Gooey Butter Cake
By Libbie Summers (from The Whole Hog Cookbook, Rizzoli)
Photography by Chia Chong
The thing that makes this cake gooey is the barely baked butter filling—when you slice a piece it should slowly ooze onto your plate. Unless you are eating it in St. Louis, Missouri, right now, it’s highly likely that piece of Gooey Butter Cake you’re reaching for is an impostor. Let me introduce you to the real Midwestern thing—an above-average-looking, hardworking cake, with a good middle-class background, but not too sweet.
No-Fake Gooey Butter Cake
(the original, St. Louis Style)
serves 18, makes 2 cakes
1 packet active dry yeast
1⁄2 cup warm milk
2 3⁄4 cups granulated sugar
1⁄4 cup leaf lard (page 170) or vegetable shortening
1⁄4 teaspoon plus 1⁄8 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
4 3⁄4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1⁄4 cup light corn syrup
4 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the milk and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, cream 1⁄4 cup of the granulated sugar, the lard, and 1⁄4 teaspoon of the salt until light and fluffy. Add 1 of the eggs and beat well. Change the whisk attachment to a dough hook and add the 21⁄2 cups of flour, yeast mixture, and 1 tablespoon of the vanilla. Mix for 3 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead with your hands for an additional minute.
Lightly grease a bowl and put the dough inside, turning once. Cover the bowl with a towel and set aside in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.
Grease two 8-inch square stoneware baking pans and set aside.
Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Using your hands, pat the dough into the bottom of each prepared baking dish and up the sides. With a fork, prick the dough in
a few places so it doesn’t bubble up when baking. Set aside while you prepare the gooey part.
Combine the remaining granulated sugar, the butter, and the remaining salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Mix until very fluffy. Add the remaining egg and the corn syrup, mixing well after each addition. Finally, add the remaining flour, 1⁄4 cup water, and the remaining vanilla, mixing well after each addition. Divide the gooey butter equally between the two prepared pans. Using a spatula, spread the mixture evenly over the dough in each pan. Let the cakes rest for 20 minutes before baking.
Preheat the oven to 375 ̊F. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops begin to turn golden brown. Do not overbake. Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack. Sprinkle each cake with 2 tablespoons of the confectioners’ sugar. Serve at room temperature.
Cook’s Note: Gooey Butter Cake is best when served at room temperature, so the butter can ooze! Refrigerate leftovers and allow to come to room temperature before eating