This rich, delicious dessert is a St. Louis classic , but is it as good as a Kentucky butter cake? With the texture of a lemon bar and the base of a cinnamon roll, this gooey butter cake is made with pantry staples like flour, sugar, baking powder, and butter. Finish it off with a sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar and you’re all set to enjoy this signature St. Louis delight!

The Perfect Ooey Gooey Butter Cake Recipe

Move over yellow cake mix, there’s a new favorite cake in town. Or is it a cake at all? With its dense cake base, gooey filling, and golden brown top, this dessert is more like a lemon bar or blondie than a traditional butter cake. But, we’re not here to split hairs! 

This St. Louis original recipe can be found in local bakeries and is the base of so many sweet memories in Missouri. It’s the kind of dessert that sparks compliments and leaves an imprint on the heart—and palate. Absolutely nothing like a Kentucky Butter Cake but still delicious in it’s own right.

How is a St. Louis Butter Cake Different from a Kentucky Butter Cake?

A Ky butter cake is basically a pound cake with a butter glaze that soaks into the top. While a A St. Louis butter cake starts with a yeast based dough, and has a gooey delicious filling on top. It’s actually not like a cake at all.

I love how the base is’nt sweet at all which helps cut the sweet buttery topping.

Sweet and decadent, this needs a cup of tea or coffee or even a glass of milk. Try serving it alongside more savory breakfast dishes as part of a brunch, like a tater tot casserole and some crispy bacon or after a meal of bbq ribs. It’s a great choice to take to a potluck.

What really makes this cake special are the truly simple ingredients. Butter and sugar make this cake shine, so there’s no need for extravagant flavors or additives. Since I’m not an expert on Midwest traditions, I adapted this recipe from the New York Times. I am still so surprised at how different this is from a Southern butter cake, about the only similarity is the butter!

A St. louis gooey butter cake in a baking pan.

Who Invented The St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake? 

Would you believe that the St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake was an accident? Back during the Great Depression, a new baker swapped the type of butter they were supposed to use for a cake recipe. When they came out of the proofing box, there was a gooey mess on their hands, but head baker John Hoffman decided to bake and serve them anyway! 

Why You’ll Want To Make This Again and Again

  • Amazing Texture – It’s dual texture has a magical quality that makes you want to go for more. 
  • Buttery Richness – This isn’t for the faint of heart. With so much butter in every single layer, a little bit of cake goes a long way. Which means you can savor this for longer!
  • Huge Hit – Thanks to its cult classic status, you know that when you roll up to a party with this cake, you’ll be the talk of the night. 

Ingredients For Gooey Butter Cake

The ingredients for the base of a St. Louis butter cake.
The ingredients for the base.
The ingredients for the filling of a butter cake.
Ingredients for the filling.

Cake:

Dry Ingredients – Rapid-rise yeast, sugar, salt, and flour. 

Wet Ingredients – Milk, butter and an egg. You’ll also need some warm water to activate the dry yeast. 

Top Layer: 

Dry Ingredients – Sugar, salt, flour, and powdered sugar. It seems that all St. Louis butter cakes are topped with powdered sugar. It does make it look pretty, but I don’t think you need the additional sugar.

Wet Ingredients – Light corn syrup – this really makes it gooey and sweet, water, egg, and vanilla extract. 

Butter – The star ingredient! 

How To Make This St. Louis Classic

Step One: Activate Yeast

In a small bowl, add warm water and yeast and let sit for 5 minutes until foamy. Add room temperature milk to the mixture and set aside. 

Step Two: Make the dough

Cream the butter, sugar, and salt together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix to combine.  Add the flour and yeast and beat until it forms a ball.

A mixing bowl with yeast dough and an egg.
Add an egg and mix.
A ball of yeast dough.
Mix until it forms a ball.

Press the dough into the bottom of a deep cake pan or 9 x 13-inch casserole dish. It should be at least 2 inches deep. (A regular pyrex dish may spill over a bit, but will still work. Just place a baking sheet under it when baking to catch any drips.) 

Yeast dough being spread into a baking dish.
Spread the dough into the baking dish.
Yeast dough in a baking dish.
Let it rise for an hour.
The yeast dough after it has risen in the pan.
Let it rise until double.

Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place to rise until double in size, about 1 hour.

Step Three: Make Topping

In a small bowl, combine the corn syrup, water and vanilla. Stir until the corn syrup has dissolved. Set aside. 

