it will not be “gooey”.
Allow to sit for about an hour before cutting into it. Yes, that’s the hardest part. Top with powdered sugar and you’ve got yourself a yummy cake!