Gooey Butter Cake and Meet Me in St. Louis

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I really wanted to save this piece, take it home and then photograph it with my fancy Canon. But, I couldn’t wait another minute longer before biting into this yummy wonderfulness. So, please excuse the bad pic, office lighting and stapler in the background!

Natalie, a colleague of mine at work, is leaving Scottsdale, Arizona for St. Louis, Missouri. Today is Natalie’s last day. As part of a going away gift, one of the women in the company baked Gooey Butter Cake for Natalie to share with colleagues as they stopped by during the day to give their goodbyes and well wishes. Gooey Butter Cake tastes quite a bit like my favorite cake, traditional wedding cake and cream cheese frosting! So goooood!

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What makes this a thoughtful (and delicious) gift is that our co-worker did some research and found out that St. Louis is famous for Gooey Butter Cake. In fact, the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission includes a recipe for the cake on its website and calls it “one of St. Louis’ popular, quirky foods.”

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It is a sweet, wonderful dessert! And, just as sweet and wonderful is the movie, Meet Me in St. Louis starring Judy Garland. I remember first watching it on the classic movie channel when I was just a kid. I loved the film. For one, it was shot in Technicolor so color just pops at you and becomes a character itself. For another, as an only child I was always drawn to movies involving big families. What fun to have brothers and sisters to play board games with or do impromptu Broadway numbers!

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Set in St. Louis, Missouri on the brink of the 1904 World’s Fair, the storyline does include a love story between Esther Smith (Garland) and the boy next door. But the bigger story is really that of the passing of the seasons of one year in the life of the Smiths. Based on the Smith family who lived in St. Louis at the turn of the century, the real-life Tootie Smith (played by Margaret O’Brien in the movie) wrote stories of her life for the New Yorker. Her stories were compiled into this classic musical.

Yes, movie buffs you are remembering correctly… this is the movie that includes the bittersweet song, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” sung by the incomparable Garland. As one reviewer said, “If it doesn’t bring a tear to your eye as you listen to her sing the song to little Tootie, I would have to wonder if you have a heart at all.”

Rent the movie, eat the cake!

Gooey Butter Cake

Ingredients:

Crust 1 (18-1/4-ounce) package yellow cake mix 1 large egg 8 tablespoons butter, melted (1 stick)

Filling 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened at room temperature 2 large eggs 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 8 tablespoons butter, melted (1 stick) 3-3/4 cups of confectioner’s sugar, sifted

Directions

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven; preheat oven to 350°F. Set aside an ungreased 9×13-inch baking pan.

2. For the crust, place the cake mix, melted butter, and egg in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 2 minutes. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. The batter should come together in a ball. With your fingertips, pat the batter evenly over the bottom of the pan, smoothing it out with your fingers. Set the pan aside.

3. For the filling, place the cream cheese in the same mixing bowl and with the same beaters (no need to clean either) blend with an electric mixer on low speed until fluffy, 30 seconds. Stop the machine and add the eggs, vanilla and melted butter, and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Stop the machine and add the confectioner’s sugar. Beat on medium speed until sugar is well incorporated, 1 minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

4. Pour the filling onto the crust and spread with a rubber spatula so that the filling covers the entire surface and reaches the sides of the pan. Place the pan in the oven.

5. Bake until well browned but the center still jiggles when you shake the pan, 45-47 minutes. Remove the pan from the over and place it on a wire rack to cool, 30 minutes. Cut into squares and serve.

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