ST. LOUIS – Exactly who created gooey butter cake first remains unclear, but people have named their ancestors as inventors of the dessert.
The consensus is that the first gooey butter cake was made accidentally by a south St. Louis German-American baker in the 1930s.
That’s according to an online article by the Missouri Historical Society.
“Some think it was an error of reversing the proportions of butter and flour, while others point to varying recipe faux pas,” the article states.
The bakeries where the gooey butter could have been invented were either Koppe Bakery, Danzer’s, or St. Louis Pastries.
However, an online article by What’s Cooking America contains two different origin stories from people who claim they have the origin story.
One story came from Richard Danzer that was submitted in November 2006. He said his father was Herman Danzer, who owned Danzer’s Bakery.
In the article, he said Johnny Hoffman of St. Louis Pastries Bakery created gooey butter cake by mistake. After realizing his creation, Hoffman called Danzer, and together, they worked on a final recipe.
“They worked all Saturday, and through many trials and errors got it pretty good. The final batch they made, my dad suggested they add glycerin to get it really gooey,” Richard Danzer said in the article.
“It worked – whereupon my mom, Melba Danzer, came into the shop from the store to see what these two guys were doing. When she tried it, she said ‘this sure is gooey,’ subsequently, the name.”
Richard Danzer noted that the information came from his mother, who worked with his dad from 1939-1957.
His father died in 1997.
“My mother, approaching 89, does not have his recipes nor would she have any way of proving the ‘Gooey Butter Cake’ origin.”
Another story in that article came from Marilyn (Koppe) Galati who said it was her father, John Koppe, who developed gooey butter cake in the early 1940s.
She said her father was owned/operated Koppe Bakery on the corner of California and Arsenal streets in south St. Louis during World War II.
Galati noted she that does not know how her father came upon creating the dessert, but “it could have been an accident.”
“The Gooey Butter Cake was a smash hit with customers. The lines of customers spilled out the door and around the block. This cake was very gooey, rich, and exceptionally delicious,” Marilyn (Koppe) Galati said in the article.
“I remember that the goody butter cake is best described as very ‘GOOEY.’ You could eat it with a spoon! The top was sprinkled with powdered sugar and the edge was slightly crispy to hold it together – almost like a pudding. It was baked in a square shape and, of course, was light-colored, like butter.”
After the war, she said her father sold his business and went to work for St. Louis Pastries where he shared his recipe for gooey butter cake.
Galati said both of her parents are deceased and no records about the dessert were kept.
“I was just a child then, but remember how the store would be packed with customers and the popularity of the Gooey Butter Cake. His recipe may have varied from the others in production. The cakes produced today do not taste anything like dad’s,” she said in the article.
Both Koppe and Danzer were members of Master Retail Baker’s Association of Greater St. Louis.