Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tasty Treat: St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake

On Tuesday I wrote to you about friendship and corn bread and the amazing Southern dinner party we attended. Today is all about the dessert I made. Among my friends, I am the dessert maker and I take this honorable role very seriously. I love dessert and I love baking and I especially love a crowd since baking extravagant desserts solely for the hubby and me is a recipe for obesity. Since the dinner was branded a Southern feast, I finally had an excuse to try the St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake Melissa Clark wrote about a few months back in the New York Times food section.

Clark is one of my favorite food writers; I always trust her recipes. However, I have to admit, any recipe with gooey in the title is a siren call to me. I love goo. In fact, when ordering pecan pie, I always ask about the goo to pecan ratio since I would really just like a bowl of goo. Chess Pie is another favorite of mine because it's all lemon/lime scented goo. That being said, I don't like weird, fake tasting goo such as is found in desserts made with unidentifiable ingredients. I like the natural goo that comes from some combination of butter, sugar and a touch of corn syrup.

The SLGBC has all the good parts of goo without the bad. It's comprised of two layers: a yeast dough topped with a less sturdy, well gooey, batter. The bottom, like a pie crust, is really just a vehicle for the top, but it's the perfect accompaniment, adding a nice chew. While Clark writes the SLGBC for her was more of a moist cake, for me it turned out to be one part chewy cake and one part gooey batter topping. I made it the day we ate it and I think that's the secret since the next day, to Clark's point, it was more a moist cake.

I don't usually have tasters beyond the hubby and baby girl so here are quotes from my friends recorded in real time as they had their first bites:

"Oh my god," munch, munch

"This is the best cake I've ever tasted," mouth full of food, "No, I'm serious, this is so so so good!"

"My doctor would kill me, but I can't stop eating," this from my friend who had Gestational Diabetes.

"Hun, sorry I was so pessimistic. This is really good," said the hubby who'd thought the cake didn't look very special when it came out of the oven.

Baby girl and her friend, baby boy, each ate adult portions because the adults were too busy in cake ecstasy to notice. They should've done something way badder than that, like draw on the walls with sharpie pens.

Convinced? I highly recommend you get together six of your closest friends and feed them this cake!!

St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake
(This cake, chewy and gooey and moist, easily made my personal top ten list of best Southern cakes. It's second only to the Robert E. Lee Cake (recipe to come.) because my grandmother would kill me if I try to usurp its reigning king. However, she hasn't tried the SLGBC yet...) 

What You'll Need:

For the Yeast Cake - 
3 tbsp Milk at room temperature mixed with 2 tbsp very Warm Water
2 tsp Active Dry Yeast
6 tbsp Unsalted Butter softened
3 tbsp Sugar
1 tsp Salt
1 lg Egg at room temperature
1 3/4 cups White Whole Wheat Flour

For the Gooey Batter -
3 heaping tbsp Light Corn Syrup
1 tbsp Vanilla Extract
12 tbsp Unsalted Butter softened
1 1/2 cups Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
1 lg Egg at room temperature
1 cup plus 3 tbsp White Whole Wheat Flour

Confectioner's Sugar for dusting

To the warm water and milk mixture add the yeast. There should be a bit of foaming, but if you don't see it, then sprinkle a bit of sugar into the bowl. After a few minutes you should see the mixture starting to puff and the yeast multiplying. If you don't then this means your yeast is dead and your cake won't rise.

In a mixer with the paddle attachment, add the butter, sugar and salt. Mix on high until very fluffy. Scrape down the sides and incorporate the egg on medium. Then, in an alternating pattern, add the flour and yeast mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then mix at a medium speed until the dough  becomes smooth and elastic and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. About

Place the dough in an unbuttered 9x13 baking dish and gently spread it out with your fingers to cover the  bottom of the dish. Cover with saran wrap and place in a warm dry place for about 3 hours or until it's doubled in size.

2 1/2 hours later, preheat the oven to 350 and add the corn syrup, vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of water to a small bowl. Whisk until incorporated and set aside. In a mixer with paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar and salt at a high speed until it is white and very fluffy. About 5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and beat in the egg at a medium speed. Add the flour and corn syrup mixture in alternating turns and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Uncover the yeast cake baking dish and spoon the batter over top. Smooth it all across the cake with a spatula meeting the sides of the baking dish all around. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the top is golden brown. The center won't set and will be quite shaky. Cool in the pan.

To serve, sprinkle just a little bit of sugar overtop. This is a sweet cake so it's just for show. Cut small slices and enjoy with tea or a glass of milk!

