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November 06, 2011

The Sweetest Mistake

Elaine Viets  Gooey butter cake
Gooey butter cake supposedly started as a mistake, but no one knows which baker created this delicious deviation. At least three St. Louis bakeries lay claim to discovering gooey butter cake.
Paula Deen even tried poaching gooey butter cake, but St. Louisans know butter. Er, better. We’ve been eating it for generations.
Where did my hometown’s treat come from?
The best guess is this delicious mistake happened during the Depression, when an ordinary yellow cake was overloaded with butter or sugar, or both. Either way, the baker overdid it and ended up with a gooey mess. In those days, people didn’t waste good food. They also weren’t obsessed with calories. The bungling baker doused it with drifts of powdered sugar and the confection sold. Boy, did it sell.
Soon St. Louisans were making their own versions of gooey butter cake, like this recipe: http://gooeybuttercakerecipe.com
Note the vast amounts of butter and sugar in that recipe. A true St. Louis gooey butter cake has at least a stick of butter and a box of confectioner’s sugar. Some people bypass the baking and apply the delicious mixture directly to their thighs.
Today, there are endless artery-clogging versions of gooey butter cake, including cherry, pineapple, brownie and chocolate chip. Most St. Louis cooks have their own recipes. My Grandma made fabulous gooey butter cake. If food is love, her cake plates were heaped with it. I only wish she’d written down that recipe.
I heard the most delicious gossip when relatives sat down over coffee and gooey butter cake: Cousin Mildred had an eight-pound premature baby seven months after her big church wedding. Aunt Marie had a tumor the size of a grapefruit. And that no good Sandy greeted the mailman wearing her bathing suit -- in December.
For years, it was believed that only St. Louisans loved this caloric miscalculation. Gooey butter cakes didn’t travel outside the city. Then Kirk and Debbie Stieferman turned a recipe from Debbie’s grandma into a family business – Gooey Louie’s and started shipping its wickedly sinful creations all over the country.
Gooey louie
Martha Stewart Living drooled (genteelly) over those cakes. Gooey Louie was featured on Road Trips for Foodies.
Gooey Louie has about a dozen flavors, from key lime to "Hog Wyld." That’s gooey butter cake with bacon. Can you hear those arteries clogging?
Speaking of clogging, when Highway 40-I-64, a major St. Louis traffic artery, was clogged by construction, Gooey Louie soothed frustrations sweetly with "Hwy 40: Driving Me Nuts." The road work is over, but the flavor survives.
If you insist on health food, there’s blueberry gooey butter cake.
Why am I going on about gooey butter cake?
Because it has a starring role in my new Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper mystery, "Death on a Platter."
Because I’m homesick for fall, a season we don’t have here in Florida. 012
Because I’m coming to St. Louis this week, Nov. 10 to 13. That's Thursday through Sunday, and I’ll be serving sweet treats at five St. Louis signings. Get the details here at www.elaineviets.com
Then tell me about your favorite cake: Is it homemade or store bought?


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Elaine, this sounds . . . gooey! I adore gooey. Too gooey is me! And so timely - really timely - because I need to know if this can be made as a Christmas cake. I am leading the December alternative service at our church next month. Who else would do this, right? And I came up with the idea of having a Christmas Cake Ceremony! Is that perfect! I need ideas. Cake ideas. Different cake ideas. That I can make all Christmassy. The worship part I'm not so good at, unless fun communal eating says it for you. It's the getting together part I love and like to make . . . um . . . different.

In Gooey Butter Cake, I am a purist, I like the plain. And in a city where GBC can be found in almost every bakery and cookbook, Louie's is top notch. Their secret, I am sure is using basic quality ingredients and an old family recipe. GBC cookies are very good to and travel better.

My favorite cake is German Chocolate. I am the only one in the house who will even touch coconut, so I can only eat German Chocolate by the slice in restaurants.

