Thursday, December 15, 2011

Snacking State-by-State: Missouri IV - Ooey. Gooey. Buttery. Chewy.

Among all the recipes that Paula Deen has made famous, the gooey butter cake is perhaps the most famous.  Sweet, sticky, gooey and buttery - it is the essence of Miss Paula.  But the gooey butter cake does not originate in Savannah.  It is a St. Louis creation sold all over the St. Louis area, and the original isn't exactly what Paula Deen is making.

Official Name: State of Missouri
State Nicknames: The Show-Me State
Admission to the US: August 10, 1821 (#24)
Capital: Jefferson City (15th largest)
Other Important Cities: Kansas City (largest), St. Louis (2nd largest), Springfield (3rd largest), Independence (4th largest)
 Midwest, South; Wet North Central (US Census)
RAFT NationsCorn Bread & BBQBison
Bordered by:
  Iowa (north); Illinois and the Mississippi River (east); Kentucky and Tennessee (southeast); Arkansas (south); Oklahoma (southwest); Kansas (west); Nebraska (northwest)
Official State Foods and Edible Things: Eastern black walnut (tree nut); channel catfish (fish); Norton/Cynthiana grape (grape); bobwhite quail (game bird); crayfish (invertebrate)
Some Famous and Typical Foods: Midwestern and German foods to the north, Southern and Ozark foods to the South and in the center of the state; Kansas City BBQ (sweet BBQ sauce, with dry rub before barbecuing), gooey butter cake

There are various creation myths surrounding the gooey butter cake.  Most St. Louisans say the cake got its origins from a baking accident during the 1930's or early 1940's.  While What's Cooking America has two different reader stories about how their family members created the gooey butter cake, mostly what they say is that it was an accident that a German baker made while trying to make a coffee cake.  They can't really explain what they did wrong.

To make matters worse (or better, depending on your perspective), there are a few variations that made it difficult for me to choose one. The traditional one seems to have a sweet yeast bread crust with a gooey butter filling.,  Another variant had a yellow cake base with the same filling.  Different fillings can be made with or without cream cheese (note this Wikipedia reference) - the ones with cream cheese place the butter in the cake foundation.  Regardless, it's not exactly what Paula Deen would have us believe.

In the end, the version I made was the sweet yeast version with the buttery filling.  This particular recipe comes from the Serious Eats website, posted by Sydney Oland [2011].

The Recipe: Gooey Butter Cake

You will need the following, divided into the crust and the filling (for exact measurements, see the original recipe at Serious Eats):

For the crust you will need:
* yeast (one packet)
* warm milk (warm enough to let the yeast "blossom" but not hot enough to kill it)
* butter, sugar and salt (to cream together - I had all of this)
* egg and flour (had them)

For the filling you will need:
* even more butter (pile it on, folks)
* salt and sugar (again, to cream with the butter)
* egg and flour (again, had them)
* light corn syrup, water and vanilla (I forgot to put vanilla in the photo, but you do need this)

Start by warming your milk and sprinkling the yeast on top of it.

Next, cream together the butter, sugar and salt.

Mix into this the egg, flour and yeasty milk - do not add this until it bubbles.  After 10 minutes mine only slightly bubbled, leading to my dough not really rising too much.

Leave the dough under a towel for at least two hours, more if better.

While the dough rises, mix together the corn syrup, water and vanilla extract with a whisk.

Next, cream the rest of the butter, salt and sugar.

Blend in the flour, egg and corn syrup mixture.

And it should end up looking like this.

When ready, preheat the oven to 350°F, and press the dough into the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan.

Pour the filling over top of the crust, and spread it around.

Bake for about 35 minutes.

Despite my crust never really rising, I liked my gooey butter cake.  It was far sweeter than the recipe lets on - not a problem for me.  Maybe I left it in a little long since it was not as gooey as I had expected.  I could not get enough of this after I pulled it out of the oven.  I ended up eating several pieces.  It is that addictive.  The Serious Eats recipe suggests you eat this sprinkled with confectioner's sugar and drink it with strong coffee.  Not one for coffee myself, I will just eat this on its own.

- - - - -

We have reached the halfway point on this journey through the fifty states and then some.  Over the past year I've learned an amazing amount about half of the states plus the District of Columbia (including my own home state).  Only 25 more to go, plus one territory, because I feel like it.  The next stop in this second half of the series: the Big Sky Country of Montana.


Adams, Marcia. Heartland: The Best of the Old and the New from Midwest Kitchens. Clarkson Potter: New York, 1991.

Bittman, Mark.  "For a Smoky Taste in Oven Ribs".  The New York Times website.  Published: December 4, 2009.

Goldwyn, Craig "Meathead".  "A taxonomy of American barbecue sauces".  Amazing Ribs website.  Last revised September 12, 2011.

Lee, Jennifer 8. "St. Paul Sandwiches (in St. Louis), Made with Egg Foo Young Patties".  The Fortune Cookie Chronicles website.  Published April 8, 2009.

"noahw" ( user).  "Oven Smoked Ribs". website.  Copyright 2011.

Oland, Sydney.  "Sunday Brunch: St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake".  Serious Eats website.  Published May 28, 2011.

Raichlen, Steve.  How to Grill: The Complete Illustrated Book of Barbecue Techniques.  Workman Publishing: New York, 2001.

STLToday.  "St. Paul Sandwich (Fortune Express)".  STLToday website.  Published August 17, 2011.

Stradley, Linda. "Gooey Butter Cake". What's Cooking America website.  Copyright 2004.

Some information also obtained from Wikipedia's "Missouri" page and other pages, and the Food Timeline State Foods link to "Missouri".