If you visited St. Louis, chances are you have enjoyed the famous gooey butter cake. This American dessert is sweet, gooey, buttery, and absolutely delicious! As a tribute to my husband, Adam, (born and raised in greater St. Louis), I have created the ultimate Chocolate Peanut Butter Gooey Butter Cake.
Why did I turn the original to Chocolate Peanut Butter Gooey Butter Cake? Well, Adam is a HUGE peanut butter lover. Moreover, Reese’s is his favorite chocolate candy. So this dessert is 100% for him and all the other chocolate peanut butter lovers out there! With that said, I also include how to make this recipe into the original gooey butter cake.
Most gooey butter cake recipes you find online will use a shortcut method of using box cake. However, I have chosen to make my Chocolate Peanut Butter Gooey Butter Cake entirely from scratch. You might think my recipe will be more difficult or time-consuming, but it is actually SUPER EASY!
What is Gooey Butter Cake?
Gooey Butter Cake is the city of St Louis’ “official” dessert. The base has a crisp but dense-buttery cake topped with a sweet and gooey filling. To be honest, this dessert is not pretty by any means. In fact, the gooey layer almost has a “raw” look and consistency, but really it is just a heavy layer of butter and sugar. This dessert is a true example of not judging a book by its cover because it is sooooo darn delicious!
It is hard to believe this beloved dessert was made by mistake. The history of gooey butter cake has different variations of the story, but one thing is always clear – a baker accidentally added the wrong proportions of ingredients and created something magical.
Some will say the traditional gooey butter cake is made with yeast for the cake layer and corn syrup, butter, and eggs for the top layer. Whereas, other locals will disagree by not using yeast and adding cream cheese as an updated version. Today, home cooks will even use a cake box for the base layer. I think as long as your gooey butter cake comes out golden brown, sweet, buttery, and gooey in the middle – you will have something delicious.
Enjoying Gooey Butter Cake in St. Louis
The first time I visited St. Louis to meet Adam’s family, I was received with a warm Mid-Western welcome and a lovely gooey butter cake. I had never heard of this American dessert before and as a pastry chef, I was very intrigued to try it. After one bite, I was in love!
Now when I return to visit family in St. Charles (a suburb of St. Louis), I cannot leave without enjoying a slice of gooey butter cake. Whether it comes from a wonderful local bakery or even the grocery store, my perfect weekend in St. Charles is not complete without gooey butter cake.
In fact, my in-laws know I love gooey butter cake so much they have generously sent us gooey butter cake several times from Ann & Allen Baking Company. This award-winning St. Louis bakery serves over 70 different flavors of the best gooey butter cake around the country. Since I have enjoyed their gooey butter cake the most, my recipe is inspired by their take on the classic St. Louis dessert.
My Version of Gooey Butter Cake
As stated before, after one bite of gooey butter cake I fell in love with this American dessert. So when you try my recipe, I hope my Chocolate Peanut Butter Gooey Butter Cake creates the same reaction.
When I first started my journey of creating this recipe I wanted to make my St. Louis family and the locals proud by implementing a traditional approach i.e. a yeast cake and no cream cheese. However, through trial and error and consultation from Ann & Allen Baking Company, I went away from traditional and created this easy recipe with a modern approach.
So yes, I have cream cheese in my Chocolate Peanut Butter Gooey Butter Cake, but so does the BEST and award-winning gooey butter cake in the country. Additionally, with Ann & Allen Baking Company’s consultation, I created my version of a deep dish butter cake dough for the base. The end result is truly rich and delicious, but don’t just take my word for it, make my recipe and see for yourself!
List of Ingredients for Chocolate Peanut Butter Gooey Butter Cake
This dessert is not called gooey BUTTER cake for no reason. So yes, the recipe calls for lots of butter and I definitely wouldn’t count calories when eating this.
