Gooey Butter Cake

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Gooey butter cake is a St. Louis Classic! It has a buttery, gooey topping that sits over a sweet dough base. The edges bake up crispy and the center is soft, creamy, and yes, a little gooey.

Gooey butter cake in cake pan with spatula taking a slice out.

Gooey butter cake is a St. Louis original. It’s one of those recipes that must appear in every spiral bound community or church cooking book in Missouri. It’s a local obsession, and after one bite, you’ll see why.

Typically cakes are light and fluffy – the lighter and fluffier the prouder we are of them. Like my chocolate cake or my fluffy homemade coconut cake.

Gooey butter cake is neither light nor fluffy. It’s flat and dense, but unlike a flourless chocolate cake, also known for its density, this is ooey gooey butter cake is almost chewy in the center.

It’s like a blondie, a cookie and a vanilla pudding all smooshed together. It’s creamy and comforting and just so incredibly delicious. If you’ve never tried it you are for sure in for a treat.

Gooey butter cake doesn’t look like much at first glance, but don’t let looks deceive. The combination of flour, butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and corn syrup yield this spectacular simple yet luxurious dessert that will have your guests begging for more.

The trick is that the cake is really two separate layers. The first layer is a yeasty dough, thicker than a cake batter, that is allowed to rise for a few hours before the topping is poured on it.

The topping is where the magic is. Eggs, vanilla, butter, and corn syrup make this almost a condensed milk pudding of sorts. When baked, it takes on a thick, gooey, custard-like texture that truly makes for a magical taste experience.

This is one of those nostalgic recipes that has stood the test of time for a reason.


Recipe Snapshot

  • TASTE: Rich and buttery and delicious
  • TEXTURE: Crisp edges and gooey center
  • EASE: Medium
  • TIME: Just over an hour, plus rising time of 1-2 hours

What You’ll Need

Ingredients

  • Milk: Whole milk, warmed to 100-110°F to activate the yeast
  • Yeast: Active dry yeast
  • Butter: Unsalted butter, softened to room temperature is used in both the cake and the topping.
  • Sugar: White granulated sugar is in both layers of the cake and confectioners’ sugar is dusted over the top after the cake has been baked.
  • Eggs: Both layers also require room-temperature eggs
  • Flour: All-purpose flour is also in both layers.
  • Corn Syrup: Puts the goo in gooey in the top layer
  • Water: Just a bit.
  • Vanilla extract: Use a high-quality natural extract.
  • Salt: To balance the flavors.

Recommended Tools

Close up of slice of gooey butter cake.

How to Make Gooey Butter Cake

This gooey butter cake recipe requires a few steps, but none of them are complicated. To begin, grease your 9×13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and dust with flour. Once the cake has risen and is ready to be baked, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Be sure to check out the full recipe and ingredient list below

Make the cake

  1. Activate the yeast. Add the warm milk to a small bowl and stir in the yeast. Set aside for 5 minutes, until foamy.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the egg. Add the egg and salt and beat until combined, about 1 minute.
  4. Finish the dough. Add in half of the flour, and beat until incorporated. Then, add in the yeast mixture and beat until incorporated. Add in the remaining flour, and continue beating on low speed until the dough becomes stretchy, about 5-6 minutes.
  5. Let dough rise. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan and use a spatula to spread it into an even layer. Cover the pan with a towel and set it in a warm place to rise for 1-2 hours.

Make the topping

  1. Mix the liquids. Add the corn syrup, water, and vanilla to a small bowl. Whisk until well combined.
  2. Cream the sugar and butter. Add the butter, sugar, and salt to the bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, 5-7 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the egg until well combined, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the flour. Add half the flour and mix until almost fully combined. Beat in the corn syrup mixture followed by the remaining flour and mix until well combined.
  4. Spread the topping over the base. Spoon the topping in large dollops over the risen cake and use a spatula to gently spread it in an even layer. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes; the cake will rise and fall in waves and have a golden brown top, but will still be liquid in the center when done.
  5. Cool. Allow to cool completely in the pan before sprinkling with confectioners’ sugar for serving. Parts of the cake may sink and form little craters, this is completely fine!

