I'm really, really tired of seeing Paula Deen's name in front the words Gooey Butter Cake.
A good cook can take any recipe and make it her own, a gracious cook always gives credit to the source and inspiration for the recipe.
The buuttaahhhh, buuttaahhhh, buttaahhhh queen of southern cooking did not invent every recipe in the USA that happens to use butter in large quantity.
She can add all the peanut butter & banana, pineapple, pumpkin, or chocolate chips she chooses. She can serve twenty versions in her restaurant, and name them all after dead rock-and-roll stars if she wishes. But, Gooey Butter Cake still isn't a southern recipe, It is no more the original creation of Paula Deen than pasta is the creation of Olive Garden.
Gooey Butter Cake is a solidly Midwestern tradition from St. Louis, Missouri. Yes, for those geographically challenged on the the left and right banks of this country, Missouri is in the Midwest, not the South.
Somewhere in the ethnic German neighborhood of Bevo Mill in south St. Louis in the 1930s, an unidentified baker made a mistake with a coffee cake recipe and the rest is legend.
Up until about the early 1970s you bought your freshly baked Gooey Butter Cake in one of our many, many wonderful German bakeries. They wrapped it loosly in waxed paper and twine for you to carry home to a very impatient breakfast crowd.
Then a commercial wholesale bakery started producing it for sale in grocery stores. Now you will find it in every grocery store in the St. Louis area. It's good, but it isn't real German bakery Gooey Butter Cake. The two major mass producers are Entenmann's and Haas.
If you want something closer to the real thing, you need to try making it yourself.
I own at least a dozen local cookbooks that contain Gooey Butter Cake recipes. Most of them are the spiral bound church fund raiser type. A few of them are slick productions from groups such as the Junior League or the Missouri Governor's Mansion Preservation Society. Some of these cookbooks date back to the 1950s.
In February, 2005 I took a Gooey Butter Cake to a SlowTrav GTG in Boston. For those of you who are SlowTrav Premium members you can find the thread where I posted the recipe here: Gooey Butter Cake from the Boston GTG
My point is, Gooey Butter Cake was an established St. Louis tradition before Paula Deen was even born. Not to mention before she became the spokesperson for all foods made with butter.
But, for those of you who need written proof from a source other than the St. Louis area, here is a 1989 article in the New York Times.
Who knows, maybe Paula read that 1989 article while she was making those "Bag Lady" lunches that pre-date her celebrity. Maybe the idea went into her own personal recipe box. Maybe it became one of her favorite recipes and she has tinkered with all those various ridiculous flavors for so long she just forgot she didn't have the original idea.
I admit that I'm not a fan of Paula Deen's southern cooking style. I don't care to watch her show because it is all so loud and frantic. My taste runs to a nice low-key and relaxed Giada De Laurentiis or Ina Garten. But, I am a great admirer of Paula's self-made-woman success story. I mean this sincerely when I say that they ought to make her a case study at Harvard Business School.
I just wish she'd publicly acknowledge that she has borrowed the Gooey Butter Cake from a legion of unknown and unsung little German bakery ladies in St. Louis, Missouri.
There, I feel better now that I've gotten that off my chest.