Corn syrup, water and vanilla in a bowl.
Stir until the corn syrup dissolves.

Use an electric mixer to cream together the butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy,. Add an egg and beat to combine. Alternately add flour and the corn syrup mixture. Spoon it on top of the cake after it has risen. Use an offset spatula to spread it into an even layer.

Creamed butter and sugar in a mixing bowl.
Cream the butter and sugar.
A mixing bowl of the gooey filling.
Add the dry ingredients with the corn syrup mixture.
The filling on the top of the yeast base.
Spread the filling on the base.

Step Four: Bake

Bake until the center is just a little jiggly but the outside is firm. It should be golden brown and the top will be uneven. Once cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.

A baked gooey butter cake.
Bake until a little jiggly in the center.

Expert Tips For This Gooey Butter Cake

  • No matter what size pan you use, lay aluminum foil or a baking sheet underneath to catch any potential drips, you can never tell what yeast dough will do.
  • For the cake dough, try putting it in a warm microwave to rise. Just boil 2 cups of water in the microwave and add the pan of dough to the warm microwave. Close the door of the microwave and the warm moist heat will help it rise. 
  • If using regular yeast, your rise time will be little longer.

Storing Gooey Butter Cake

On The Counter: Keep your gooey butter cake gooey by storing in an airtight container at room temperature. Storing in the fridge will firm the filling up and dry it out! It’s better to freeze what you don’t eat in a day or two.

A St. Louis gooey butter cake cut into squares.

St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake

This rich, delicious dessert is a St. Louis classic , but is it as good as a Kentucky butter cake? With the texture of a lemon bar and the base of a cinnamon roll, this gooey butter cake is made with pantry staples like flour, sugar, baking powder, and butter. Finish it off with a sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar and you’re all set to enjoy this signature St. Louis delight!
Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 55 minutes
Servings: 12
Calories: 358kcal
Author: Barbara Curry

Ingredients

  • CAKE
  • 2 tbsp warm water
  • 1 packet rapid rise yeast 2 1/4 teaspoon
  • 3 tbsp milk room temperature
  • 6 tbsp butter room temperature
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 3/4 to 2 cups flour
  • TOPPING
  • 3 tbsp light corn syrup
  • 2 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 12 tbsp butter room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup plus 3 tbsp flour
  • powdered sugar

Instructions

  • In a small bowl, add warm water and yeast and let sit for 5 minutes until foamy. Add room temperature milk to the mixture and set aside. 
  • Cream the butter, sugar and salt together with an electric mixer using the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the egg and mix to combine. 
  • On low speed, alternately add 1 ¾ cups of flour and yeast mixture until combined. Turn the mixer to medium and beat until it forms a ball of dough, about 6-8 minutes.  If it is too sticky to form a ball, add additional flour. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl.
  • Press the dough into the bottom of a deep dish 9 x 13 inch casserole dish. It should be at least 2 inches deep. (A regular pyrex dish may spill over a bit, but will still work, just place a baking sheet under it when baking to catch any drips.)
  • Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place to rise until double in size, about 1 hour. 
  • Preheat oven to 350º.
  • Use a small bowl and combine the corn syrup, 2 tablespoons of water and vanilla. Stir until the corn syrup has dissolved. Set aside. 
  • Use an electric mixer to cream together the butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add an egg and beat to combine. Alternately add flour and corn syrup mixture. Spoon it on top of the cake after it has risen. Use an offset spatula to spread it into an even layer.
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes until the center is just a little jiggly but the outside is firm. It should be golden brown and the top will be uneven. Allow to cool completely in the pan before cutting. Once cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.

Notes

  • No matter what size pan you use, lay aluminum foil or a baking sheet underneath to catch any potential drips, you can never tell what yeast dough will do.
  • For the cake dough, try putting it in a warm microwave to rise. Just boil 2 cups of water in the microwave and add the pan of dough to the warm microwave. Close the door of the microwave and the warm moist heat will help it rise. 
  • If using regular yeast, your rise time will be little longer.

Nutrition

Calories: 358kcal | Carbohydrates: 47g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 73mg | Sodium: 442mg | Potassium: 48mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 33g | Vitamin A: 570IU | Vitamin C: 0.002mg | Calcium: 18mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @easy.southern.desserts or tag #easysoutherndesserts!

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