Handy tip:

I know a lot of recipes call for greasing and flouring the baking pan, and lots of you take a short cut and just spray the pan. This cake is moist and gooey and sticky. Please take the extra step of greasing AND flouring the baking pan to prevent the cake from sticking

Tips For Success

  • Butter: Use REAL butter. Most of the flavor in this cake comes from the butter, so I like to use unsalted sweet cream butter.
  • Avoid opening the oven door: Keep the oven door closed until the bake time is almost up, otherwise, the cake may collapse.
  • Cool completely: Allow the cake to cool completely before slicing. If it’s still warm it may crumble.
Slice of gooey butter cake on white plate with fork taking a bite out.

Storage & Freezing

  1. Store gooey butter cake in an airtight container or in plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  2. It freezes well for up to 3 months. If frozen, wait to sprinkle with powdered sugar until it has thawed and is ready to serve.

Gooey Butter Cake

Close up of slice of gooey butter cake.
Gooey butter cake is a St. Louis Classic! It has a buttery, gooey topping that sits over a sweet dough base. The edges bake up crispy and the center is soft and creamy.
Jen Sobjack
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Rise Time 2 hours
Total Time 3 hours 15 minutes
Serving Size 16

Ingredients

For the cake

  • ¼ cup (60 ml) whole milk, warm to 100-110°F
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • ½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • ¼ cup (50 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups (260 g) all-purpose flour

For the topping

  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cups (170 g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 ¼ cups (162 g) all-purpose flour
  • confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Instructions

Make the cake

  • Grease a 9×13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray and dust with flour, tapping out any excess. Set aside.
  • Add the warm milk to a small bowl and stir in the yeast. Set aside for 5 minutes, until foamy.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  • Add in the egg and salt and beat until combined, about 1 minute.
  • Add in half of the flour, and beat until incorporated. Then, add in the yeast mixture and beat until incorporated. Add in the remaining flour, and continue beating on low speed until the dough becomes stretchy, about 5-6 minutes.
  • Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan and use a spatula to spread it into an even layer.
  • Cover the pan with a towel and set it in a warm place to rise for 1-2 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Make the topping

  • Add the corn syrup, water, and vanilla to a small bowl. Whisk until well combined.
  • Add the butter, sugar, and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 5-7 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  • Beat in the egg until well combined, about 30 seconds.
  • Add half the flour and mix until almost fully combined. Beat in the corn syrup mixture followed by the remaining flour and mix until well combined.
  • Spoon the 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; the cake will rise and fall in waves and have a golden brown top, but will still be liquid in the center when done.
  • Allow to cool completely in the pan before sprinkling with confectioners’ sugar for serving. Parts of the cake may sink and form little craters, this is completely fine!

Notes

  • Prep the pan: Grease AND flour the baking pan to prevent the cake from sticking.
  • Butter: Use REAL butter. Most of the flavor in this cake comes from the butter, so I like to use unsalted sweet cream butter.
  • Avoid opening the oven door: Keep the oven door closed until the bake time is almost up, otherwise the cake may collapse.
  • Cool completely: Allow the cake to cool completely before slicing. If it’s still warm it may crumble.
Make ahead tip
  1. Store gooey butter cake in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  2. It freezes well for up to 3 months.

Nutrition

Serving: 1slice | Calories: 359kcal | Carbohydrates: 52g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 62mg | Sodium: 148mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 33g
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American

One Comment

  1. Elizabeth French says:

    At last…a recipe using the traditional St Louis method of creating a yeast dough cake layer instead of using a cake mix. It isn’t the same as any of the lovely traditional bakeries in St Louis will show you! And we have many!

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