Gooey Butter Cake

Gooey Butter Cake

It’s the week after Valentine’s Day, so I’m guessing that there might be more than a few of us who are slowly crawling out of a chocolate coma. There are very, very few occasions where chocolate isn’t at the forefront of my brain, but the week after an indulgent, chocolate-laden holiday is definitely one of them. That being said, I can’t very well forget about dessert. Blasphemy. Instead, I thought we could use a little chocolate break, so I tackled a recipe that has been gnawing at my brain for quite some time.

Gooey Butter Cake.

The name screams, “Make me immediately!” I have seen tons of recipes that use either a box cake mix or the homemade version of a box cake mix, and a cream cheese topping. I did some research and found that Gooey Butter Cake originated in St. Louis, Missouri and that there are actually two different versions: a “baker’s” version that has a yeast base and a topping using corn syrup and sugar; and a version for “home preparation,” which uses cake mix and a cream cheese topping. I love to make things as close as possible to an original, so I went with the “baker’s” version here. Also known as the “long version,” but totally worth every minute.

Gooey Butter Cake

This gooey butter cake is a little bit deceiving. It’s sweet, without actually coming across as very sweet. The base of the cake is a yeasted dough, which is topped by a butter and sugar batter and baked until golden brown. It’s less like a traditional cake and more like a coffee cake or breakfast pastry. While I’ve never had this particular cake before, tasting it reminded me of sitting around my grandma’s dining room table. She always had a carafe of coffee and some sort of Entenmann’s pastry out on the table, just in case a neighbor would stop by to chat.

Gooey Butter Cake

This recipe is all about taking some extra time and making something from scratch… forgetting about the clock and appreciating the process. It’s about enjoying life’s simple pleasures, whether that’s a special piece of cake for breakfast, a cup of coffee or spending some time with a friend on a random weekday morning.

Gooey Butter Cake

One year ago: No-Bake Biscoff Cookies and Chicken Tortilla Soup
Two years ago: Boston Cream Pie and Anisette Biscotti
Three years ago: Secret Ingredient Brownies
Six years ago: Homemade Soft Pretzels

St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake

Yield: 12 to 16 servings

Prep Time: 3 hours 45 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 4 hours 30 minutes

This gooey butter cake is a recreation of the classic yeasted version, which hails from St. Louis.


For the Cake:
3 tablespoons milk, at room temperature
2 tablespoons warm water (about 110 degrees F)
1¾ teaspoons active dry yeast
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg
1¾ cups all-purpose flour

For the Topping:
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
2 tablespoons water
2½ teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ cup (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg
1 cup + 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Powdered sugar, for sprinkling


1. In a small bowl, mix milk with the warm water. Add the yeast and whisk gently until it dissolves. Let sit for 5 minutes, until the mixture begins to foam.

2. Cream together the butter, sugar and salt on medium speed, until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour in three additions, alternating with the milk mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition. Increase the speed to medium and beat the dough until it forms a smooth mass and pulls away from sides of bowl, 7 to 10 minutes.

3. Press the dough into an ungreased 9x13-inch baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap, place in a warm spot and let rise until doubled, about 2½ to 3 hours.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. To prepare the topping, whisk together the corn syrup, water and vanilla extract in a small bowl. Cream together the butter, sugar and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour in three additions, alternating with the corn syrup mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition.

5. Drop the topping by large spoonfuls over the risen dough and use an offset spatula to gently spread it into 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. Place the pan on a wire rack and cool completely to room temperature before serving. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired. This cake is best eaten the same day it's made, but leftovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day.

(Recipe from The New York Times)

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50 Responses to “Gooey Butter Cake”

  1. Carie on February 18, 2013 at 1:24 am

    Looks delicious, I can’t wait to try it out. By the way, when are you going to announce the winners of the giveaway. I can’t wait to win or congratulate the winner. :)


  2. sara on February 18, 2013 at 1:29 am

    Yes, please! This looks totally, totally fantastic. I want some! :)


  3. prem on February 18, 2013 at 2:12 am

    I so have to try this!!! <3 *drooly face*


  4. Averie @ Averie Cooks on February 18, 2013 at 4:10 am

    a yeasted dough, which is topped by a butter and sugar batter and baked until golden brown = I have always wanted to make a double-whammy dessert as I call them; both yeasted and non-yeasted in one recipe. I need to try this!

