Deep Butter Cake


Deep Butter CakeDeep Butter Cake is a speciality of St. Louis – or at least it was.  Somewhere in the last ten or so years it seems to have disappeared from the cases of bakeries in my fair city.  I was reminded of it by a reader.  Marilyn was originally from St. Louis and remembers the city, and it’s bakery items, fondly.  She commented on a blog of mine and asked if I knew of a recipe for the Deep Butter Cake.

As you can imagine, that sent me on a hunt – which was short!.  While there are many listings for  the other St. Louis speciality – The Gooey Butter Cake, there are only two for the Deep Butter Cake.  The original recipe came from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch which ran the recipe from Helfer’s Bakery.  The only other mention I could find was from Olla Padrida who altered the recipe by doubling the crumb part.

The Helfer Bakery recipe says the use of buttery flavoring that can be found in grocery stores is the most important part of achieving the flavor in the Deep Butter Cake.  So off I went to get the prescribed flavoring.  I followed the directions to the letter – twice – and got the same really heavy, sodden cake that was not very appealing – and it didn’t taste of much.

I thought the lack of flavor might be attributable to the butter flavor I used.  I remembered reading a comment somewhere about the Butter Flavoring from King Arthur so I ordered a bottle.  It eventually came and I found it was an emulsion from the LorAnn flavoring company, a well known and respected flavoring company used in the commercial baking and candy industry.  It is a bit less expensive from LorAnn.  It comes in a 4 ounce bottle from either one.  Ounce for ounce it isn’t that much more than the 1 ounce Butter Flavor from McCormick.  However, there is shipping costs.Buttery Sweet Dough emulsion for the Deep Butter CakeThe main reason commercial bakeries use emulsions is they don’t bake or cook out as an alcohol based flavoring can.  LorAnn puts it this way, “When it comes to flavoring, professional bakers almost exclusively use emulsions over alcohol-based extracts. The flavors are more robust and won’t “bake-out” when exposed to heat.”  I thought it did add a specific flavor to the cake.  However, in all fairness, if you aren’t going to use the butter emulsion later, you could probably get away with doubling the grocery store version in the crumbs and the cake.  Use the same amount of either of the butter flavorings.

The other problem that had to be fixed was the soddenness of the cake.   In the photo of the Deep Butter Cake below, the one on the left is from the original recipe.  The one on the right is with the changes I made by adding baking powder which lightened it immensely and made it wonderfully edible.Two Deep Butter CakesI also enlarged the size of the pan, increased the butter flavoring and doubled the crumb mixture for a better balance between the two.  The crumbs are added to the bottom of the pan and when baked they become a crunch topping as the cake is served upside down.

The Deep Butter Cake is a really easy to make great coffee cake that stays moist for days when kept under a cake cover or well wrapped. It cuts like a dream and also freezes well without the powdered sugar.

So, Marilyn, this is as close as I can get to the original without a piece with which to compare.  I hope you make it and enjoy it.

For crumb mixtureCrumb ingredients for the Deep Butter Cake1/2 cup granulated sugar – (100 grams or 3 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (114 grams or 4 ounces or 1 stick)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon butter flavoring (see note)
1 cup all-purpose flour (140 grams or 5 ounces)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees for an aluminum pan or 325°F for glass or dark metal. Line a  9-inch-square baking pan with parchment paper. Spray the pan well.cake-pan prepped (1 of 1)

In the mixer bowl, beat together sugar and butter until fluffy. Butter and sugar for crumbs for the Deep Butter CakeButter and sugar creamed for the Deep Dish Butter CakeAdd salt, butter flavoring and vanilla.  Flavorings added for the Deep Dish CakeBeat well.  Add the  all-purpose flour; Flour added to make crumbs for the Deep Butter Cakebeat at low speed just until crumbly. Cover and refrigerate.Finished Crumbs for the Deep Butter Cake

For the batterCake ingredients for the Deep Butter Cake1 1/3 cups granulated sugar (265 grams or 9 1/3 ounces)
1 cup unsalted butter, softened (225 grams or 8 ounces or 2 sticks)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon butter flavoring
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups cake flour (220 grams or 7 2/3 ounces)
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
Powdered sugar, for garnish

Add the sugar, butter, vanilla, butter flavoring and salt to a large mixing bowl;

butter-sugar-etc.-cake (1 of 1) beat on high speed for 2 to 3 minutes or until fluffy. Butter and sugar creamed for the Deep Butter CakeAdd the eggs; beat on high speed 2 to 3 minutes or until light.Eggs added to the batter for the Deep Butter Cake

Combine the flour and baking powder. Flour and baking powder whisked for the Deep Butter CakeAlternately add cake flour First flour added for the Deep Butter Cakeand milk mixture to batter, starting and ending with flour in 4 additions, milk in 3. Beat on low speed, scraping sides of bowl, until well mixed.First milk added for the Deep Butter CakeCover the bottom of the prepared pan with the crumbs, spreading them out evenly.Crumbs spread evenly in the bottom of the pan for the Deep Butter CakeCover the crumbs with the batterBatter over the crumbs for the Deep Butter CakeSmooth it out evenly. cake-side view of pan (1 of 1)

Place the Deep Butter Cake in the oven for 55 to 60 minutes.  Cover it loosely if it starts to brown too much.  It should be a dark golden brown.  I tore a bit of the top when I removed the foil but it will be on the bottom so it won’t matter.Baked cake for the Deep Butter CakeWhen it has cooled, release the edges by going around them with a small spatula.  Turn the cake out onto a cake board. rack or plate.  This is now the top.Cake turned upside down for the Deep Butter CakeSprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

This cake freezes well. Do not sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Freeze, then wrap well in foil. Thaw at room temperature. Heat in a 350°F oven partially wrapped in foil, leaving a hole in the center for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Yield: 9 to 12 servings

Pastry has not only been my profession, but my passion. If there is anything in particular you would like to see or any questions about baking or pastry, please let me know. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss a post!
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15 thoughts on “Deep Butter Cake

  1. tony

    Disastrous results with this cake. I found it rather heavy and dry. The flavor was spot on, but not some thing I’d make again.

