A Curious Confection: St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake

11 Jul

I’m always excited when I discover a dish I have never heard of that combines many of the textures and flavors I love. This one was actually brought to my attention a few years ago by a dear friend who asked for a St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake for his birthday, and I instantly fell in love with the concept the first time I made it. A soft, lightly sweet yeast-risen cake topped with a thick layer of sugar and butter that bakes up with a crisp crackly top like crème brûlée and a gooey layer beneath that melts on the tongue like cotton candy. Part confection, part cake, part bread, all amazing.

And while it takes a few hours to make, don’t be intimidated. The vast majority of it is just waiting for that cake dough to sloooooowly rise in the pan. The other key component here is to make sure your butter and eggs have a chance to come to room temperature before starting. Your results will be far more consistent.

St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake

Cake:

  • 3 tbsp. milk
  • 1 3/4 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

Topping:

  • 3 tbsp. + 1 tsp. light corn syrup
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 12 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup plus 3 tbsp. all-purpose flour

Have ready an ungreased 9×13 in. baking dish. I would recommend glass or ceramic as the edges of the cake will get quite dark when baked in a metal pan.

In a small saucepan, combine the milk with 2 tbsp. of water and heat until between 110-115 degrees F. Remove from the heat, whisk in the yeast, and set aside. The mixture will foam, but just slightly.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, 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, 4-5 minutes.

Press dough into the baking dish in an even layer.

Cover with plastic wrap or a clean towel. Allow to rise until doubled, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F while you prepare the topping.

In a small bowl, mix the corn syrup with 2 tbsp. of water and the vanilla extract.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, cream butter, sugar, and salt until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the egg until well combined.

Alternately add flour and the corn syrup/vanilla mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between additions.

Use an ice cream or cookie scoop to spoon the topping in large dollops over the risen cake, then use a spatula (a small offset works really well here) to gently spread it in an even layer.

Bake for 35-40 minutes. The finished cake will be golden brown on top, but still liquid in center when done.

Allow to cool in pan before cutting into squares. Sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar to serve.

The combination of textures is outrageously good here. Soft cake and a gooey-crisp-confection-like topping sure to make you question why on earth you’ve never heard of St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake before right this moment.

Well if you have, you’re one of the lucky ones. And I hope that now you’ll try to make one too!

Trust me, it’s worth the time spent.

Ciao for now,

Neen

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