gooey butter cake
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St Louis gooey butter cake – or, indeed, ‘gooey butter’ as it’s known to the born and raised – was created by mistake, legend holds it. As so many good things, it only makes me wonder: why when I make a mistake the stuff is only fit for the bin?
The legend has it that a St Louisan baker mixed up the proportions of butter and flour in a cake mix and the lot was baked rather than slung, it being the Great Depression, waste not, want not. It sounds too simple – after all the cake has two distinctive layers, one cakey, one gooey (ooey gooey, sometimes called) so unless the baker was baking two cakes on top of each other, there must have been more to it than that.
Never mind – the result matters and the result is the kind of thing that makes every cell in your body sing with joy, it’s that delishhh. Don’t even attempt to bake it if you’re on any diet regime, as it will fly right out of the window.
The gooey butter is sold as breakfast pastry and there are two variants, fiercely defended by the respective factions. One: ready cake mix and a cream cheese topping sounds lovely and easy but the yeast base and buttery sugary goo on top appeals to me with the force of the original. They didn’t have cake mix packets in the 1930s, did they?
I followed the NY Times recipe which, though apparently scorned by St Louisans, is after all attributed to Molly Killeen, the St. Louis native behind Made by Molly, a dessert company in Brooklyn.
gooey butter cakeServings: 12-16Time: about 3 hours
- For the cake:
- 3 tbsp. milk
- 2 tbsp. water
- 10g fresh or 1 tsp instant yeast
- 85g butter, softened
- 45g caster sugar
- 1 tsp fine salt
- 1 large egg
- 250g plain flour
- For the gooey topping:
- 50ml / 85g light corn syrup (can be replaced with golden syrup)
- 2 tbsp. water
- 2 ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 170g butter, softened
- 300g caster sugar
- ½ tsp fine salt
- 1 large egg
- 145g plain flour
- icing sugar, for dusting
Mix the milk with water and warm it up a little (10 sec in a microwave). Stir in the yeast and put aside while you cream the butter with the sugar and salt (best to do it in a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, even though it’s yeast dough – or with a handheld mixer if you don’t have the standing one). Add the egg and beat in well. Now add a little of the flour alternating it with a little milk mixture, beating well all the time, until all is used up. Keep beating until the dough almost pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Prepare an ungreased gratin or baking ceramic dish about 20 x 30cm (I made mine in a metal cake tin lined with baker’s parchment – wrong and completely unnecessary). Transfer the dough into the dish and stretch it to cover the bottom evenly. Cover the dish with cling film or a tea towel and leave in a warm place for about 2 hours until risen slightly or at least puffed up.
To make the topping, cream the butter with the sugar and salt again, then beat in the egg. Mix the corn syrup with the water and vanilla extract and add this to the butter mix, alternating with the flour. It should end up looking like fluffy buttercream.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. When the cake base has risen, spoon the topping in large dollops over it and spread it gently with a spatula. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes until browned and wavy on top but still very wobbly. Cool in the dish, dust with icing sugar and cut into squares or slices.