    Recently I was watching an episode of a food network show where 2 bakeries in St.Louis were pitted against each other to see who could claim the title as BEST gooey butter cake…it was fun to see and now I need to make one!


  5. Ellen on February 18, 2013 at 4:25 am

    Ah, Gooey Butter Cake! One of the things that makes me proud to be from St. Louis.
    That, and toasted ravioli:)


  6. Cheryl P on February 18, 2013 at 5:47 am

    Soooo glad you did all the work for us! :) I’d heard about the 2 different versions of gooey butter cake,seen all the recipes for the “home version”, and was never tempted or impressed – because the “baker’s version” sounded SO much better! 😀 Now THIS looks worthy of being famous. :)


  7. AnnMarie Irace on February 18, 2013 at 6:43 am

    This is so different than what I know of Gooey Butter Cake but then I am from the northeast!!! Actually my only experience with it is from Paula Deen, a southern girl, and it is mostly all butter. It is scrumptious! I will have to try this version.


  8. Little Kitchie on February 18, 2013 at 7:28 am

    Love this! Gooey butter cake is an all time favorite, and I request it on my birthday every year :) Must try this recipe!


  9. Dana on February 18, 2013 at 7:40 am

    I just made the “home version” cookies this weekend and they are SO yummy! I’ve never actually had the cake, either, but the cookies are fab. And we’re planning a weekend to St. Louis later this year, so I’m anxious to try the real thing. I’ll have to try this first, so I know what to expect. :)


  10. Nicky @ Pink Recipe Box on February 18, 2013 at 7:53 am

    All your ‘from scratch’ recipes are fabulous and keep me coming back for more! This is the first time I’ve come across ‘bakers’ gooey butter cake. Pinning! :)


  11. Jennifer @ Peanut Butter and Peppers on February 18, 2013 at 8:41 am

    You had me at gooey!!! Nothing beats a from scratch recipe! Especially an old fashion one that contains butter!! I love this cake!!!


  12. Ellen @ The Baking Bluenoser on February 18, 2013 at 8:57 am

    This cake looks spectacular. I’m a sucker for moist desserts and “gooey” sounds just about right! Can’t wait to try it out.


  13. katie on February 18, 2013 at 8:58 am

    did someone say butter? this sounds awesome… i must give this a try soon… hmmm maybe for my husbands birthday? Perfect excuse!


  14. mimi on February 18, 2013 at 9:36 am

    wow. I have never heard of this cake. Thank you very much!!!


  15. Jessica@AKitchenAddiction on February 18, 2013 at 9:43 am

    Oh, can’t wait to try this version with yeast! Sounds perfect!


  16. rima on February 18, 2013 at 10:58 am

    This looks great. I wonder if this recipe is an americanization/variation of Moravian sugar bread?


  17. Holiday Baker Man on February 18, 2013 at 11:43 am

    You nailed it…perfect after the chocolate coma!


  18. Barb | Creative Culinary on February 18, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    First, I’m from the St Louis area and each Sunday morning my Dad would stop at the local bakery after church to pick up a gooey butter cake; yes, we loved it that much and you have done a fabulous job sharing the recipe with your readers.
    Second, no one in St Louis would EVER claim that mess that uses a cake mix as Gooey Butter Cake; it hurts to see it associated with a treat that is near and dear to the hearts of those of us who grew up with this regional specialty.
    This is Gooey Butter Cake; I think that other is called Phooey Butter Cake! :)


  19. Jess on February 18, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    I’ve always wanted to try one of these cakes! YUM!


  20. Laura Dembowski on February 18, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    I have been searching and searching for a good homemade gooey butter cake recipe. I cannot wait to give this a try! I am even more excited since you said it reminded you of Entenmann’s coffee cakes. I always want to make a homemade version of those but have no idea where to start. I’m also allergic to chocolate and always looking for amazing non-chocolate desserts.


  21. Roxana | Roxana's Home Baking on February 18, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    I love yeast coffee cakes, they have the perfect amount of sugar to accompany a cup of coffee. I love how you topped your yeast dough with butter and sugar, making it even more irresistible!
    Thanks for sharing Michelle!


  22. Lissa Brooks on February 18, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    This version looks WAY better than the one I tried where you press the cake mix mixture into the pan like a crust. That crust turned out so dense and chewy, you couldn’t even eat it. This one looks awesome and more like what I envisioned a “gooey butter cake” to look like – an actual cake, not a crust topped with a cream cheese concoction.