- Unsalted butter
- Cream cheese
- Vanilla Extract
- Cocoa powder
- Baking soda
- Baking powder
- Powdered sugar
How to Make Chocolate Peanut Butter Gooey Butter Cake
The Chocolate Peanut Butter Gooey Butter Cake is very easy to make and has three separate parts – the crust, the chocolate peanut butter layer, and the filling.
For the Crust
In a mixing bowl, beat together the unsalted butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Then add and mix in the vanilla extract.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the mixture and combine until a smooth ball of dough is formed.
Lightly grease a 9 x 13 pan. Then using your fingers, spread the dough evenly into the pan. Set the pan aside in a cool place, such as the refrigerator.
For the Filling
In a separate mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and melted unsalted butter. Add the eggs, vanilla extract, and salt into the mixture and combine well.
In another bowl, whisk the powdered sugar to remove any large clumps. Slowly add the powdered sugar into the mixing bowl and beat until the filling mixture is silky smooth. Set aside.
For the Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer
Spread an evenly thin layer of peanut butter in the pan of dough. Then place the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups 4 x 4 in the pan top side down. Gently press the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups into the peanut butter layer to secure its placement.
Pour the filling mixture over the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Using a spatula, spread the filling evenly. Bake the Chocolate Peanut Butter Gooey Butter Cake at 350°F for 40 minutes or until it is finished baking.
The gooey cake is perfectly baked when it is golden brown, puffy, cracked, and gooey in the middle. It is called, “gooey” butter cake after all.
Tips & Tidbits
Here are a couple tips and tidbits on Chocolate Peanut Butter Gooey Butter Cake.
How to Turn This Recipe into an Original Gooey Butter Cake
Whether you have a peanut allergy, do not like Reese’s, or if you are just looking for the original gooey butter cake recipe, here is how to do it!
For the crust, substitute 1/4 cup cocoa powder for all-purpose flour. Then completely eliminate the use of peanut butter and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Viola! You have yourself an original St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake.
How to Tell When it is Baked
Baking gooey butter cake is very simple, but it can also easily be over-baked. Unlike a traditional cake, you cannot use a cake tester because the middle will be gooey and look “raw”.
So the best way to judge if the gooey butter cake is fully baked is by checking if the outer edges are firm and resemble a baked brownie – if it jiggles, it is not done. If the outer edges are firm, but the middle is not jiggly, the gooey butter cake is over-baked. The entire gooey butter cake should be golden brown, the outer edges firm, and the middle puffed, cracking, and jiggly.
For the Crust
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
For the Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer
- 2/3 cup peanut butter
- 16 Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (snack size)
For the Filling
- 8 oz. cream cheese (room temperature)
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (melted)
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 3 cups powdered sugar, plus more for decorating
- Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 9"-x-13" baking pan with cooking spray.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat together the sugar and unsalted butter to get a light and fluffy consistency. Then mix in the vanilla extract.
- In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients and whisk together. Slowly add it into the mixture and combine until it forms into a smooth ball of dough. Press the dough evenly into the baking pan. Set aside in a cool place.
- Next, you will prepare the filling. In a mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and melted unsalted butter. Then add the vanilla extract, eggs, and salt and mix well.
- In another bowl, add the powdered sugar and whisk to remove any clumps. Slowly add the powdered sugar into the filling mixture and beat until it is silky smooth. Set aside.
- Spread a thin layer of peanut butter over the rested dough in the baking pan. Arrange Reese's Peanut Butter Cups 4 x 4 top side down, over the peanut butter, and gently press them into the layer. Pour the filling over the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and spread it across the pan evenly.
- Bake at 350°F for 40 minutes or until the cake is golden brown, puffed, and slightly cracked. The middle of the cake should be GOOEY! If it is not gooey, you have overbaked the cake.
- Remove from the oven, cool completely, cut into desired squares, sprinkle with powdered sugar, and serve.
Have a peanut allergy? Feel free to use this recipe without the use of peanut butter and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups!
You can also turn this recipe into the original gooey butter cake by exchanging 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder with 1/4 cup all-purpose flour. In addition to eliminating the use of peanut butter and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.
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