I had the advantage of working in a fine bakery. I spent my days surrounded by Danish pastries and wedding cakes. My MIL almost had a heart attack just hearing the recipe for butter cream frosting; six pounds of butter, six pounds of sugar and a cup or so of shortening. How can you go wrong with a recipe where adding Crisco is how you lighten it up?

Loving marzipan as I do, I had a great time. One bakers specialty for his friends was a liquor soaked, butter cream powered cake with anatomically correct marzipan decorations.

Now to point today's blog to the BIL who is trapped in Birmingham, AL and has to bake his own GBC and has not found a good recipe yet.

Jeez, Elaine, my arteries are cringing just *reading* this one! But oh, man, this sounds like good stuff...:) Might have to check it out! In the interests of research, you understand....:)

I have an urge to try making this cake. Friends introduced me to another St Louis wonder, Bissingers Chocolates, so the track record is firmly established.

We have a family tradition cake -- hot milk sponge cake. It's basic and vanilla but moist, tender and tasty. I learned from Mom who learned from her mom who learned from her mom and so on. Hmm, I never tried mixing in chocolate but I suppose I could, at risk of breaking tradition.

I belong (now as a long distance member) to a Charity League that raises lots of money each year for social service organizations. We're known for making beautifully sequined holiday pins and also for some delicious cakes. The recipes are protected like national secrets. Wikileaks couldn't pry them from us. The Lemon Tea and Whiskey Walnut are my favorites

Here in Pittsburgh we have the famous Burnt Almond Torte, which is a very light sponge cake layered with something like pudding, then frosted with a white frosting onto which is packed a layer of almond slivers that have been soaked in sugar water before being toasted in the oven. One of my daughters even had several Burnt Almond Tortes instead of a wedding cake. Big Fun!

BTW, I think it might be a certain gentleman's birthday today, but MI5 hasn't released the official information. I think I just saw Emma Peel get on a plane for Texas. Just saying.

Oooey gooey. Even Kansas Citians love it. Of course we don't tell anybody it's from St. Louis.

My fav cake, though, is plain ol' vanilla wedding cake with butter cream icing. Don't get fancy on me.

Alan, did you feel the earthquake last night?

Nancy, that's a very personal question.
Happy birthday, William! May Mrs. Peel arrive in time for your birthday cake cutting.
Yes, Reine, gooey butter cake would make a wonderful Christmas cake. Just put a sprig of holly on it.
And I adore vanilla cake with butter cream icing. I like the corner with the sugar roses.

If I had my dessert choice, cake would be well down on the list. Give me a fantastic pie or cheesecake, please! Once you reach the cakes, however, you'd find that my favorite are all homemade. I love to bake. For my grandfather's ninetieth birthday I made a pineapple upside down cake (his favorite), a German chocolate cake with coconut pecan filling, an angel food cake (love the tangy crust on the top of the cake, but hate cooling it upside down - I had one fall out on me), and my favorite, pound cake. Many people think pound cake is boring, but I love the subtle buttery sweetness. I've made it with sauces but I'd just as soon have a plain slice.

Missed the earthquake.

Pineapple upside down cake, Sandi. I can see it now, with big rings of pineapple on top, and cherries in the center of each one.

One of the best cakes I ever had was a chocolate cake with sauerkraut in it. One of those things I really should Google, now that we have Google. I am going to TRY not to click on the link to the gooey butter cake recipe, though... My ass was starting to look better, what with the fifth-floor walkup and all. I think GBC could knock it right back to the starting gate in a big fat hurry...


Just remember, Cornelia, the first goddesses were all depicted as women of generous build. Have the cake.

I love gooey butter cake. Haven't had it in ages. Maybe I'll dig out the recipe and bake one. Problem is that living alone, I'll have to eat the entire thing. May that be the worst problem I'll ever have.

