1 of 4
Robin Seaton Jefferson
Ann & Allen Baking Company is an offshoot of Park Avenue Coffee that ships gooey butter ca e and mixes worldwide.
2 of 4
Robin Seaton Jefferson
Missouri Baking Company on The Hill offer ten different varieties of gooey butter cake.
3 of 4
Robin Seaton Jefferson
Federhofer’s Bakery has been serving St. Louis for fivedecades.
4 of 4
Robin Seaton Jefferson
At Little O’s Old Time Soda Shop, guest can have a whole piece of gooey butter cake blended in a milk shake.
Legends abound about the true origins of gooey butter cake, with one common denominator—like toasted ravioli, it is purported to be a mistake of glorious proportions. Some believe a baker created the St. Louis original in the 1940s by adding the wrong amounts of ingredients—too much glycerin and not enough leavening—to what was supposed to be a deep butter cake, resulting in the gooey pudding-like filling. Others say shared recipes at union bakers’ meetings resulted in the quirky cake. Still others claim the rationing of sugar during World War II created the perfect storm for the gooey masterpiece. Most people can’t even agree on the decade. Whatever the provenance and whenever the start, St. Louisans take pride in—and eat a ton of—gooey butter cake.
But the affection for gooey butter cake, sometimes called ooey-gooey butter cake, isn’t limited to the Gateway City limits. What follows are some of our favorite locations to partake of the praiseworthy pastry.
Park Avenue Coffee, St. Louis
Park Avenue Coffee offers seventy-three varieties of gooey butter cake, which it touts as “The World’s Largest Selection.” These cakes include everything from cookie dough to Funky Monkey to piña colada. There’s also red velvet, candied almond, white chocolate raspberry, and the list goes on.
The company started in Lafayette Square, where siblings Dale Schotte and Marilyn Scull began baking their mother’s gooey butter cake recipe. Today, Park Avenue Coffee and its sister company, the Ann & Allen Baking Company (the founding siblings’ middle names), serve the cake from four locations in St. Louis and ship it to all fifty states and around the world.
In 2009, the company launched its Gooey Butter Cake Mixes. Food Network’s Food Feuds featured Park Avenue Coffee in 2010 and awarded it the Best Gooey Butter Cake distinction.
Tyler Cooksey, chief operating office, says the company sells about one hundred gooey butter cakes every day from its café locations, not including its online sales.
The owners of the bakery have their own legend about the confection’s creation. The wife of the man they consider the inventor visited Park Avenue Coffee in 2008 for her ninety-first birthday. According to Tyler, she said Park Avenue Coffee’s version of gooey butter cake is the best, next to hers.
Tyler says the legend Park Avenue Coffee has accepted as canon is that St. Louis Baker Johnny Hoffman was making a deep butter cake in the early 1940s when he added too much glycerin to the recipe and not enough leavening. He called his friend and fellow baker, Herman Danzer, and the two men worked all day to re-create his mistake.
“Herman’s wife, Melba Danzer, came into their shop,” Tyler continues. “When she tried it, she said, ‘It’s good, but it sure is gooey.’ This led to its name.”
ParkAvenueCoffee.com • Four locations: Cortex, Downtown, Lafayette Square, The Hill • 877-621-4020
Missouri Baking Company, St. Louis
Chris Gambaro doesn’t claim any ownership of gooey butter cake, though he does make a favorite among St. Louisans who visit The Hill—the neighborhood settled by Italian immigrants who originally made their home and workplace on the city’s highest point at the beginning of the late nineteenth century.
You can normally find Chris at Missouri Baking Company, the bakery his grandfather, Stefano “Stephen” Gambaro, opened in 1924 after journeying to America. Stefano came to Missouri to make Italian bread and éclairs for Garavelli’s cafeteria on DeBaliviere in Gaslight Square. Opened in 1917 by another Italian immigrant, Garavelli’s closed in 2013.
Chris and his sister, Camille “Mimi” Lordo, own and operate Missouri Baking Company today, and serve some thirty varieties of cookies and more than fifty pastries, along with stollen, Danish, cheesecake, cobblers, strudels, and—of course—gooey butter cake.
“I just use a coffee cake dough in an eight-by-eight-inch mold, butter, sugar, eggs, evaporated milk, and flour to hold it together,” Chris explains. His skill and imagination turn this simple recipe into ten different varieties, including eggnog, apple cinnamon, and cherry, depending on the season.
“The way we bake is the old-fashioned way,” Mimi says. “You just can’t hire that out.”
Facebook: Missouri Baking Co • 2027 Edwards Street 314-773-4122
Federhofer's Bakery, Affton
Established in 1966 by Bill Federhofer, the bakery that bears his name is as much a staple of St. Louis as the gooey butter cake in which it specializes. In 2016, Federhofer’s Bakery celebrated fifty years of providing fresh, high-quality baked goods to the St. Louis metropolitan area.
Federhofer’s grandson, Tyler May, says his grandfather still bakes at the store each morning, using the same recipes he has used for fifty years.
Located at Gravois Road and Mathilda in the St. Louis suburb of Affton, Federhofer’s features a seemingly endless selection of freshly baked breads, coffee cakes, stollen, pies, and cakes.
Tyler says his grandfather’s recipe for gooey butter cake differs from many others because Federhofer’s doesn’t use cream cheese—a popular ingredient among gooey butter cake connoisseurs.
“We don’t use cream cheese and we don’t put powdered sugar on them unless the customer requests it,” Tyler says.
Federhofer’s offers five flavors of gooey butter cake, including turtle, chocolate chip, strawberry, and plain. The bakery makes about fifteen dozen a week, not including the forty dozen that go to Andoro & Sons Pizza for fundraisers.
FederhofersBakery.com • 9005 Gravois Road • 314-832-5116
Little O's Old Time Soda Shop, St. Charles
Gooey butter cake has migrated to the west side of the Missouri River with Little O’s Old Time Soda Shop on Historic Main Street in St. Charles. The old-fashioned soda fountain, ice cream parlor, and sandwich shop has its own story about the origin of the gooey delight.
Soda jerks Shelley Swenson and Alli Mayfiel say the story is a tale of three bakers who ran out of options because of a lack of rations.
“The recipe is an old World War II recipe,” Shelley says. “When three bakers ran out of rations, they added powdered sugar instead of granulated sugar, so it gave it a gooey top. In typical St. Louis fashion, something happened to it.”
One of those legendary bakers was Bill Ozenkoski, who went on to operate three bakeries in the St. Louis area, says Shelley. His son, Brent Ozenkoski, started Little O’s. According to Alli, it was Bill’s wife, Christi, who had the idea for the shop, but the exact gooey butter cake recipe passes down only to the males in the Ozenkoski family.
Little O’s, now owned by Brett and Christina Thomasen, offers not only the gooey butter cake made with the coveted World War II recipe but gooey butter brownies (brownie base with goo on top), and gooey butter shakes (a vanilla shake with an entire slice of gooey butter cake whipped in smoothly).
Customers can take a seat at the old-time soda counter and sample rose rolls, old fashioned candies, glass-bottle sodas, milkshakes, handmade sodas with carbonated water and choice of syrup, egg creams, crème sodas, floats, ice cream sodas, and even Pokémon sodas with different flavors of phosphates that correspond with what the Pokémon character looks like.
Facebook: Little O’s Old Time Soda Fountain • 125 North Main Street, Suite 101 • 636-724-0978