What’s Cookin’ – St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake (3 Version Bake-Off)

Believe it or not, Gooey Butter Cake is not a Southern recipe nor is it originally a Paula Deen recipe even though it is featured as one of her recipes on Food Network and in her new cookbook, Southern Cooking Bible.

Gooey Butter Cake originated in St. Louis, MO, in the 1930s.  The original bakery, owned by a John Hoffman, hired a new baker who accidentally inverted two ingredients resulting in a gooey cake that became a best seller in bakeries throughout the St. Louis area.

If you live in St. Louis, you will find three different recipes for Gooey Butter Cake that appear regularly in the local newspaper, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and in various local cookbooks.  The Junior League of St. Louis has published the original Gooey Butter Cake recipe that many local bakeries still use.  This original recipe was provided to them by Fred and Audrey Heimburger of Heimburger Bakery and has also been published in the Post.  You can see the Junior League of St. Louis post here.

Most of us use a cake mix version (as does Paula Deen).  Its ingredients include cream cheese and lots of powdered sugar, which are not found in the original recipe (except for the powdered sugar dusted on top).

There are three popular recipes, and I decided to make all three and use my friends and DSH’s co-workers as guinea pigs to taste test them and decide which version is the best.

All three recipes call for a cake-like crust base along with a filling layer on top that remains gooey after baking, thus the Gooey Butter Cake name.

Three versions, three sets of ingredients – from left to right #1 is the Original St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake (Heimburger Bakery), #2 is the St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake (Cake Mix Version), and #3 is St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake (Kaldi’s Coffeehouse Version).

Step One – make the crust and press it into the metal baking pan.

Note:  I prefer a less gooey Gooey Butter Cake and would make Version #2 in a 13x9x2 inch pan normally.  I used the smaller pan as that is what the original recipe called for.

Step Two – make the filling and pour it onto the crust layer.

Note:  Version #1 calls for dusting with powdered sugar prior to baking.  I dusted prior to baking and again after cooling.

Step Three – bake, cool, and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Note:  Versions #1 and #2 call for baking in a 350° F oven, but Version #3 is baked in a 300° F oven.  Next time, I will bake Version #1 for a little less time as it continues to cook outside of the oven and ended up not being as gooey as it should have been.

Three versions – ready to eat.

Taste Test Results:

The Original Gooey Butter Cake is a denser and less sweet version from the ones most of us are used to eating.  It was not as gooey as the other two versions.  When I make this version again, I would make sure not to cook it as long so that it remains gooey.  Those who aren’t big Gooey Butter Cake fans seemed to prefer this one.

Several people preferred the cake mix version #2 because it was really gooey and sweet.  If you like a gooey butter cake that is a little less gooey, then be sure to use a 13x9x2 inch pan.  If you like it gooey and sweet, use the 9x9x2 inch pan.

The Kaldi’s Coffeehouse version won the most votes overall.  It is slightly less sweet and less gooey than the standard cake mix version that most of us make at home.  Many people preferred the texture and slightly less sweet taste than version #2.  It was also my favorite.

Thank you to all of my taste testers!  Make a Gooey Butter Cake soon.  They are yummy!



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