If that's a photo it looks scrumptious!
I am a baker. No, really, my great grandparents name was Baker. I love to bake.
My fave cake (and everyone who gets to eat some)always happens when there is sour milk or half & half involved. It's like when black bananas start falling on your feet out of the freezer. Time to make banana bread!
It's a cocoa cake that is divine and like Nancy M... a tad of coffee in the icing really makes it so yummy.
I'm doing things with sour oranges right now as my tree is loaded. Matter 'o fact I think I'll make some banana sour orange muffins right now!

Sauerkraut? I gotta check that out!

Put a candle in something William and we'll all make a wish that you have a happy day with Emma!

Dierberg's Grocery Stores (in St. Louis) have Gooey Butter Chocolate Chip Brownies. Disgustingly (and deliciously) rich.

My mother has been making mayonnaise cake for almost 25 years. For the first 15 years or so the only way she made it was with devils food cake mix. Then came a crisis, no chocolate cake mixes in the pantry, only yellow. She made do and it was so good with chocolate whipped cream frosting instead of the usual vanilla.
She was encouraged to take chances with other varieties of cake mixes. My personal fave is strawberry mayonnaise cake with chocolate whipped cream frosting.

Nancy, I absolutely love almond torte cakes. I just wish restaurants in the area would put it on their dessert menus. You would think they would do so with the popularity in bakeries of the cake.

When storyteller Gerald Fierst http://www.geraldfierst.com/celebrant/
came from New York to tell at our St. Louis Storytelling Festival, everyone told him about gooey butter cake, and he was excited at the prospect, but somehow he never got any. I found out when I saw him the following October in Jonesborough, so when I got home, I sent him my sister's recipe. This year we've been sharing pumpkin recipes, but he still makes GBC for special occasions.
Elaine, your book is perhaps too appetizing, a danger to diets everywhere! You even make pig ears and brains sound tasty.
Laraine suggested that food scenes in books and movies could be very therapeutic in stimulating appetite for the very ill . . . in which case, would it be covered by health insurance?

Exactly, Nancy, and caramelized brown sugar clinging to every surface, with moist yellow cake. Okay, pineapple upside down cake is my second favorite, and now I want some.

Ack! I mean Elaine!

My husband was strictly a pie man until I stumbled upon a recipe for a banana whip cream cake. It really is good. But since the reason he's not fond of most cakes is that they just aren't moist enough for him this gooey cake sounds like a winner. We have four inches of snow and January temperatures already. It's the perfect day to bake a cake. Thanks for the recipe, Elaine!

Elaine, lol!

I WANT THIS! I never heard of gooey butter cake in my life and now I yearn for it.

For me, it's red velvet cake, which my Grandma indelicately called Blood Cake. 4 bottles of red food coloring in her recipe, which has probably made me radioactive over the years, but hey, none of us are getting out of here alive, right?

Thanks, Elaine, for giving me a new dream. But why didn't you tell me about this when we were in St. Louis?

My favorites are either spice cake with cream cheese frosting or carrot cake with same. I'm seeing a theme here. Nummy cream cheese frosting!

However that gooey cake looks beyond scrumptious, and I can feel my blood sugar soaring into the stratosphere just reading the recipe. I probably couldn't allow myself more than a nibble. . .but can anyone stop with just a nibble?

This is cruel. I can barely scramble an egg and you are describing the most obscenely delicious cakes.
I am cursed with imaginations -- I can almost taste Nancy M's cake and mayonnaise cake, spice cake, red velvet and Xena's divine cake.
Almost, but (sob) not quite.

Ohh, Elaine that cake looks soo good!

The Pummple cake is a sensation in some parts..pie within a cake:


Cooking is not my strong point so unless it comes in a mix I leave it to the pros. I treated myself to a gbc last week. It was hard to not eat some every time I went in the kitchen but I did restrain myself. I've not had Gooey Louie's yet so that will be a treat.

Harley, you definitely missed out on a decadent experience so that means you must return to St. Louis.