*Note: I recommend making this the day of since it loses it crisp chewy nature on the second day. It's still really tasty, but not mind-blowingly amazing.

*Note: I also think this would do well with a few tablespoons of lime, lemon or orange zest in the batter. I may try that next time.

Approximate Dinner Cost:
Groceries: $8-10
Cost per Meal: This is supposed to serve 18-20 people, but we were incredibly piggy and nearly devoured the whole thing. I'll say it makes more like 12-14 servings if people are behaving themselves.

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  1. I hereby volunteer to be one of your tasters. This sounds amazing and full of plenty of the right kinda goo!

  2. I've made Paula Deen's gooey butter cake (and didn't like it), but the recipe was quite different. I'm going to have to try this one!

  3. This looks so delicious! I am quite a fan of gooey desserts myself. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I can almost taste how yummy this is by the way you describe it. Must try!!!!!

  4. Let's add this to the list of desserts to try. You give me the confidence to think I can make this successfully!

  5. crust and goo! really can't go wrong! and i love that your hubby had to eat crow!

  6. This looks amazing, Peggy. I have only one regional quibble: Since when is St. Louis in the South?

  7. Thank you everyone!! I definitely could use more tasters!

    Marthaandme - Clark says this recipe isn't so toothachingly sweet because the recipe is yeast rather than crisco based. Perhaps Deen's recipe was like the latter?

    Ruth - I was surprised by your statement as I always thought of MIssouri as a Southern state, but then I went researching and found that Missouri is in a class by itself. Some say it's Southern while others say Midwestern and still others even say Northern. Missouri did have a star in the Confederate flag and according to Wiki, also had a star on the Union flag and two separate governments representing North and South.

    So it seems that my assumptions are perhaps purely based on being Virginian at heart. While those who are Midwestern and/or Northern may feel very differently. How fascinating!!

  8. What better reason to bring a bunch of friends together than to try this cake! I can't wait to do just that! Thanks, Peggy!

  9. This gives me a chance to plug Enemy Women, which is one of my favorite novels and takes place in Missouri during the Civil War.

  10. Please plug away!! My other passions are fiction and history. I definitely want to read Enemy Women now that I have a newfound appreciation for Missouri cuisine and its history.

    Sarah, let me know how it goes! And everyone, please send pictures if you have a chance:)

  11. Ooooh - I had flagged this when I read the original NYT article - now I MUST try it. Also, if you love goo (I do too), then you have to rey this recipe I ahve for homemade pecan buns with Goo - it was origianlly from Food Network, but I can't find it there now, so I'll have to scan it in and e-mail it to you! Hope you're doing well!

  12. Caroline, Please do send the recipe!! I have a thing for pecan buns and, if they're gooey? then that is a wonderful thing. Thank you!

  13. Gooey and butter... I'm definitely in! I don't know how any woman keeps her figure in the south... but I do love the food.

  14. I have a new appreciation for goo now. Love it.

  15. That looks amazing. So please tell me--does the white whole wheat flour cancel out the calories from the 18 tablespoons of butter? Mmmmm

  16. Great dessert!!! I tasted it and couldn't stop saying "this is sooooooooo good....". Gooey cakes are usually too gooey for me but it had the perfect gooeyness and mositure. Thanks, Peggy!!

  17. I like to think that white whole wheat flour cancels out the butter, but it's doubtful.

  18. gooey...crusty...buttery...what's not to like?

  19. I had never heard of gooey butter cake until now and now it's all I can think of!

  20. Looks fantastic. Just fantastic. I definitely want to make this!!

  21. I have to say, anything involving yeast and rising three hours immediately makes me think "haven't got that kind of time", but this seems well worth the effort for a special occasion; yum!

  22. And I always like seeing Southern food getting attention; in my opinion the best American regional cuisine by far!

  23. Oh dear, this looks divine. I wonder if it would translate into gluten free?

  24. Yowsa! This looks great :) My mouth is actually watering LOL! Instead of using white whole wheat flour I would definitely want to throw in Kamut Khorasan Wheat for more nutrients and flavor!! Awesome :)

  25. Oh, MY. That sounds fabulous, though I have to admit it I probably wouldn't have thought to try it based on looks alone. I'm not afraid of yeast - definitely want to try this.

  26. And we thought Paula Deen made up the idea of a gooey butter cake! Clearly, this looks like the original recipe that gets passed down in families. The filling looks awesome.

  27. How could anything with the words "gooey" and "butter" NOT be amazing?



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