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Paula Deen DID NOT Create Gooey Butter Cake !

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.

GooeyButterCake2jpg.jpg

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.

Comments (26)

It's always good to set the record straight! I grew up with German kuchen, so I can see the origins of this recipe quite clearly!

Deborah responds: Hi Barbara! Yes, the bottom layer in a really good German bakery produced Gooey Butter Cake is very kuchen!

Brad'll Do It:

Wow! A Deborah rant! I loved it. What a proud St. Louisan(?) you are. Anything you want to get off your chest is fine with me! (And I'll NEVER think of gooey cake the same way again.)

Deborah responds: LOL, surprised you didn't I? Do you think it was a bit too bombastic? I really was shooting for a good humored rant. Maybe I over did it.

Well, I didn't know where it came from but I knew it wasn't traditionally Southern because I grew up with two classic Southern grandmother cooks and had never heard of it.
Now I know the truth!
The whole "more butter" thing isn't really traditional either. My grandmothers used more vegetable oil and pork fat than butter (but they did use mass quantities of butter in their pound cakes).
Great rant/post!

Deborah responds: Thanks, Annie. I'm glad I didn't offend. :grin:

Hi Deborah...Another Deborah here. You spoke with my husband, Kirk, at the Best of Missouri (Gooey Louie). I love your rant! In fact, its such a concise piece of information that I would love to put a link on gooeylouiecake.com. Would you mind?

Sorry I didn't get the chance to meet up with you this weekend! Kirk made sure I pulled up your blog for him

Have a great Fall (the first weekend in October is one of my favorite weekends, too!)

Deborah responds: Not a problem, Debbie. A link would be fine. Did Kirk tell you that if you can send me a jpg of your box cover, I'd be happy to amend the post and add that picture?

Hello Deborah! So much time has passed, but I haven't forgotten about your page (I thought I had sent a reply saying we would love to add a photo/send to you). Can I send to an email address? I will add this link to our Cake Info Page. I just updated this page, which made me realize we hadn't spoken in some time.

Thanks so much! Debbie, Gooey Louie

P.S. We're excited to be returning to the BOMM at The Garden this year! Hopefully we'll run into eachother again!

Deborah responds: Hi Debbie. I'll go to your page and send an email address via your customer contact page. OK. Send me a jpg of of gooey louie and I'll put it in the post in place of the grocery store picture. When is Best of Missouri Market?

Carolyn:

Where can one get the original recipe for the Gooey Butter Cake?

Deborah responds:
I see from your search string, that you were looking specifically for commercial recipes. You might try contacting some of the St. Louis area bakeries and see if they would be willing to share.

Hey Deborah,
Debbie with Gooey Louie here. I don't know if you've had time to email...(we've had a few people say messages have bounced back).

The Market is the first weekend in Oct (3rd-4th) this year.

Hope all is well!

Karen:

I totally agree! I emailed Paula Deen (actually her people) and to my surprise they wrote back to me. They said they had never heard about St. Louis being known for Gooey Butter Cake and that she did create the recipe that she uses.... yeah right. It also makes me mad when I hear her name connected to something that is a STL tradition! ugh!!

Deborah responds: Thanks for the reinforcement, Karen! So cool that you emailed them!!!!

I can't believe she claims to have created the recipe! The nerve!

If you still have their emal I'd love to see it.

Will Warren:

Gee.............hard to tell you are NOT a Paula Deen fan, apparently St Louis folk are not taught to be gracious, at least in your case..........maybe you're just a tad bit jealous.....Paula is a great cook, wonderful lady and a damn fine southern woman, she can put her name on any thing she likes if she is the one making it so how bout you call your cakes by the name you like and let Paula call hers as she see;s fit..........try and get over yourself and have a great day.

DEBORAH RESPONDS TO WILL:

Yes, Paula is a very sweet lady. Yes, she is a wonderful cook. Yes, she is famous for her generosity. That's why it makes no sense that she insists on the falsehood about Gooey Butter Cake.

I freely admitted in my post that I'm not a fan. That doesn't mean my point isn't a valid one.

No, Will, she CAN'T put her name on a recipe she didn't create just because she does such a good job using the recipe.

