Aah, the sweet St. Louis delicacy: gooey butter cake. For this survey, the good folks at the Campbell House Museum were the willing guinea pigs to sample but three of these sugar- and butter-loaded coffee cakes. This survey was in no way exhaustive; Helfers, Missouri Baking Company, Park Avenue Coffee and the countless corner bakeries and grocery stores make conducting a truly thorough testing darn near impossible — not to mention downright unhealthy — so they will have to wait until the Gooey Butter Cake Battle Royale parts two, three, four, etc. Today’s three selections were culled from suggestions and my own cursory research.
As with the Donut Deathmatch, this was a serious scientific endeavor: testers completed a survey rating taste, texture and gooeyness on a scale of one to five, with five being the best. Since there were five tasters participating, a total score of 75 would be the maximum, A+ score a cake could hope to earn. Furthermore, the cake origins were hidden as each cake was served on a plain plate with any identifying marks or boxes hidden. Without further ado, the results:
- #3: Gooey Louie, total score 48. As the name implies, Gooey Louie was indeed gooey, scoring mostly fours and fives in that category, but it didn’t fare so well on taste. Admittedly, the original is just one of the many flavors (Devil’s Food, Key Lime, Turtle Park, just to name a few) this cute little bakery produces, so there are plenty of creative options available, but when compared to the other two cakes tested, the Gooey Louie Original demonstrated the least-pronounced flavor.
Gooey Louie, 6483 Chippewa, St. Louis, MO 63109 www.gooeylouiecake.com
- #2: Sacred Heart Church of Florissant Cookbook, circa 1975, score 58. When I asked for suggestions, this one came up twice and it was apparent that many other people like the concoction they make in their own kitchens. I threw this one in on a lark and it seems to have compared well with the pros. Here we have a generational divide: the older folks likened this one to a “deep butter cake” instead of a a gooey butter cake, and scored it accordingly. Younger tasters preferred this one (and no, I didn’t give it a perfect score because I made it – this is scientific, people!) and a tester noted, “A little too much powdered sugar, but overall really yummy.” The cake layer was thicker than the other two competitors, but I did have a good goo on top with plenty — though perhaps too much – sweet.
- #1: Carondelet Bakery, score 61. Two tasters gave this one perfect scores. A thin cake with a texture and goo-level similar to Gooey Louie, the small square cake had a delicate yet sweet taste that earned raves from testers. This bakery made the perfect image of a gooey butter cake that had the right balance of good texture, sweet-but-not-coma-inducing sweet flavor and a thick coating of the gooey on top, lightly sprinkled with just the right amount of powdered sugar. This is one you must try to truly appreciate.
Carondelet Bakery, 7726 Virginia Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63111 www.carondeletbakery.com
Ready to make your own? Here’s the Sacred Heart recipe for you to get your sugary fix. Many home bakers use a standard yellow cake mix, but the pound cake mix produces a richer, denser base. Also, begin checking the doneness 5 minutes early. I pull mine out when the top gelatinous layer appears to have just barely set up, thus ensuring a proper goo. Don’t forget a good dusting of powdered sugar and voila — you have the breakfast of champions, St. Louis style.
Sacred Heart Gooey Butter Cake
1 box of Betty Crocker Pound Cake Mix
1 stick of softened butter
8-oz block of cream cheese, softened
1-lb powdered sugar + more for dusting
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine cake mix, 2 eggs and butter. Spread into a 9 x 13 pan. Mix cream cheese, 1 pound of powdered sugar, 2 eggs and vanilla. Spread over first layer and bake at 350-degrees for 35 minutes. When cool, sprinkle with extra powdered sugar.