Deep 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.The 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.I 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 mixture½ cup granulated sugar – (100 grams or 3 ½ ounces)
½ cup unsalted butter, softened (114 grams or 4 ounces or 1 stick)
½ teaspoon salt
½ 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.
In the mixer bowl, beat together sugar and butter until fluffy. Add salt, butter flavoring and vanilla. Beat well. Add the all-purpose flour; beat at low speed just until crumbly. Cover and refrigerate.
For the batter1 ⅓ cups granulated sugar (265 grams or 9 ⅓ ounces)
1 cup unsalted butter, softened (225 grams or 8 ounces or 2 sticks)
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon butter flavoring
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¾ cups cake flour (220 grams or 7 ⅔ ounces)
⅔ cup milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
Powdered sugar, for garnish
Add the sugar, butter, vanilla, butter flavoring and salt to a large mixing bowl;
beat on high speed for 2 to 3 minutes or until fluffy. Add the eggs; beat on high speed 2 to 3 minutes or until light.
Combine the flour and baking powder. Alternately add cake flour and 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.Cover the bottom of the prepared pan with the crumbs, spreading them out evenly.Cover the crumbs with the batterSmooth it out evenly.
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.When 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.Sprinkle 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