St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake
I am a bad person.
If making your entire apartment smell like butter and giving out sweet treats mid-week so people around you can get through their work life easier make you a bad person, then I am a terrible, terrible human being.
Requested by my best (gourmet) partner in crime M, this legendary cake originated from St. Louis is the love child of a coffee cake and a blondie. Imagine a sweet yeasted bread smothered with soft, chewy goo with its top baked to a perfect crisp, golden crust. You’d think it’s just indulging goodness, but this is so much more than that. This recipe takes time and care, and with all things to do with dough, a certain degree of intuition.
And when I say that, it is of course because I failed to do so. From my close inspection of photos of the gooey cake online, I noticed a lot of them have a bottom err on the dry side. I made a mental note to make sure my cake is not overcooked, which did not go according to plan. As aI kneel in front of the hot oven door, spooning away the overflowing goo from the bottom rack, I regret using a short cake pan. The result is still pretty good to be fair, soft cake on the bottom with a thin layer of sugary-buttery goodness that becomes chewy as you break through the crust. M was not so easily satisfied, quickly pointing out the thinner-than-desired goo layer. I have no defense.
However, as I sip on my afternoon coffee in the middle of a restaurant watching her slowly nibbling through 2 big fat slices of the cake still in a (clearly) self-brought paper box, I think I fully deserve the bad friend title.
ST. LOUIS GOOEY BUTTER CAKE
Makes one 9 by 13″ cake. Adapted from this recipe.
For the topping:
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon light corn syrup (I used lyle’s golden syrup)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 sticks / 170g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup / 250g sugar
1/2 tsp/ 3g kosher salt
1 large egg
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons / 145g all-purpose flour
For the cake:
3 tablespoons milk at room temperature
1 3/4 tsp / 5g instant dry yeast
85g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2.5 tablespoons / 40g sugar
1 tsp / 5g kosher salt
1 large egg
1 3/4 cup / 215g all-purpose flour
confectioner’s sugar, for sprinkling
- In a small bowl, mix milk with 2 tablespoons warm water. Add yeast and whisk gently until it dissolves. Mixture should foam slightly. (Mine barely foamed)
- Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Alternately add flour and the milk mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition. Beat dough on medium speed until it forms a smooth mass and pulls away from sides of bowl, 7 to 10 minutes.
- Press dough into an ungreased 9-by 13-inch baking dish at least 2 inches deep. Cover dish with plastic wrap or clean tea towel, put in a warm place, and allow to rise until doubled, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. To prepare topping, in a small bowl, mix corn syrup with 2 tablespoons water and the vanilla. Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Alternately add flour and corn syrup mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition.
- Spoon topping in large dollops over risen cake and use a spatula to gently spread it in an even layer. Bake for 35 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. Allow to cool in pan before sprinkling with confectioners’ sugar for serving.