How to Make the Perfect St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake

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In St. Louis, gooey butter cake is a go-to treat. Learn how to make this rich, delicious (and super easy!) dessert wherever you call home.

Sometimes all you need is a no-fuss, no-frills treat to satisfy your sweet tooth. For some, that could be a batch of brownies or a generously sized chocolate chip cookie. But if you hail from St. Louis, your go-to treat might just be the city’s signature gooey butter cake.

This cake isn’t quite a cake. As former St. Louis resident and Taste of Home Associate Editor Annamarie Higley describes it, gooey butter cake is “the texture of a lemon bar meets the texture of a blondie in this rich treat.” While a frosting-less cake might seem like a cake calling out for some extra pizazz, Annamarie assures us that this bake is more dessert bar than traditional cake and that “a sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar and a serious love of butter is all you need” to enjoy this treat.

How to Make Gooey Butter Cake from Scratch

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This Missouri classic is a favorite not only for its flavor but for how simple it is to pull together. With pantry staples, some cream cheese and butter, you can have this cake made and on the table in about 90 minutes—including baking and cooling time. Here’s how to tackle this recipe at home.

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-3/4 cups sugar
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 large eggs, beaten, room temperature
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Get Recipe

Gear for Making This Cake

  • 13×9 pan: Every baker needs a good 13×9 pan for bakes like this one.
  • Vanilla extract: Most of the flavors of this cake come from butter and vanilla extract. Be sure to buy the good stuff for this recipe. Nielsen-Massey is one of our Test Kitchen’s favorite vanilla brands.
  • Hand mixer: To really get a smooth cream cheese topping for this dessert, you’ll want the power of an electric hand mixer. This KitchenAid cordless mixer is super convenient.

Directions

Step 1: Mix the Base of the Butter Cake

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Start making your St. Louis gooey butter cake by combining the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Give them a quick whisk to combine.

In another bowl, mix together the melted butter, egg and vanilla. You want your butter melted but not hot. Hot butter will cook your egg. Instead, melt the butter and let it cool a bit before starting this cake. And since butter is the star of the show here, you might want to opt for a really delicious butter, like Amish butter or Kerrygold Irish butter.

Next, add the butter mix into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Don’t overwork this dough or it’ll lose its tender quality.

Step 2: Press Crust into the Pan

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Next, transfer your butter cake mixture into a greased 13×9 pan. Press the mix into the bottom of the pan so it forms a type of crust—much the same as you would do when making lemon bars.

To get a really even base, use a flat-bottomed cup to press down the dough rather than your hands.

Step 3: Mix Cream Cheese Topping

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For the cream cheese topping, beat together the softened cream cheese and eggs until smooth. Then add in the confectioners’ sugar and mix to combine. For a super-smooth batter, sift the confectioners’ sugar.

Then pour the filling over the base. Use a spatula to spread it evenly across the crust.

Step 4: Bake

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Bake the gooey butter cake for 40 to 45 minutes at 325ºF. The secret to getting that perfectly gooey gooey butter cake is to bake it until the edges begin to brown and the filling is nearly set, much the way you’d bake up fudgy brownies or a cheesecake.

Let the cake cool on a wire rack for 45 to 60 minutes before dusting with confectioners’ sugar and digging in.

Serving and Saving

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Gooey butter cake is typically finished off with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar. It just seems to make all desserts look a bit sweeter!

Because of the gooey nature of this St. Louis classic, it’s best to eat the cake the day it’s made—even better if you eat it as soon as it’s cooled. This will give you the best version of the cake’s namesake texture.

That being said, you can absolutely enjoy gooey butter cake the next day (and for a few days after). It’ll keep for three to four days. Just keep your pan covered with some cling wrap or store slices in an airtight container in the fridge.

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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an associate editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.