The Real Spirit of St. Louis: Gooey Butter Cake

posted in: Food, Travel, Work 8
Gooey butter cake! (This one is actually pumpkin-flavored.) Photo: Wikipedia.
Gooey butter cake! (This one is actually pumpkin-flavored.) Photo: Wikipedia.


If you have been reading this blog for awhile, you know that I like to learn things about the places I visit and share them with you.

Here’s a post about the Florida panhandle, for example. This dispatch came from from Sioux City, IA; and this one I wrote about Buffalo, NY from Buffalo, NY and in it I discuss the local specialty — sponge candy! — and confess to making myself sick eating a bunch of it.*

Well, greetings from Jefferson City, MO, state capitol — and home of  the gooey butter. Sponge candy, you may have met your match. (I clearly like to learn about places that are known for delicious desserts.)

A gooey butter is a cake, but don’t call it “gooey butter cake” unless you’re from out of town. To locals, it’s just “gooey butter” and it’s legendary in Missouri. As the story goes, a St. Louis baker mixed up the proportion of butter while making up some coffee cake. Rather than throw out what couldn’t be that bad, the cake still being a combination of butter, sugar, flour, and eggs, he baked it anyway. The cake was sugary and sticky; he sliced it up and sold out in short order. Gooey butter was born.

I’m teaching two classes here at the big Missouri State Quilter’s Guild 2016 Retreat and then I’m doing the banquet talk tomorrow night, so I can’t get out to hunt down some gooey butter, but my new pal Terri said she might be able to find some. I told her she’d better not go to any trouble; Terri said, “Hey, if it happens, it happens.”

Terri was the gracious lady who picked me up at the airport and drove us two hours over to Jefferson City. We bonded because we shopped for pajamas together at Target.

The Missouri retreat has a theme each year, and this year it’s “Welcome To My Dream World.” Attendees are encouraged to wear pajamas to the banquet tomorrow night; I have also been encouraged to do this. I thought it sounded sort of silly at first but then I decided it sounded completely awesome. The trouble was that when I was packing yesterday, I realized my nightclothes were not gonna work. Either they were too — how to put this — “wispy,” or they were too old and comfy to become a keynote speaker.

When we got in the car, I asked Terri if there was a Target on the way. She said there was and that hey, she could get some pajamas, too! (She had the same problem as I did re: appropriate public pajamas.)

What I’m getting at is that tomorrow night I may be eating gooey butter in my pajamas — at work. These students loans ain’t gonna pay themselves, people!


*If you go to the right side of the screen and click “Travel” in the list of categories, you’ll see all the PaperGirl posts that have to do with traveling. But note that the “Work” category has a lot of travel writing too, since I’m usually traveling for work. Enjoy!

8 Responses

  1. Dorothy
    | Reply

    Sounds like something that if you eat it, you will think you’ve died and gone to heaven 🙂
    (Mary, I so enjoyed you in Lake Oswego OR and in Puyallup WA—does that make me a Mary Fons groupie ?)

  2. mary powell
    | Reply

    I grew up eat gooey butter. My favorite is traditional, but I’m up for trying new and interesting flavors. I have a chocolate chip gooey in my freezer, saving it for a special occasion. A special occasion such as: I’m craving something totally decadent and guilt laden. The best ones you’ll find are in St. Louis, my hometown. Enjoy!

  3. Deb
    | Reply

    I make a mean gooey butter cake (I live in Illinois across the river from St. Louis, Mo) for my middle child every year, for her birthday!So simple, so easy, so delicious! If you want the recipe let me know. And I have my pink Target sewing pjs but need to get back for the other pair I saw!

  4. Sarah
    | Reply

    Sounds like the find of the week. Be still my greedy heart.

  5. Tracy Volansky
    | Reply

    I am so ridiculously happy to have met you at this weekend’s retreat. You are an exceptional person… So friendly and down to earth. I learned so much from your class on paper piecing of cabin blocks. The Missouri State Guild really appreciates your coming and being a part of our Fall Retreat! Thank you again for all your expertise and insight.

  6. Nancy Neely
    | Reply

    A recipe would be nice, but the next time I’m in Missori, I will look up gooey butter!

  7. Nancy Neely
    | Reply

    PS The CATCHALL code is a PITA!

  8. […] awesome pictures and illos from years of writing this blog. When I go looking for a picture of gooey butter cake or a man crossing the street with an enormous bouquet of roses, you won’t believe what I come […]

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