  23. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar on February 18, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    I love that this is the homemade version!!


  24. Tracey on February 18, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    You have no idea how long gooey butter cake has been on my to-do list. I really don’t know why I’ve put it off so long! Yours looks phenomenal and is just the push I need to move this treat to the top of my to-do list!


  25. Diane on February 18, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    My husband is from Philly and he loves this cake. It took me years to find my recipe which is just like this one. I can’t wait to try yours.


  26. Erin @ Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts on February 19, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    I am a little embarassed to say I have never tried a gooey butter cake before. This might just change my mind though – looks so tender and delicious!


  27. Vicki @ WITK on February 19, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    OOoo, gooey butter cake. The name just shouts – Paula Deen – to me :) It’s a great change of pace from all this chocolate I’ve been eating since before christmas!


  28. felicia on February 21, 2013 at 12:15 am

    Yes yes yes! I lived in STL for a while and fell in love with gooey butter cake. They started it selling it at my university my senior year and man, was that dangerous.
    The cake-mix version is nothing like the real stuff- you have to go all the way for it to be worth it. I’ve tried my hand at homemade versions before but will definitely need to give your recipe a try. Yay!


  29. Ann on February 23, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    I just discovered this site–and I want to thank you in advance for the weight gain adventure I am about to start!!
    These recipes look amazing……cannot wait to try them.


  30. joy on February 23, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    What about the mention of cream cheese? I AM ABOUT TO TRY THE RECIPEE now but keep thinking about how to incorporate that version of the cream cheese from the other version. Doesn’t everything get better with cc?


    • Michelle on February 26th, 2013 at 5:18 pm

      Hi Joy, I chose not to use the cream cheese topping because I wanted to make the authentic version. I have not made the version with cream cheese, so I can’t say how using that topping would affect this cake.


  31. Mari @ Oh, Sweet & Savory on February 24, 2013 at 10:42 am

    I also hadn’t known about gooey butter cakes until I read this post! I love all manners of breakfast pastries & cake, and this absolutely delicious. To me it’s somewhat reminiscent of a type of coffee cake. Thanks for sharing!


  32. charm on February 25, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    I just made this cake, and it is delicious. I didn’t find it too oeey or gooey. Really tasty. Just a little on the sweet side. More like a sweet pastry. When I make it again (for a mom’s morning at school), I might double the filling, tho. You just have to plan ahead for the required rising time, but so easy otherwise. Thanks for a keeper of a recipe!


  33. Dr Marion Mollica Minson on May 19, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    ******* I am relatively new to baking. I have been experimenting withnpizza dough quite a bit. Last night I had what I was told was a piece of butter cake in a restaurant and loved it. I must admit I was a little skeptical when I saw the dough not really rising but I went by the pictures ( which ) really helped and took the plung. What came out was something I never imagined- the most delicious concoction of cake that I have ever eaten!!!!!
    Thank you for sharing this fabulous recipe- it was well worth the effort


  34. Mel on June 3, 2013 at 11:13 am

    Born and raised in St. Louis – any St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake made with cream cheese is a sin! Will have to give your recipe a try. Thanks!


  35. Dorothy on June 12, 2013 at 1:44 am

    Thank you so much! I have looked forever for this recipe. I had one I got from a retired German baker, but unfortunately during a move years ago I lost it. It is delicious.


  36. Christine on June 17, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    Hi, I’m originally from St. Louis, MO and my family was in a bakery supply business and boy can I tell you there are some amazing small independently owned bakeries in St. Louis that would make this from scratch. Ladies would fight to get their hands on these daily. I’ve since moved to PA and nobody has come close to making this cake like they do in St. Louis, BUT…..if that picture you used is a cake that you made yourself, then you’ve made it perfectly, that’s exactly how it’s suppose to look. THANK YOU so much for posting this recipe because I’ve lost all my old family recipes and could never find one just right. Happy Baking!!!!


    • Michelle on June 17th, 2013 at 10:28 pm

      Hi Christine, That picture is of a cake I made (and photographed) myself. It’s great to hear from a native of St. Louis; I’m so happy that this cake passes the eye test :)


  37. Shelly on September 25, 2013 at 10:05 am

    Thank you. Being from the St. Louis area I’ve enjoyed the classic gooey butter for years. I truly hate that there are some people out there that believe the cake was invented by Paula Deen, and I have to say sorry it’s a St. Louis treat. I’m going to try out your recipe, looks very similar to the one my mother would make.