Elaine, Connie and I will see you at Main Street Books on Friday save us some cake.

Diana, looking forward to seeing you and Connie. But get there early while supplies last!

Pumpple cake? Buttercream icing on top of pumpkin pie? I'm drooling into my keyboard, Marie.

As far as I'm concerned, the only REAL cake is chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, although I will occasionally allow myself a slice of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Oh, and I always loved my dad's cream cheese cake. He made the best I have ever tasted. I think he must have taken the recipe with him to the grave. Even my mom could not locate his recipe. (Maybe she was in on it with him? I never thought of that until just now.) But, Elaine, you have me wanting to try a chocolate version of GBC!

This morning I bought a homemade banana walnut cake with cream cheese frosting at a charity bake sale at church. I am planning on bringing it to work with me tomorrow. My coworkers are not as fanatic about chocolate as I am but they will eat something with fruit -makes it seem like health food. Between the bake sale this morning and your delicious post today, I think I will need to do some baking very SOON! (And I'm going to get my hands on that Josie Marcus book ASAP!)

Confession: I LOVE cheap bad white grocery store cake. Just a bite or two...what is is that is smells like? Ultra-sugar? Shrugging. Delicious.

I'd forgotten about pineapple upside down. Yum.

Ooh, the best stuff tastes the best sometimes, Hank: baloney sandwiches on pillowy white bread, cheap grocery store cake.
Deb, that banana walnute cake sounds scrumptious.

PS: My favorite cake is peanutbutter pie from Jack's in Bakersfield which no longer exists. Jack's is gone. Bakersfield is still there. I think.

Moot point, though. I'm not going off my diet.

I tell people that the things (not people) I miss most from my former life in the mid-west (stl) are Autumn and 'the first snow'. I used to add gooey butter cake to the list, but quit mentioning it because I then had to describe it to the uninitiated. No one in SoCal would believe that people really ate something with that amount of butter and sugar in it. You have made me homesick again...WAAAAAAAAAHH

Happy Birthday, William!!

I must admit that the only gooey cakes I've had are of the Paula Deen variety - cake mix with extra butter, and a topping made of half cream cheese and half whatever else you're using for flavor. Chocolate cake with cream cheese/peanut butter and yellow with cream cheese/pumpkin pie filling are both amazing.

My Mom baked pies and cookies, but seldom cake except for birthdays. The exception was a chocolate spice cake with buttercream frosting and, in later years, a Texas sheet cake with boiled chocolate frosting. My middle sister is the baker in the family, and she still has all Mom's recipes. Visiting her is an exercise in indulgence!

OK Elaine, I had to go out to get shelf supports and primer for the bookcase I just built. Schnucks happens to be by Home Depot. I decided to run in and get a loaf of bread.... You know what is on the aisle opposite bread don't you? If I have powdered sugar all over my face this week it is your fault.

Yes, William,Happy Birthday. That's a safe topic for me. I want to make a gooey cake, but I can see my cardiologist grimacing, and my endocrinologist laughing-it's hard to be old sometimes. My favorite cake was always Black Forest Cake which I think is a variation on Alan's German Chocolate Cake. All that good stuff plus cherries. Dang, Now I am going to have to clean my keyboard from drooling. I think I'll read your book instead, Elaine, fewer carbs.

No carbs or calories in my books, Lil.
Mary Lynn, maybe Santa will send you a gooey butter cake from St. Louis.
Diana, about that GBC -- I envey you.
I'm taking off for lunch -- too much talk of food.

Anyone else grow up with Wacky Cake? I loved my mom's but I did change it up when I started making it, reduced the sugar and added a mashed ripe banana for extra moistness.

I miss cake now that I am allergic to grains. I can and do bake all sorts of things but grainless cakes are not quite the same.

Special Sundays we got Pineapple Upsidedown Cake, yum yum yum. I also changed that up, my version was Gingerbread Pear Upsidedown Cake! I miss it.

