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

  1. Diane says:

    You can make this gluten free by using a gluten free cake mix, so everyone can enjoy! Theresa’s oldest daughter tried it first for one of our family get-togethers and it was a nice surprise for those of us who can’t eat the ‘real’ version.

  2. Martha says:

    Thanks Mama….I will try version 3 since that won the taste test. I see it also uses a cake mix.

  3. Marifran Heiligenmann says:

    Thanks, Theresa! I made a 9″ square cake for Christmas morning, using a 9 oz. box of JIFFY Golden Yellow Cake Mix (available at Shop ‘n Save) and 1 egg, 1/2 stick of Butter for the crust, 4 oz. Cream Cheese, (1/2 of an 8 oz. pkg.) 1-1/2 cups Powdered Sugar, 1 egg, 3/4 tsp. Vanilla for the filling.

  4. Jane Lohman says:

    This is one of the things I always try to get when I come home. Gooey Louie and I are very good friends! Theirs are not quite the same as the old Lake Forest Bakery in Clayton, but I still like them. I make recipe number 2 when I really need a fix, but it isn’t like my friend Gooey Louie. Now I have a few more recipes to try out! Who needs BBQ when you have quality food like toasted ravioli and gooey butter cake!!!

    • Mama says:

      I’ve noticed that a lot of the chains that sell Gooey Butter Cake make a “drier” version like the original recipe. Nothin’ like good gooey butter cake and toasted ravs!


  5. I made this for our “goody day” at my job and now every week my work foodies beg for more… they love this wonderful cake as do my family. Thank you for these recipes.Totally awesome! REL

    • Mama says:

      Thank YOU for following my blog and commenting! Which recipe did you use – the Kaldi’s one is our favorite and the one I am asked to bring to a silent baking auction every year! The same person bids on it and wins it every year, too.


  6. Florence Nolte says:

    Why doesn’t anyone mention the BEST Gooey Butter Cake from St. Louis Pastry on Meramec Street (which is now known as Dutchtown). They were in business for years and years, 1940’s through the 1970’s. They also made the best Coconut Toast and Peanut Coffee Cake. Does anyone know what happened to those recipes. The Bakery was the place you stopped in the morning on your way to school (we walked) to St. Anthony of Padua. I give anything for a reply.

  7. Gramaw says:

    I am from St. Louis but now live in Savannah, GA. I make a Gooey Butter Cake at least 1x a month to keep the family happy. My recipe is just slightly different and is tastes just like the version they sell at the Lake Forest Bakery in Clayton. One thing that is rarely mentioned is this: No matter what recipe you use, to get a “perfect” gooey cake you have to bake it perfectly and use the correct size GLASS pan. The tins that are used by, say, Schnucks, create a dry edge (so everyone fights over the middle pieces). I’m making my first chocolate gooey butter today, because I’m having a chocolate craving AND a gooey butter cake craving. LOL Hoping it turns out!

    • Mama says:

      Good luck on the chocolate gooey butter cake! You can make any flavor you like – I’ve even heard of key lime – but the regular yellow flavor is my all-time favorite! I often use the tins when making the Kaldi’s Gooey Butter Cake which is requested for every silent auction hosted by a non-profit to which I belong, and they work just fine. I actually prefer the drier corner pieces!

      Thanks for visiting and commenting!


  8. ackmena0709 says:

    This cake was just mentioned to me and in researching it, I found your site – fun read! I’ve been “really” baking for about 5-10 years – and by “really” I mean everything from scratch and old-school – so the purist in me was surprised to see “yellow cake mix” in the recipe. But I’m also the first to admit that there’s purism and then there’s that pain-in-the-butt-purist-guy-who-needs-to-hush. I will probably try the non-cake mix recipe first, but they all sound delicious! Thanks!

    • Mama says:

      I, too, try to make as much as possible from scratch with mixes, etc. For instance, I always shred my own cheese since the pre-shredded stuff contains “other” ingredients. I’ve also stopped using canned soups in recipes and make my own. See my blog for my cream of chicken and cream of mushroom soups. I had to do this since I cook for family members who have celiac disease and need to be gluten free, but making these from scratch also significantly improves the original recipe! I have replaced soups in the classic holiday green bean casserole, Texas hash browns (or cheese potatoes as some people call them), and other recipes. Check my blog for these!

      Thanks for commenting and visiting,


      • ackmena0709 says:

        YES!!! Our holiday party is a soup party and we make everything from scratch – its proven to be a lot of fun, and you can feed a BUNCH of folks with soup and not spend a fortune – plus soup is warm and cozy and Christmas-y…even here in LA! I’ll definitely check out your recipes!

        Adding to the whole Kitchen DIY, I also shred my own carrots for carrot cake, ’cause I don’t know how long those processed bags have been sitting there! I have friends who say I’m insane… ’til they try my cake. : )

        All best to you!

  9. Sue Kolber says:

    Thank you for the recipes! I have a recipe a co-worker gave me for Lemon Squares which reminded me of Butter cake and wondered if there’s a recipe for one that’s easy to make. I’m glad I found your site and your 3 versions. #2 actually is the same recipe as the Lemon Squares but with lemon cake mix! I wonder to cut down on the sweetness if I can just use 12 or even 8 oz of the sugar rather than the 16 oz? I’m not really a baker so I don’t know if that would affect anything other than the sweetness.