    • juanita on October 28th, 2013 at 1:18 am

      shelly, please DO NOT be sorry BUTTER CAKE is a St. Louis treat!! Because it has now become this Nor. Cali girls favorite…


  38. juanita on October 28, 2013 at 1:14 am

    WOWIE WOW WOW WOW…I recently tried the St. Louis buuter cake from all places, believe it or local WALGREENS….AND HAVE BEEN HOOKED EVER SINCE!!! At 1st glance you wouldn’t even have given it a 2nd thought, let alone try it. plain looking and unassuming, BUTTER CAKE HAS BECOME MY ALL TIME FAVORITE SWEET SNACK!!! Cant wait to try out recipes, both from scratch and box


  39. Christina on January 11, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    Thanks so much for this recipe! I just pulled my cake out of the oven and it smells AMAZING in here. I’ve had this as a tourist in St. Louis, and all of the recipes I’d seen were the cake mix and cream cheese variety. I knew there was no way the piece I’d had was made from a mix, so I’m so happy to have found a proper recipe. I can’t wait to tuck into it!


  40. steve on January 24, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    I grew up in St. Louis.
    all I have to say is……….don’t start… will never be able to stop.
    it is THAT good.


  41. Felicia on March 7, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    I made this last weekend and blogged about it today. Sooo good! Made me really happy to see it, and I definitely prefer the “baker’s version”


  42. Mary on June 28, 2014 at 12:33 am

    I love gooey butter cake but I’m not sure I’ve had one that wasn’t the “home” version. My friend who was a caterer made this version which I haven’t made in years b/c I didn’t want to use box cake mix (don’t have to anymore thanks to you though!). Anyway, I thought I’d share her recipe in case anyone wanted it.
    Gooey Butter Cake
    Preheat oven to 325°. Melt one stick butter (do not substitute margarine) in a 9 x 13 pan. In a bowl mix one box of yellow cake mix with two eggs with a fork. Press into pan. In a separate bowl mix two eggs, one 8 ounce pkg of cream cheese and 2 cups of powdered sugar. Pour onto cake mix layer. Bake at 325° for 50 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.


    • Mary on November 11th, 2014 at 3:41 pm

      So yesterday I made Brown Eyed Baker’s version (the long version). I’ve lived in StL practically my whole life. I’m a darn good cook/baker and I know what I’m doing. It was all right, but a lot of work and I can’t say it was worth the work. Today I made the short version that my friend always made, so, so good. Thankfully I found an organic box mix (I only do organic food). Normally I wouldn’t use a box mix for anything because I always prefer scratch recipes, except this time. So, if you don’t have time for the long version, may I suggest giving the short version a try? It’s pretty good :).


  43. Sara on September 7, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    Just made this yesterday, and I am so happy I have found this recipe. Being a St. Louis girl, Gooey Butter Cake is my all time favorite. When I was in college and I would come home, I would stock up before I went back. It’s just too hard to find it anywhere else outside St. Louis. And like several other commenters have posted, any gooey butter cake made with cream cheese is just not real gooey butter cake. It’s just not. So thanks again for posting this recipe. I’m sure this will be my go-to for when I want something sweet.


  44. dee wood on October 19, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    Thanx for this recipe I have been looking for this iagree about the box mix n cream cheese topping I’m not a fan but thanx I have finally found wut I was looking for 😀 very satisfied


  45. Amanda on January 1, 2015 at 12:39 am

    I had never even heard of this until I recently watch either Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern or No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain (can’t remember which show it was) and they tried some while they were actually in St. Louis. I wasn’t too sure how this would turn out with the yeast and the fact that that layer didn’t seem to rise very much. Boy did it rise once in the oven though! This is a good recipe that will definitely go into the dessert rotation.


  46. Lisa on March 10, 2015 at 8:23 am

    Oh thank heavens! I’m originally from St. Louis and have been craving some gooey butter cake! I recently moved out of the country a few months ago and cake mix boxes are not as widespread here and I haven’t baked with them since I was a kid and first leaning how much I loved to bake sweet things. So finally I find a recipe that doesn’t use yellow cake mix and looks as good as I remember when I’d buy it from a shop.


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