If anyone knows of a grainless GBC cake let me know! I do not fear the butter!

For our birthdays when we were kids we got 'special' cakes, yes, cakes made from a mix!!! 2 layer cakes with butter cream icing and we got to pick our own flavour. This year I will be having a gluten free brownie for my birthday, not quite the same.

I used to live in Nanaimo, BC, home of, you guessed it, Nanaimo Bars. I only liked them when someone made the base without coconut.

I have never had Red Velvet Cake and can honestly say, no problem. The idea of all that food colouring makes me shudder. I do remember liking Tomato Soup Cake! Almost red . . .

Never heard of tomato soup cake,Gaylin, but so far today I haven't met a cake I didn't like.

My favorite is carrot cake, but I just made a batch of chocolate chip cookies with pecans from our own trees. Would rather have made pecan pie but trying to show restraint here.

Make that chewy, gooey, chocolate chip cookies. Not sure why they turned out that way but yummmmm.

Elaine, no on in my family liked tomato soup, my mom only bought it on occasion to make cake!

Gaylin, I don't remember tomato soup cake, but I recall a time when people put sugar on their tomatoes and called it fruit. I guess it is fruit. Does anyone else remember this - or is my mind WriMoed out of all sensibility?

Chocolate chips with pecans. You guys are killing me.
The tomato soup cake makes sense, Gaylin. I had brownies made with red pepper -- just enough kick to make them interesting. Thanks for posting the recipe.

Elaine, there is still a bit of fall color, but storms predicted for Tuesday. I asked the trees to hold on for you visit, but not sure they listened . . .

The tomato soup reminds me of another odd recipe -- my grandmother used to make a faux apple pie with Ritz crackers . . .

Whacky cake originated during the Depression...no eggs or dairy in it.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Sift flour, sugar, salt, soda, and cocoa together into an 8x8 inch ungreased cake pan. Make three depressions. Pour oil into one well, vinegar into second, and vanilla into third well. Pour water over all, and stir well with fork.
Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 to 40 minutes, or until tooth pick inserted comes out clean. Frost with your favorite icing.

It can actually all be stirred up in the same pan.

I think it is the forerunner of Dump Cake.

it's good, but will never be a GBC

Not only do I remember Ritz cracker pie, Mary, here's the recipe, http://www.kraftrecipes.com/recipes/ritz-mock-apple-pie-53709.aspx
Whacky cake looks delicious, Mary Lynn -- vanilla and vinegar.

Mary Lynn, reduce the sugar to 2/3 cup, use brown instead of white and one smashed up ripe banana and that is my changes to wacky cake!

I do remember ritz cracker pie! I used to make it just to fool people.

Gaylin, these days I mostly go with a Dump Cake.

I remember Ritz/apple pie, and the tomato soup cake. I think I even have recipes for both somewhere in my piles.

I used to make a tomato soup cake, Gaylin. I haven't had a chance to check the recipe you posted so I don't know if this is the same cake. I used to tell certain people (tomato haters) that it was a "spice" cake with some other stuff thrown in.
They liked it, and were surprised to find out what the "secret" ingredient was!

Elaine, you have started a conversation that has made me so hungry! I broke down and had a slice of that banana walnut cake. (I told myself that it was a healthy dessert. Not sure I believe that, but it tasted good!)

Happy Birthday,William! I hope your day included lots of cake!

My mom made the best pineapple upside-down cake ever (yes, complete with a cherry in each ring). Growing up, I German Chocolate cake was my favorite, but I don't remember my family ever really paying attention to that, oddly enough. I think my birthday cake was always just a yellow sheet cake with homemade butter icing, which I sometimes baked for myself. Hmmmm.

Anyway, Elaine, my oven is broken. But, you've got me wondering if I could make a GBC in a skillet on top of the stove . . . !

Happy Birthday, William!

Happy Birthday, William!

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