Food Fight!

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Food Fight!

By Libbie Summers Paula and I have had many “colorful” culinary conversations over the past three years. We have fun debating and talking over recipes. Probably the most passionate one was one over a Gooey Butter Cake. For the record, I was born and raised just a short car ride west of St. Louis. St. Louis, of course, being not only the gateway to the West, but the home of the original Gooey Butter Cake. So, in this particular food fight you now understand Paula and I both had a horse in the race.

Although there are some discrepancies about exactly which baker in St. Louis invented the Gooey Butter Cake, it is widely agreed upon it was invented in the early 1940's in one of the German bakeries of South St. Louis. Most food historians admit the recipe was a mistake. The baker adding the wrong ingredients or proportions to a yeast based coffee cake, popular at the time. The result being a cake with a slightly crisp outer edge and a gooey pudding like middle.

I will admit to you I LOVE Paula's Gooey Butter Cake recipe. It is a sinful treat I sneak every time The Lady and Son's caters lunch for us. I just make sure Paula is not looking. That being said, it is not the yeast raised coffee cake with the yellow lava middle I grew up with. Just like there is no crying in baseball, there is no cream cheese in the original Gooey Butter Cake of my youth.

Paula concedes hers may not be the original, but it is the best. I like her conviction. She said her recipe is a “new original”. Paula's Gooey Butter Cake takes a nod from the 1950's and 1960's when box cake mixes came into wide popularity. I agree it certainly is as fast as it is delicious. Although magical in my mouth, the yellow cake version just didn't give me the crusty edges that I remember sticking to my teeth. I explain to Paula that my Gooey Butter Cake, you don't just swallow, you work down.

In the end, as in most of our much loved food fights, we laugh, eat and agree to disagree on some ingredients. Paula admits she likes the original recipe too, but it doesn't hold a whisk to her own. In fact, both like each other's recipes so much we seem to have eaten every bite of the two pans we prepared!

Have fun with your friends in the kitchen. Debate, laugh, experiment and eat. You will be amazed at the delicous recipes you can come up with when you have a little food our case, it only got slightly gooey!

Gooey Butter Cake

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

Double Chocolate Gooey Butter Cake

Gooey Toffee Butter Cake

St. Louis Original Gooey Butter Cake
Yields: 2 cakes

For Dough:
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup shortening
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 envelope (¼ oz.) dry yeast
½ cup milk, warm
2 ½ cups All Purpose flour
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For Gooey Butter Center:
2 ½ cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
¼ cup light corn syrup
2 ¼ cup All Purpose flour
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons powdered sugar for garnish, divided

For Dough: In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm milk and set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer with a whisk attachment, cream sugar, shortening and salt until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well. Change the whisk attachment to a dough hook and add flour, yeast mixture and vanilla to the sugar mixture. Mix for 3 minutes. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead with your hands an additional minute. Spray a bowl with non stick cooking spray and place dough in turning over once. Cover with a towel and set aside in a warm place to rise for approximately 1 hour.
Spray two 8X8 inch baking pans with non stick cooking spray. Once the dough has risen, divide it into two equal parts. Using your hands or a rolling pin, pat the dough into the bottom of each pan and up the sides. Stick it in a few places with a fork so it doesn't bubble up when baking. Set aside while you prepare the gooey part.
In the bowl of a standing mixer with a whisk attachment, combine the sugar butter and salt. Mix until fluffy. Add the egg and corn syrup mixing well after each addition. Finally, add in the flour, water and vanilla mixing well after each addition. Divide the gooey butter equally between the two pans prepared with the dough. Spread evenly over the dough of each pan. Let rest for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 375º F. Bake for 20-25 minutes. The tops will start to turn a golden brown. Do not over bake. Remove from oven and let the cakes cool completely on a wire rack. Sprinkle each cake with 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar. Serve at room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers.

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Reader Comments:


If it isn't the yeast version, it isn't Gooey Butter Cake. The whole point of the yeast base is to cut the sweetness, making it one of the perfect coffee cakes fit for breakfast.

By Mark on January 19, 2014

I was introduced to this cake as the Neiman Marcus Cake with the same story behind it as the famous oatmeal cookies.  I use the box cake mix.  The original recipe sounds complicated but I will give it a try.

By Carolyn on July 21, 2010

Funny—I grew up here in St. Louis with the cake-mix recipe gooey butter cake.  I’m not as fond of/attached to the yeasty/coffee cake version, even though in principle I’d normally be in favor of from-scratch cakes.

Since my family (and countless others!) have made the cake-mix version for many decades, I’m surprised to see the recipe popping up all over the place now as “Paula Deen’s Gooey Butter Cake”.

It’s an old St. Louis variation of the recipe, not a Paula creation!

By Joanie on May 21, 2010

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