    • Mama says:

      Gooey Butter Cakes are quite common here and have been for decades, and I’ve noticed that they are appearing in other parts of the country under different names. You can make them in different flavors using different cake mixes, but they are very sweet. Changing the ingredients in baking can affect the outcome so I would proceed carefully, but try reducing a small bit at a time if you want to …


      • Sue Kolber says:

        Thank you for your reply. I only considered cutting the sugar down because I was told it was too sweet by some family. My husband though, loves it the way it is. So maybe I’ll stick to the original recipe. 🙂

  10. Karen says:

    Thanks for the in-depth comparison between the 3 recipes. I chose the third one and made 2 minor changes…I used white cake mix instead of yellow and I decreased the amount of confectioners sugar in the filling to 20 oz (1 full box + 4 oz…I have a finely honed sweet tooth, but with the entire amount of sugar called for, my fillings were burning). I have made the cake several times in a 1 month period and it has been an absolute fan favorite. Great article and even greater recipe. Thanks again for doing so much leg work to insure perfection!

    • Mama says:

      Thanks for the feedback! Yes, the “original” recipes and the ones that you can buy in our local markets ARE very sweet. I love tweaking recipes to suit my family’s tastes, too. Thank you for visiting and commenting.


  11. Virginia says:

    The real original gooey butter cake has a yeast base; anything else is simply a copycat version. It’s true it originated in the 1930’s and legend has it that a baker made a mistake with quantities, a mess was born and when it was sold the customers loved it. It’s my favorite; the slightly sweet yeast base balances nicely with the gooey topping. I found my favorite recipe on Wikipedia here: http://www.creative-culinary.com/st-louis-gooey-butter-cake/

    • Mama says:

      Thanks for visiting! I’ve heard this version, too. I make the Kaldi’s Coffee version for two silent auction events each year, and it’s a big hit that generates good money for the charities!


  12. Lindsey says:

    I have tried many gooey butter cakes and by far my favorite is Ann & Allens. I have not found any recipe like it, and every time i try gooey butter cake elsewhere i don’t like it at all. Giving recipe one a go to see if it is anywhere close to ann and aliens!

  13. Deanna says:

    I’m from KC and I had never heard of St. Louis gooey butter cake before until about 2 years ago. I had seen something on Food Network where a bakery was interviewed. Walmart had gooey butter cake from Paula Deen. When they decided to not carry Paula Deen items, I knew that I had to figure out how to make this on my own.

    I don’t know if this recipe is The Best St. Louis gooey butter cake recipe from St. Louis Pastry or not. I remember finding a recipe with that title although I’m not able to find it again. I did tweak the recipe a little. I would make this for company food days and my coworkers would beg me to make more. I entered this in the Johnson County Kansas County Fair and I won Grand Champion this past year. The judges told me that they took one bite and immediately said “Grand Champion!”

    Here’s the recipe:

    The Best St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake

    1 box Yellow Butter Cake Mix
    or use Yellow Cake Mix Scratch Recipe
    2 extra large eggs
    1 stick melted butter
    ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

    2 extra large eggs
    1 stick melted butter
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
    3 ½ Cups powdered sugar

    Powdered sugar

    Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 9×13 pan on bottom and all sides with vegetable oil cooking spray.

    Melt butter in microwave for 35 seconds to 1 minute.
    Add yellow cake mix (scratch or boxed) in mixing bowl. Add 2 extra large eggs, 1 stick of melted butter, and ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Mix together in mixer or mix with spoon. Batter will have a very moist and thick feel to it. Take the cake batter and press evenly into the bottom and sides of a greased 9×13 pan.

    Melt cream cheese in microwave about 45-50 seconds or allow cream cheese to reach room temperature in order to soften. Melt butter in microwave for 35 seconds to 1 minute.
    In mixer, add powdered sugar, softened cream cheese, 2 extra large eggs, 1 stick of melted butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Mix together in mixer. This will have a very gooey consistency. Take the gooey mixture and layer on top of the cake batter mixture in pan.

    Bake at 350° for 30-40 minutes or until top of the cake is browned.
    You want to make sure the gooey mixture on top of the cake is not too gooey; otherwise, it will be like a liquid. It is okay if the edges are brown and the top of the cake is lightly browned as well.

    Once baked, remove from oven and let cool about 2 hours before cutting. Dust with powdered sugar to coat/cover top of cake, cut like brownies and serve.

    If you choose to make yellow cake mix from scratch:


    2 ½ Cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, sifted
    1 ½ Cups Granulated White Sugar
    1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
    1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
    4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) Unsalted Butter, softened – room temperature

    In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add in the butter and use a pastry cutter to blend the butter into the dry ingredients. Store in a container with a tight fitting lid in the fridge for a couple weeks or in the freezer for two to 4 months.
    Use in place of store-bought yellow cake mix

  14. Sonya says:

    I’m so excited to make the cake! I will try #3 based on your recommendation 🙂 I was wondering, how do you measure flour, just so I can make this turn out as similar as possible to yours? Do you do the dip and scoop method, or fluff with a fork and then spoon it into the measuring cup, or weigh it? Thank-you so much!!

  15. Jessica says:

    Thank-you SO much for posting this recipe (and I just LOVE comparing recipes side by side!), and for answering my question about the flour on Facebook. It turned out So good. My husband LOVES it!!! He’s not a “cake” person, but is now a “gooey” cake person 😉 I used the 9-inch pan for extra gooeyness, and this was our first time having St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake, so now we look forward to going to St. Louis someday and having it there. Thank you again for this blog post!

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