This is a dish native to St. Louis; apparently it originated during the Great Depression in the German section in the southern part of town. It almost always starts with store-bought or leftover yeast coffee cake or danishes that are cut up and fit into a buttered pan. The "gooey butter" part comes from the topping, which is poured over the cake pieces and then baked.
- 1 pound store-bought yeast-raised coffee cake
- 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- Pinch salt
- 1 egg
- 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 3 tablespoons water
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 3/4 cups flour
- Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
Generously butter 1 (9 by 13-inch) baking pan.
Cut the coffee cake into 2-inch pieces and press pieces in the baking pan to form a snug single layer. In a bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter, sugar, and salt until very smooth. Add the egg, then beat in the corn syrup until smooth. Add the water and vanilla and, when incorporated, lower the speed to low and add the flour, mixing until just combined.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake until the butter is bubbly and golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes, being careful not to over bake, as the cake will not be gooey.
Cool to room temperature, cut into squares, and sprinkle with confectioners' sugar to serve.