I make a great pot of Portuguese Caldo Verde soup. I got the recipe from a cookbook by the Jean Anderson. Jean didn't claim to have invented Caldo Verde. She just found a great recipe and offered it in her book. I've tinkered with it a bit over the years. But, I don't call it DEBORAH's Caldo Verde. I call it PORTUGUESE Caldo Verde...because that's what it is!!!

As I said in the original post, Paula can make as many varieties of Gooey Butter Cake she wants. More power to her.

All I'm asking is that she quit CLAIMING she invented it. She KNOWS she didn't. Yet, she has been quoted claiming it. Very un-southern-lady-like, don't you think?
She needs to be gracious enough to give credit.

Why do you think she should be exempt from THAT form of southern courtesy?

Go, Deborah. Keep setting the record straight!

Kim:

Don't mess with the lady from St. Louie! Seems pretty simple to me. Deborah has proof of its existence in the early 1930s in St. Louis. Paula wasn't born until 1947. How can she claim it as her own? BTW Deborah, I couldn't find the recipe on Sauce.

Deborah Responds:
Thanks for the heads up on Sauce Mag, Kim. It looks like they've cleared off some bandwith since my original post. I can't find the issue the recipe was in any longer. I'd best unlink.

Sonya :

Deborah,
To get facts straight, Paula Deen's Original gooey butter cake is "her" "original" version, just as Duncan Hines created their original version of Magic Cookie bars. You have to pay attention to the wording. I have looked over Paula Deen's whole packaging and it does not state that she created some german recipe, but she did create the version that she is selling. And it sure is so nice that I can just pick up this butter cake, after I get off work, that Paula Deen has already made up , on my way to a party. And if I have time , I can cut it into little squares and say thank you when they tell me they just love "my" cake! See, it is all in the wording.

DEBORAH RESPONDS: Thanks for you thoughtful and polite post, Sonya. I see from you IP that you're in Texas. There's that expression: "Don't mess with Texas".
It's kind of the same way here when it comes to the 3-4 food tradtions our city holds very dear. Gooey Butter Cake is one of them. As are Toasted Ravioli, Gus' Pretzels, & Ted Drewes Frozen Custard.
And you are right about it being all in the wording. But, it isn't the wording that upsets so many proud St. Louisans. It's the actual NAME - Gooey Butter Cake.
There are plenty of recipes out there for coffee cakes with loads of sugar & butter that TASTE like Gooey Butter Cake. But, they all have their own names.
Neiman Marcus comes to mind. But you won't find us upset with Neiman Marcus. That's because they didn't STEAL the name that is so historically and proudly tied to this city and insist on passing it off as their own original creation.
All I'm asking is: If Paula wants to call her version Gooey Butter Cake, then she should be calling it St. Louis Style Gooey Butter Cake. Otherwise, she can give it a different name and we in St. Louis would cheer her on.
How about, Paula's Sticky Butter Cake? Or, Paula's Southern Charm Butter Cake?

I sent the link to the post to Paula Deen - let's see if they respond!

Deborah responds: LOL, Barb. Not very likely. The Paula Deen "brand" is big, big business. I'm just a little buzzing fly.

My son works at one of the big St. Louis grocery chains, and he's fallen in love with a chocolate chip variation on the gooey butter cake that they're selling.

Deborah responds: Thanks for the note, Charles.

Cean McCullough:

Deborah - I found your site while trying to look for a history on what gooey butter cake is. This is the same thing that my mother and sister started making back around 1985 from what I remember, using a recipe that we've always called Irish Cake. I have tried to find "Irish Cake" on the internet ever since I could remember, but I always found OTHER cakes.

I happened to find this cake on the clearance rack in the bakery section of Wal-Mart tonight, and had to do some looking. THANK YOU FOR SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT on where this cake came from.

Cean McCullough:

Deborah - It is Cean again, I don't know if this is an active group or not, but I thought I'd post a follow up - I went and spoke with my mother about the origins of "Irish Cake". I found that it was given to her by a lady at church, and it was copied from a hand writen recipe. It is our theory that somewhere not too far down the line had transcribed it from someone saying "Here, try this recipe, it is A RICH CAKE." If you kinda slur "a rich cake," it is not a hard reach to hear it as "Irish Cake."

