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
Terry Holst says
My parent's owned a bakery in south St. Louis (Wilke's Bakery on So. Kingshighway) we made gooey butter cake and deep butter cake. I'm so happy to finally find a recipe for a traditional deep butter cake- I'm anxious to try your recipe. The last St. Louis bakery that made a very good deep butter was MacArthur's but they have since discontinued making any pasteries and strictly do wedding cakes. Thanks again, this brings back many, many fond memories. Terry
Helen S Fletcher says
Hi Terry, Finding an old recipe that you remember from the past is the best I think. It probably won't be exactly the same, but really close I think. Please leave a 5-star rating in the recipe card & consider leaving a review in the comments.
Carol in St. Louis says
I forgot to add... Gooey Butter Cake resulted from a mismeasurement during the baking of Deep Butter Coffee Cake. To me, the latter is superior.
Carol in St. Louis says
I'm at least the third generation of my family to have grown up eating Deep Butter Coffee Cake. If you contact Bello's Bakery in Des Peres, Missouri, they bought recipes from two of St. Louis' best-known, traditional bakeries: Lake Forest, and my family's go-to Party Pastry; maybe you can get the recipe from Belo's, or they could advise you. Deep Butter is, texturally and denseness-wise, part way between a pound cake and a really good, regular cake. There were two versions - one with the crumb layer, and the one I would pay triple to have again had no crumb layer.
Helen S Fletcher says
This is interesting Carol. I've often had both in my long life and I was happy to be able to post about them.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Just found butter flavoring and buttery sweet dough flavoring on line. Do you think there is a difference? I will order it.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Sharon Thomas says
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
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
Thank you so much Marilyn. And thank you for asking for the Deep Butter Cake. I wouldn't have thought of it without you.
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.