This weekend the hubs and I are invited to a friend’s Octoberfest party and of course everyone is supposed to bring German food to share. We both have some German ancestors, but I rarely, if ever, cook German food. So I was wracking my brain to think of German dishes as I was browsing recipes on my laptop while sitting in front of the television watching baseball – then inspiration hit. Watching my favorite team, the St. Louis Cardinals, made me think of all of the uniquely St. Louis foods I remember eating growing up. My favorite was an awesomely decadent treat called Gooey Butter Cake.
Like most urban legends, there are several different versions of how it was created and each probably has some element of truth to it. This is how Wikipedia describes it: Gooey butter cake is a type of cake traditionally made in the American Midwest city of St. Louis. Gooey butter cake is a flat and dense cake made with wheat cake flour, butter, sugar, and eggs, typically near an inch tall, and dusted with powdered sugar. While sweet and rich, it is somewhat firm, and is able to be cut into pieces similarly to a brownie. Gooey butter cake is generally served as a type of coffee cake and not as a formal dessert cake. There are two distinct variants of the gooey butter: a bakers’ gooey butter and a cream cheese and a yellow cake mix variant. The cake was supposedly first made by accident in the 1930s by a St. Louis-area German American baker who was trying to make regular cake batter but reversed the proportions of butter and flour. John Hoffman was the owner of the bakery where the mistake was made. The real story is there are two types of butter “smears” used in a bakery: a gooey butter and a deep butter. The deep butter was used for deep butter coffee cakes. The gooey butter was used as an adhesive for things like Danish rolls and stollens. The gooey butter was smeared across the surface, then the item was placed in coconut, hazelnuts, peanuts, crumbs or whatever was desired so they would stick to the product. Hoffman hired a new baker that was supposed to make deep butter cakes, but got the two butter smears mixed up. The mistake wasn’t caught until after the cakes came out of the proof box. Rather than throw them away, Hoffman went ahead and baked them up. This was around the time of the Great Depression so that was another reason to be thrifty. The new type of cake sold so well, Hoffman kept producing them and soon, so did the other bakers around St. Louis. Today, the best place in St. Louis to buy it is here…
This is Gooey Louie’s…yes an ENTIRE STORE dedicated to Gooey Butter Cake!
Tthey sell about 10 different variations in addition to the original recipe..my favorites are Chocolate Chip and “Hwy 40: Driving Me Nuts”.
The version I make is the “shortcut” version with yellow cake mix but honestly I have made it from scratch and with cake mix and the taste is almost identical. Try it and you can call yourself a St. Louisan for a day…then tell me if you can stop at just one piece!
Susan’s St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake
1 box yellow cake mix
3 large eggs, divided
8 ounces unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon powdered sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or good quality vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9 by 9 inch or 9 by 11 inch baking pan with nonstick flour based spray. In a medium sized bowl, combine yellow cake mix, 1 egg and melted butter. Press into pan with your fingers, making a crust up the sides. It should look like this:
Use an electric mixer to blend cream cheese, 2 beaten eggs and 2 cups powdeded sugar and vanilla, and beat until smooth. Pour into pan and bake 35-40 minutes or until edges are browned. Dust with remaining powdered sugar after cake has cooled. Serve at room temperature. Store in airtight cake safe at room temperature. We are off to the party – hope the Butterkuchen is a hit!