I hope this is still an active board by you.

Deborah responds:
Cean, I'm guessing that your guess about how the recipe got its name is pretty accurate!
This isn't really a board. It's a blog that is connected to a very active travel website called SlowTrav. I haven't posted lately because we are on vacation and I'm being lazy. Thanks for all the interesting information you've provided. Do you have a blog I could start following?

Chris Egan:

Cean
I have been looking for you on the web. How is life treating you?

Ginger's friend

PAT BONTON:

I AM SO TIRED OF PEOPLE HATING ON THOSE WHO TAKE WHAT THEY HAVE AN MAKE A GOLD-MINE.SO WHAT SHE GOT RICH,HER FAMILY,COUNTLESS OTHERS.MABY IF YOU TRIED TO MAKE SOMTHING HAPPEN IN YOUR OWN LIFE YOU WOULD NOT BE SO BITTER!!!!!!!

Marley:

Chill. My goodness.

chelsea:

Thank you so much for clarifying that for me. the first time i had it was when i lived in missouri and few people have heard of it here in californi. well thats kinda annoying from a cooks point of view its really messed up to take credit for something she mearly tweeked up and its not even that good of recipe.

Karen:

Hi Deborah,
Just to refresh your memory...I was the girl who emailed Paula's people about her lying about inventing Gooey Butter Cake. I have a favor! Do you happen to have or know of a recipe for the old German Stollens that STL is also famous for. My husband wants me to try and recreate the fruit ones and every recipe I've tried has come up short. He remembers the Haas Bakery ones. Thanks for your help.

Deborah responds:
Karen, I don't have any of those recipes, but I'd recomment you try contacting the people at Haas. Try their customer contact email on their website. Or if you want to try one of the local bakeries, maybe Lubeley's or McArthur's.
www.lubelysbakery.com
www.mcarthurs.com

john :

Hi Deborah,
Thanks for the insight on Gooey Butter Cake. I've been in California for 20 years (after 20+ years in SoIL) and have wondered why I could never find GBC out here. Now I know. I was talking about it today at the office, and everyone was perplexed as to what I was talking about. So I decided I would have to make a GBC for them to try, to understand what they've never experienced! My search for Haas Gooey Butter Cake recipe brought up your post. Loved (and agree with) your post, and love Paula, too.
John

Hi John,
Thanks for the comment. I get a kick out of it when someone finds the infamous Gooey Butter Cake blog rant. :grin: I'd love to hear back from you on how your freinds at work liked it.

Jackie B:

Hi Deborah!

I just happened upon your blog and was so thrilled to find the real origin of gooey butter cake. I grew up in St. Louis, and I remember that gooey butter cake was a weekend treat at our home. Believe it or not, Target had some pretty good bakeries in those days, and we could always pick one up there in a pinch! It's still one of my favorite cakes. I really like Paula, also, but her version is slightly different. Thanks for posting.

Jackie

C Hawkins:

Great rant, I love it! Being born and raised in St. Louis, I already knew all of this, thought I did not know of Paula Deen's claim to gooey butter cake. My great grandfather had immigrated from the U.K., and opened his own bakery before Paula Deen was born. Many members of my family worked there, including my own mother. Gooey butter cake is a long-time St. Louis dish, well pre-dating Paula Deen.


Deborah responds:

Thanks. I'm always tickled when someone new finds this blog post and comments.

S Dickerson:

Thank you, thank you! I too remember making Gooey Butter Cake growing up(early 70's), it was popular among the mom's in our neighborhood in Kansas City.

This has driven me crazy for years. Just glad to hear people speak out about it. Nice to know there are others who are not under the Paula "spell"! ha ha ha

Bill Thompson:

I have been eating Gooey Butter Cakes since I was a kid in the 60's growing up in Springfield, Illinois, just 100 miles north of St. Louis. Back then, they were made and sold by the Mel-O-Cream Donut shops in town. They were so damn good!!
It prides me to know the truth and that they started in the Midwest!!!

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