Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake + Its 1930s History

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Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake – Ooh, another fun bit of food history! First accidentally made in a St. Louis bakery in the 1930s, the historic Gooey Butter Cake is now a Missouri staple. This cake is dense and flat and traditionally made with butter, cake flour, sugar, and eggs. It only rises to about an inch in height and is dusted with powdered sugar. It’s usually served more like a coffee cake rather than a traditional dessert cake. It’s so well known that the Explore St. Louis website includes a list of restaurants that serve the historic gooey butter cake.

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake + Its 1930s History | Culinary Craftiness

Someone came up with a gooey butter cake using cream cheese and a yellow cake mix. It’s easier to duplicate the dessert at home but doesn’t taste exactly the same as the original. Some bakeries use a somewhat different recipe that calls for corn syrup, sugar, and powdered eggs.

The Accidental Gooey Butter Mix-up

Historic Gooey Butter Cake | Culinary Craftiness
This is similar to a cake made in the original style.

According to Wikipedia, there was a bakery in St. Louis owned by a guy named John Hoffman. He hired a German American baker to make the deep butter cakes, but the guy accidentally used the gooey butter that was used for things like stollens and Danish rings. The mistake was caught too late. Rather than throwing away expensive ingredients (this was still the Great Depression era) they went ahead and baked them. The new cake sold so well they decided to keep making them and other bakeries in the area started making them too. And they’re still a local favorite to this day. 😃

If you’re ever in St. Louis in the Hill district, stop by Missouri Baking Co. They’ve been in business since 1924 and are sure to have some sort of the historic Gooey Butter Cake amongst the large assortment of pastries and baked goods.

If you know me, you know I’ve got this thing for historical buildings. While these aren’t as terribly old as some found across the U.S., they’re still pretty cool to me.

Try This Original Recipe for GBC!

I finally found a recipe that sounds like it might be close to the original historic Gooey Butter Cake. The version I’m sharing today is super easy to make and tastes divine! Very autumn-y.  🍁

Found at a TA tuck stop on the way home from Savannah!

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake + Its 1930s History | Culinary Craftiness

I caught the episode many years ago where Paula Deen made this cake with pumpkin. So I gave it a try and the taste immediately hooked me! While I like pumpkin pie, it’s not a must for me for the holidays. But Pumpkin Pie Crunch and this gooey pumpkin butter cake is! It’s divine with a dollop of whipped cream, though it’s firm enough to pick it up and take a bite like a brownie. 😋

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

This is a modern variation of the famous, historic St. Louis, Missouri Gooey Butter Cake accidentally created in the 1930s.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time55 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Butter, Cake, Coffee Cake, Dessert, Early 20th Century, Gooey, Historic, Missouri, Pumpkin, Recipe, St. Louis
Servings: 12
Author: Melissa Woolard | Culinary Craftiness

Ingredients

Crust Layer

  • 1 pkg yellow cake mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1 stick butter, melted

Cake Layer

  • 1 15 oz pumpkin puree
  • 1 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Optional

  • Powdered sugar
  • Whipped cream

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.

Crust Layer

  • In a large mixing bowl, add the yellow cake mix, 1 egg, and 1 stick melted butter. Mix on low/medium to combine. Pat the mixture into a 9×13 baking pan.

Cake Layer

  • Using the same bowl, mix the pumpkin and cream cheese on low/medium until smooth. Add the other stick of melted butter, 3 eggs, and mix until combined. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, and powdered sugar and mix well.
  • Spread pumpkin mixture over cake batter bottom and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Don't over-bake as the center should be just a little gooey.
  • Serve with a dusting of powdered sugar or whipped cream.

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If you’re totally into the wonderful flavors of autumn, give this historic St. Louis dessert a try with the addition of canned pumpkin. Moreover, another family favorite at this time of year is Pumpkin Pie Crunch. You’ll love it, too! It’s like a pie, but not at all like a pie. LOL The chopped pecans in the streusel topping gives it a wonderful texture and taste. Definitely guest-worthy and pretty enough to serve at Thanksgiving dinner! 😍

Happy eating! 💕

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About Melissa

Melissa is a wife, mother, family cook, and romance novelist. The very first thing she learned in the kitchen was how to scramble eggs in an old cast iron skillet at the age of five. Her great-grandmother put her on a step-stool at the stove and thus began her passion for whipping up great tasting foods.

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