The name says it all! Gooey butter cake is ooey, gooey, sugary perfection. It’s incredibly rich and delicious!

An overhead view of a sliced gooey butter cake, with one slice resting on another.

Gooey butter cake has perhaps the best name of any dessert I’ve ever made. The filling is ultra gooey and rich, with a strong vanilla flavor. 

This unique dessert originated in St. Louis in the 1930s. It’s said that a baker measured the ingredients for a cake incorrectly and wound up with a pan of ooey gooey bars instead — which he still sold, and the rest is history! 

While this recipe for gooey butter cake isn’t the exact same as the St. Louis classic, it’s similar to the version made popular by Paula Deen.

Many recipes online use boxed cake mix as a shortcut, but this recipe is totally from scratch. A layer of thick, buttery vanilla cake is topped with a sweet cream cheese mixture and then baked until gooey! 

An overhead view of the ingredients needed to make a gooey butter cake recipe from scratch.

Ingredients for This Recipe 

There are two parts to this recipe: the base cake layer and the cream cheese top layer. I’ve provided the full ingredients list in the recipe card below, but here are some of the key ingredients you’ll need to make gooey butter cake from scratch: 

  • Eggs + egg yolk: The eggs helps bind the cake batter and cream cheese layer together. The added egg yolk makes for a richer, moister cake layer. Bring the eggs to room temperature before making the recipe. 
  • Unsalted butter: The butter needs to be melted before being stirred into the batter and cream cheese layer. Let it cool slightly first to avoid scrambling the egg! 
  • Baking powder: This is a dense, soft cake, but you still need one full tablespoon of baking powder or else it will be far too flat. 
  • Cream Cheese: Make sure to use a brick or block of cream cheese for this recipe. Avoid using cream cheese in a tub because it has ingredients added to thin it out.
  • Vanilla extract: The vanilla flavor is very prominent in this cake, so be sure to use a pure vanilla extract if at all possible. 

How to Make Gooey Butter Cake 

Although it’s called a cake, this dessert is really more like bars. A simple dusting of powdered sugar finishes the cake, which means less prep work on your part! Here’s a look at how the cake comes together.

  • Prep the baking pan: Preheat the oven and grease a 9×13-inch baking pan with nonstick spray or line with parchment paper. 
  • Make the cake batter: You’ll first mix together the melted butter and sugar, followed by the wet ingredients and then the dry. The cake batter will be quite thick, almost like cookie dough. 
  • Press the batter into the prepared pan: I find it’s easiest to do this with my hands. Or, grease the bottom of a measuring cup and use that to press the batter into an even layer.
  • Make the cream cheese layer: Beat the cream cheese until smooth (a handheld mixer can be used for this). Mix in the melted butter, eggs, and vanilla. Add the powdered sugar and mix until smooth and combined. 
  • Add the cream cheese layer on top: Evenly spread the cream cheese mixture over the cake batter. Don’t worry if you see a few small lumps of cream cheese, the cake will bake up just fine!
  • Bake the cake: It should be lightly browned and mostly set in the center. 
  • Let the cake cool completely: Don’t try slicing the cake when you first take it out of the oven. Make sure to let it cool completely first, then slice into it.

Slices of homemade gooey butter cake dusted with powdered sugar.

How to Tell When The Cake Is Done 

Since we’re making a gooey butter cake, you can’t use a toothpick to test when the cake is finished baking. Instead, you need to look for the top to become lightly golden in color. The center of the cake should also have just barely set. 

Does Gooey Butter Cake Have to Be Refrigerated? 

Yes, you need to store the cake in an airtight container in the fridge. It will last up to four days. 

A slice of ooey gooey butter cake on a dessert plate, with a bite missing.

Baking Tips 

  • The cake batter won’t resemble your usual runny cake batter. Instead it will be thick, almost like cookie dough. 
  • Give the cake time to cool completely before dusting it with powdered sugar and slicing it. The filling needs time to set up after being removed from the oven. Don’t worry, the cake remains soft even at room temperature! 
  • A simple dusting of powdered sugar is all that’s needed to serve the cake. However, you can also serve individual slices with berries for a pop of freshness. 

More Easy Cake Recipes to Try! 

Recipe Video

Several sliced gooey butter bars on a piece of brown parchment paper.

Gooey Butter Cake

5 from 2 ratings
Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 45 mins
Total Time: 1 hr 15 mins
The name says it all! Gooey butter cake is ooey, gooey, sugary perfection. It's incredibly rich and delicious!

Ingredients

Servings: 24 bars

For the Cake Layer

  • ½ cup unsalted butter melted and slightly cooled (115 grams; 1 stick)
  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar (250 grams)
  • 1 large egg room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour spooned & leveled (250 grams)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

For the Cream Cheese Layer

  • 1 (8-ounce) package brick-style cream cheese softened to room temperature
  • ½ cup unsalted butter melted (115 grams; 1 stick)
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups powdered sugar plus more for dusting (360 grams)

Instructions
 

  • To make the cake layer: Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray or line with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the melted butter and sugar. Then, mix in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until just combined. The mixture will be pretty thick, almost like cookie dough.
  • Scoop the dough into the prepared baking pan and use your hands or the bottom of a measuring cup to firmly press it down into one even layer. Set aside.
  • To make the cream cheese layer: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using a handheld mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Then, mix in the melted butter, eggs, and vanilla on medium speed until well combined. The mixture may look a little lumpy at this point, this is okay!
  • Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl, then mix in the powdered sugar on low speed until smooth and creamy. Don’t worry if you have a few small lumps.
  • Pour the cream cheese mixture over the cake layer and spread it around into one even layer.
  • Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and mostly set in the center.
  • Allow to cool completely, then dust with powdered sugar, slice, and enjoy!

Notes

Storage Instructions: Bars may be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.
Freezing Instructions: Wrap the bars tightly with plastic wrap and freeze in a large freezer bag/storage container for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Cuisine: American
Course: Dessert
Author: Danielle
Did you make this recipe?Mention @livewellbakeoften on Instagram or tag #livewellbakeoften.

Recipe inspired by and adapted from Paula Deen