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Tony – How did you measure your flour? Weight is always best. Did you use cake flour for the cake? The recipe uses all purpose in the crumbs and cake flour in the batter. If you used all purpose and measured by volume you would have had more flour than called for. I think that may have been the problem. I made this 3 times. The first one was sodden as I noted in the blog because there was no leavening in it, the last two were spot on. None were dry. Because there are only two of us, the cake sat covered at room temp. for 3 days one time and 4 days the next. It remained moist throughout. It’s difficult to know what happened without being there when it is being made.

  2. Manisha

    Hi Helen

    This cake looks lovely. I am sure all the flavouring will make it a true butter cake and not vanilla. As most cakes that claim themselves to be butter cake actually have strong vanilla flavour.
    Is the crumb base texture crunchy after the cake is baked?


    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Manisha – Certainly in contrast to the cake it is crunchy. As you can see it is a thin layer that adds a contrasting texture. I think you would like this. Even though it’s called a coffeecake, Mike and I drink tea – a perfect go with.

  3. Rockyrd

    Just woke up after a lousy nite of tossing, turning and opened my mail and saw the photo of THAT cake. That is a beaut! Wish I had some with my coffee right now. I must make it soon. Even today, but have to find the butter flavoring. Never used it before but I am sure its a must, right? No substitutions? I have seen butter flavoring for sale on occasion in Home Goods or TJ Maxx but the closest one is well over an hour away. Never thought to buy it though.
    I will check the net.

    1. Rockyrd

      Just found butter flavoring and buttery sweet dough flavoring on line. Do you think there is a difference? I will order it.

    2. hfletcher Post author

      Hey there – I found the buttery see dough flavoring which is the emulsion to be better than the alcohol based butter flavoring. But as I said, using twice the amount of the grocery store version will probably be fine. After testing tis 3 times, I didn’t want to run another one that Mike and I would end up eating. The butter flavoring does make a difference.

  4. megan

    How is this taste or texturally different from the ny crumb cake? aside from the crumbs being baked in, is the taste more buttery because of the emulsion? Does it slice better because the crumbs aren’t loose on top?

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Megan: If you compare the photos of the two on my site the visual difference is quite noticeable. Texturally they are nothing alike. The NY crumb cake has approximately the same amount of butter but in a pan almost twice as big, so not as buttery. It also has a lot of vanilla which the Deep butter cake does not. It’s sort of like there are a lot of chocolate cakes, but they are all different. Same here.

  5. mybobba1

    Years ago there was a wonderful spice shop in soulard market where I used to buy many enhancers and Fresh spices. I don’t know if is still there. . Of course love your article , I’m still trying to find the split layer cake info. I will preserve. I’m having a few health issues but it’s on my bucket list. The cake was a tender yellow cake, I think make in a sheet cake, then sliced into a loaf. It’s the filling that’s driving me crazy. Kinda a cross of pudding and buttercream. The lemon filling was different consistency than the chocolate.

    1. hfletcher Post author

      I know the one you are thinking about. I have’t been to Soulard in a while so I don’t know. It was supposed to get a makeover. It’s not that far from Tony’s so maybe I’ll go over and take a look. If they cleaned it up too much it will have lost its character. Sorry to hear you are having health problems. I almost think the split lemon cake filling was an enhanced lemon pie filling. I remember it being yellow. I also believe the cake was a sheet cake that was cut. Vince just loved it. Still talks about Miss Hullings. Take care.

      1. Sharon Thomas

        Oh, Helen! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! You are amazing! And I think you have a lot of fun doing all you do! It seems such a short time since you responded you would see what you can do to come up with a recipe for Deep Butter Cake. Off and on, I have searched for one for decades, reviewing every one I could find. You have truly come up with something I have treasured since a very young child, and brought back more warm memories of sharing a slice of Deep Butter Cake with my mother .. she with her daily 1 cup of coffee, and me with a glass of cold milk which I drink even now. And as buttery as some might think of this coffee cake, I have enjoyed slathering softened real butter on a slice .. delicious! Thank you from deep in my heart for having come up with this recipe. It will be a treasure to pass along to the three generations I have now, and, hopefully, more to come! You, yourself, are a Treasure as a person and as a professional. Thank you for sharing so lovingly with all of us! – Sharon

        1. mybobba1

          Looks like you really hit the nail on the head, sometime after all the fancy new recipes the good old simple tasty are the ones we old timers really enjoy. They are all wonderful but as we get older, maybe it’s that’s good old memory we enjoy. You get get a lot of happiness knowing you bring so much joy to so many. Sleep well and thank you for all you do. Hugs, m

        2. hfletcher Post author

          Hi Sharon: You are right that I enjoy what I do very much. Lovely comments like yours make it all worthwhile. I had no idea, this would be so popular. Isn’t it interesting what can be done when we listen. I love your memories of eating the Deep Butter Cake with your mother. Being a mother and a grandmother, I know how important those memories are. My mother made a rice pudding that my son and grandson ask for every time they visit. Food makes for wonderful, lasting memories. Thanks for sharing yours.

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