Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of Gooey Butter Cake!
I was floored by the number of people who had never heard of or tried gooey butter cake before. Apparently, it is one of those regional things, and gooey butter cake is a St. Louis tradition. It certainly does encapsulate St. Louis style food: cheap, fattening, and delicious. Like Imo’s pizza, and toasted ravioli (the meat kind, not the ricotta filled bastardization they serve in Chicago. Sorry Chicago, I love you, but you got this one terribly wrong).
A note on the pizza, while we’re on the subject. A lot of people think that St. Louis style pizza just means cracker crust, and while that is a requirement that’s not what makes St. Louis style pizza special. Nay, my friend, it’s provel. Provel is a beautifully processed blend of provolone, swiss, and cheddar cheeses that results in something oh… so… melty…
But I digress.
I am proud to say that I introduced many a Chicagoan to Gooey Butter Cake this week, and they loved it. It really is the perfect dessert. It’s dangerously sweet, crumbly, and soft. It can be topped with anything: berries, whipped cream, chocolate, caramel, or just eaten straight out of the pan, which I am not ashamed to say I have done on occasion. There are many different types and ways you can make it, but I liked this recipe from Flavorite because it didn’t use any yellow cake mix (blech!), is closest to the style of gooey butter cake I had growing up, and it’s stupid easy. Like seriously, so, so, easy. See for yourself:
Gooey Butter Cake is one of those incredibly difficult to describe things. People would ask me what it is and I’d just blink at them before being like “well, uh, you just have to eat it”. The best description I’ve heard so far from one of the gooey butter cake virgins I deflowered this week was “it’s like a blondie, but like, better, cuz it’s got the good stuff on top”.
This version is rather similar to a blondie on the bottom, nice and thick and crumbly. The topping is a little more difficult to find a comparison. The flavor is strudel-like, but if you melted it? Maybe? The cream cheese flavor comes through just enough to separate the topping from the cake, and keep it creamy and soft and, well, gooey. If you don’t like very sweet cakes, however, this might not be for you. But like, try it anyway.
This is the only category that didn’t get full marks for me. This cake, in general, just looks kinda… meh. I remember thinking when it came out the of the oven “well crap, how do I make people want to eat this”. It’s not that it’s ugly, or particularly unappetizing in any way, it’s just not anything to write home about. The topping is also very delicate, so it was very difficult to keep it looking good while trying to get it out of the pan. That first slice was pretty much just a sacrifice so that the remainder of the pieces would have a chance to make it out of the pan. But the taste more than makes up for it.
Note: DO NOT attempt to remove the cake from the pan by flipping it over! The topping is very soft, hence “gooey” butter cake. You will end up with a mess. It’s best to just slice and serve with a spatula like a brownie.
You might be wondering why this category got full marks when the directions are so simple and undetailed. It’s because that’s all this recipe needs. The directions are simple because the recipe is simple. I followed the instructions exactly as stated and found myself looking for only one piece of information, which was a description of the batter. The batter for the bottom of the cake is very thick, and could actually be described as a dough. It was sort of the consistency of cookie dough and I had to press it out into the pan with my fingertips. That was the only part that made me look back at the ingredients to make sure I got the measurements right. So if you get to that part of the recipe and are feeling trepidatious about your batter, it’s fine, it’s supposed to look that way.
Grease, mix dry, mix sugar and wet, mix together, spread, mix topping, spread, bake. That’s it, my friends. It’s stupid easy, cheap, and quick, why aren’t you other cities making this?! Make it with the kids. Then watch them bounce off the walls cuz this stuff is all sugar.
Just one more reason why gooey butter cake should be your next potluck dish: it’s cheap. Exact recipe amount came to $8.88 for the whole darn pan. If you were to buy grocery store volumes of each ingredient, then it would come to $27.38. I had most of the ingredients on hand (flour, sugar, butter, etc.). All I had to buy was cream cheese and extra powdered sugar. Meaning I spent a grand total of $5 to make this.
Bowl to pan took me all of maybe 15 minutes. For real. The longest part of this is the bake and cool time. Definitely, make sure they are completely cooled before you attempt pan extraction.
Very simple equipment, just bowls, a baking dish, and an egg beater.