photo courtesy of Park Avenue Coffee
Fans of gooey butter cake know that the delicious concoction originated right here in St. Louis. South St. Louis, to be exact, when the area was flush with German immigrants. It was first made in the 1930s as a mistake by a new baker at a German bakery who mixed up batter proportions for coffee cake, and it became an instant hit.
Locally, that is. The Gateway City's favorite dessert never quite caught on outside of St. Louis, and that’s fine by us. It’s just another one of our quirky square-shaped local delicacies, and we're happy to recognize its greatness even if the rest of the world doesn't get it.
The traditional recipe simply calls for cake flour, butter, sugar, eggs and a dusting of powdered sugar, though some bakeries have taken some fun liberties with it. Pick some up and introduce a newcomer to this St. Louis specialty, or just remind yourself why we fell in love with it in the first place.
1. Park Avenue Coffee
Multiple locations including 1919 Park Avenue, Lafayette Square
Park Avenue Coffee specializes in authentic gooey butter cake, made from scratch “with love.” The first flavor offered is still available today – “Mom's Traditional.” All four locations of the locally owned coffee shop now offer twelve flavors daily, including triple chocolate and white chocolate raspberry. Special orders can be placed online for one of 73 (!) flavors.
2. Little O's Old Time Soda Fountain
125 North Main Street, St Charles
photo courtesy of Little O's Old Time Soda Fountain
The Ozenkoski family is said to have been taught its technique by one of the original gooey butter cake bakers. The recipe has since been passed down over the years with only minor tweaks. The old-timey shop offers an original gooey butter cake, as well as flavors such as peanut butter chocolate chip, strawberry cheesecake, brownie and even a gooey butter milkshake.
3. Lubeley's Bakery
7815 Watson Road; Shrewsbury
photo courtesy of Lubeley's Bakery
This old-fashioned, family-owned bakery and deli has been in business since 1937. Gooey butter cake can be found here amidst a heavenly assortment of German pastries, cookies and cakes. Aside from the original flavor, they also offer chocolate chip, cinnamon, "Cardinal Sin" (cherry and chocolate chip), pumpkin and "Royal Gooey Butter," which is made with cream cheese for Mardi Gras.
4. McArthur’s Bakery
Multiple locations, including 3055 Lemay Ferry Road, Mehlville
photo courtesy of McArthur’s Bakery
McArthur’s Bakery gooey butter cake was recently named by CNN as one of the richest desserts in the United States
. The recipe was developed by Donald McArthur in 1956 at the original McArthur’s Bakery location on Arco Avenue. The bakery also makes gooey butter wedding cakes.
5. Missouri Baking Company
2027 Edwards Street, The Hill
Missouri Baking Company operates on the assumption that butter and sugar are the best combination — making gooey butter cake a "must" on the menu. The recipe is a bit different from the traditional, however. Theirs is an actual cake made with almond paste and a sweet dough, which is more solid and less gooey. The flavors change with the season — right now, cherry, chocolate chip and eggnog are featured. Valentine’s Day brings red velvet, summer offers triple berry with strawberries, blackberries and blueberries, and fall’s featured flavor is brown sugar pecan.
Turn the page for more gooey butter cake destinations.
6. Hartford Coffee Company
3974 Hartford Street, Tower Grove South
photo courtesy of Hartford Coffee Company
Gooey butter cake is a relatively new offering at Hartford Coffee Company. After adding the dessert their grandmothers often made, the owners saw it quickly become a surprise favorite at the shop and added it to the daily menu. Regularly offered flavors include original, blueberry and chocolate chip; new flavors appear seasonally and by request.
7. The Mud House
2101 Cherokee Street, Cherokee District
photo courtesy of The Mud House
The gooey butter cake recipe used at the Mud House has mysterious origins: It came from a former employee's mother from Nebraska. It stands out from the pack in that it uses a short dough that rests overnight, which is then pressed into a pan and topped with cream cheese, powdered sugar, eggs, vanilla and lemon juice, which balances the sweetness of the filling. It's baked for a long time to caramelize the sugars in the crust and on the top, but the gooey remains gooey. Every once in a while, blueberry lime or strawberry lemon flavors are featured.
8958 Watson Road, Crestwood
Lawrence Bryant Photography
The new fast-casual breakfast-and-lunch spot in Crestwood, Yolklore, offers a variation of gooey butter cake with three balanced layers of cake, “goo” and crispiness. The bottom layer is more of a crust than a cake and the “goo” develops a crispy layer on top after its baked. “It’s not for the faint of heart,” says chef-owner Mary Bogacki.
1419 Carroll Street; Lafayette Square
“Desserts are like the last chapter of a book when dining,” explains pastry chef Tyler Davis. “I like flavors to be distinct, not too sweet, memorable and exciting.” The gooey butter cake at Element is just that, with flavors such as passion fruit with pomegranate and peanut butter and caramelized white chocolate.
7036 Clayton Avenue, Hi-Pointe
The beautifully plated gooey butter cake at Boundary, which chef Rex Hale reworked from his mother's recipe, is offered on special at the restaurant in the Cheshire Hotel. Flavors have included original, chocolate, pumpkin and lemon.
Follow Sara Graham on Instagram and Twitter at @engagetaste. E-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.