St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake

by Beryl

in Dessert

A rainy Canoe day in Seattle = Gooey Butter Cake. This cake was in the New York Times last Sunday, which means thousands of people all over the country have already made it. If you were not in that group, consider joining. I do not think of myself as much of a cake person.  Usually, the only cakes I like involve either a good soaking of liquor or a lot of fruit and spice, like upside down cakes.  I LOVE upside down cakes. But this cake, this is a good and weird cake. It is reminiscent of butterscotch brownies in taste and texture, but even more chewy and gooey. It involves making a yeasted dough which you will allow to rise for a few hours in the pan. Then a wetter batter is smoothed over the top of the risen dough and the whole thing is put in the oven. Some magic or miracle or science happens in the oven and what emerges is a golden brown, crackly topped, melty, soft and rich cake. This is not a bad idea for a Thanksgiving – it may not replace the requisite thanksgiving pies, but it can supplement a thanksgiving dessert spread, and will serve 15 people handily.

St Louis Gooey Butter CakeGooey Butter Cake

St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake

From the New York Times, November 4, 2009


  • 3 tablespoons milk at room temperature
  • 1¾ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour


  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
  • 2½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for sprinkling.

1. In a small bowl, mix milk with 2 tablespoons warm water. Add yeast and whisk gently until it dissolves. Mixture should foam slightly.

2. Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Alternately add flour and the milk mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition. Beat dough on medium speed until it forms a smooth mass and pulls away from sides of bowl, 7 to 10 minutes.

3. Press dough into an ungreased 9-by 13-inch baking dish at least 2 inches deep. Cover dish with plastic wrap or clean tea towel, put in a warm place, and allow to rise until doubled, 2½ to 3 hours.

4. Heat oven to 350 degrees. To prepare topping, in a small bowl, mix corn syrup with 2 tablespoons water and the vanilla. Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Alternately add flour and corn syrup mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition.

5. Spoon topping in large dollops over risen cake and use a spatula to gently spread it in an even layer. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes; cake will rise and fall in waves and have a golden brown top, but will still be liquid in center when done. Allow to cool in pan before sprinkling with confectioners’ sugar for serving.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Memoria November 13, 2009 at 7:46 pm

Wow. This is an interesting cake. I’m bookmarking this one. Lovely photos.


Connie November 14, 2009 at 8:59 am

I saw this in the NY Times and was wondering about it. I’m glad it turned out well. Gooey butter cake is a childhood favorite (I’m originally from St. Louis) and I wanted a good recipe, yay!


Beryl November 14, 2009 at 9:10 am

Yeah, it was really good, worth a shot. This weekend I’m going to make it again but try it in cupcake tins with cranberries on top, see if we can make it a little more festive and thanksgiving-y. If it works, we’ll update the post…


francesca November 17, 2009 at 10:47 am

Hello! I came across your site via Google and was hoping you could give me a tip or two, since you are clearly a more experienced cook / baker than I am.

I made the Gooey Butter Cake last weekend and was a little disappointed. My cake (bottom layer) came out really dry and I’m not sure what happened! I placed my concoction on the rack farthest away from the heat source in the oven and I didn’t overbake, either.

One thing that could be the problem was that I don’t have a mixer with a paddle attachment. Would you recommend mixing the yeast dough with my hands instead?? I’d love to make this for my office Thanksgiving potluck but I must do it justice.

Any advice you can give would be GREATLY appreciated! 🙂 Thanks!


Beryl November 17, 2009 at 9:39 pm

H Francesca, I’m not sure what happened to make your cake layer dry… I have a couple thoughts which you may be able to dismiss, depending. The first thing I wondered about was the size of your pan – was it a 9×13? If it was smaller, it would make for a thicker layer of dough which would stay drier because the wet batter wouldn’t penetrate as well (I know that because I actually tried making it in a smaller pan with thicker dough after making the original NYT recipe ….. made a drier cake)
Second, did you remember to keep the dough covered when it rose? If not, the dough will form a bit of a crust as it rises which will a) Keep it from rising enough, making for a tougher bread/cake layer and b) Keep it from absorbing as much of the wet batter.

Sooo, without a paddle attachment… I don’t know… hands? It would take a while… You’re going for a texture, so you can use your hands, or a stir for a long time with a wooden spoon – you want it to pull together into a sort of silky smooth ball, not be raggedy and loose.

The last thing I would say is just to make sure it’s not over cooked… I know you said you didn’t over cook, so that probably isn’t the problem, but just in case… it should be pretty wet coming out of the oven, like MUCH wetter then any regular cake… if it’s not nerve rattlingly underdone looking, it might be over done…


francesca November 18, 2009 at 9:21 am

Hello Beryl!

I gave the recipe a second try last night. I had no idea what a “paddle attachment” even looked like, I imagined an actual paddle, like a rubber spatula thing. I Googled “paddle attachment,” saw what it was and thought, “Hey! I DO have something like that!”

So, I mixed up a new batch very scientifically last night. I made two separate yeast-water-milk mixtures and chose the frothiest one. I carefully followed all instructions and let the dough rise for the maximum 3 hours under an airtight ReynoldsWrap seal in a classic Pyrex 9×13 dish. I even let it rise in my dryer (as in clothes dryer!), which I’d heat up lightly periodically, since my apartment is problmatically chilly. I carefully mixed and timed and orchestrated everything.

And so… the Gooey Frankencake is sitting here with me in my cube at work. The potluck is tonight. Only time will tell! I’ll write back to share my experience! And thanks for the advice! 😀


beryl November 18, 2009 at 9:46 am

Ha! You had a paddle attachment the whole time? That’s pretty funny…
Definitely write back, I wanna know if it worked! I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you 🙂


Samantha July 23, 2012 at 5:36 am

st. louis gooey butter cake does not contain yeast, but it does use cream cheese.


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