About a year ago, Anna got a text from our friend Jon. “Gooey Butter Cake,” it read, “Best dessert, bar form.” Jon, as one of our nearest and dearest, is well aware that bar-form is Anna’s most favorite form of dessert, so this was a text message that could not be ignored. Jon had sampled the bars at the home of one of Laura’s friends, Rachel, who was in culinary school. We talked endlessly about recreating the gooey butter bars, which are a fairly un-sweet, bready base topped with gooey, buttery, sweet gooeyness. Finally, Jon and Anna spent an afternoon baking bars that were…not that good. The delicious, gooey, buttery confection on top of the bars was good. But the bready bar below was too dense.
Determined to taste the best bar—and, um, as a birthday present—we tried again in honor of Jon’s birthday. We added some extra yeast. We put the bar in a warmed oven to rise. (It was October, and our landlord still hadn’t turned on the heat.) We carefully monitored and tended to the rising dough. The result was improved and a closer imitation to Rachel’s original (her husband, Larry, is from St. Louis so she has extra kitchen street cred). We got the dough to rise more, so the base of the bar was lighter, and a better counterbalance to the gooiness on top.
Anyway, though this dessert is technically called “St. Louis” gooey butter cake—and we know, we know, Mizzou is in Columbia—the bars are apparently popular all over the state and it’s a regional specialty. PLUS, Rachel and Larry, our St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake guides, both went to Mizzou. So this is our official entry for University of Missouri.
St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake
from Smitten Kitchen
3 tbsps. milk
1 3/4 tsps. active dry yeast
6 tbsps. unsalted butter
3 tbsps. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsps. plus 1 tsp.light corn syrup
2 1/2 tsps. vanilla extract
12 tbsps. unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 large egg
1 cup plus 3 tbsps. all-purpose flour
Start by making the dough for the bottom of the cake. Mix milk and 2 tbsps. hot water together (to create lukewarm mixture), then whisk in yeast until mixture bubbles. In a stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and salt. When those ingredients are fully combined, beat in the egg. Alternate adding in some of the flour and some of the yeast mixture until all ingredients are combined. Keep mixing for a while until the mixture forms a workable mass.
Stretch the dough into a greased 9 x 13 inch glass pan, attempting to reach all 4 corners of the dish with the dough (this will be hard). Cover the dough with a towel and store somewhere warm to rise until doubled. Don’t skimp on this part; let the mixture rise for over 3 hours.
When the dough is almost fully risen, start making the gooey topping. Whisk together the corn syrup, 2 tbsps. of water and the vanilla. Cream together the butter, sugar and salt until they form a light mixture (several minutes). Beat in the eggs. Alternate pouring in some of the flour and some of the corn syrup mixture until all ingredients are fully combined.
Spread the gooey mixture over the top of the now-risen dough. Bake in a 350-degree oven for around 30 minutes (may take a little more or less time, depending on the oven, but be sure not to overbake).