Gooey Louie: A sweet store for an even sweeter cake
In order to truly understand a city, you have to sample its culinary offerings. You wouldn’t visit Chicago without trying a slice of deep-dish pizza just like you wouldn’t leave the Big Apple without taking a bite out of some New York-style cheesecake. But what unique food best embodies the heart of St. Louis? If it were up to the owners of Gooey Louie, the answer would be gooey butter cake.
Like its name implies, gooey butter cake has a pudding-like consistency that comes from its main ingredients: eggs, butter, sugar, cream cheese and flour. Legend has it that in the 1930s, a German baker in St. Louis created gooey butter cake when he mixed the wrong proportions of ingredients for a butter cake. Once people tried this sugary surprise, the concept of gooey butter cake was born.
Although gooey butter cake was invented by accident, Gooey Louie, the only St. Louis specialty store devoted to making this sweet treat, was founded for a purpose. In 2006, co-owners Kirk and Debbie Stieferman opened Gooey Louie in response to the decline of family-owned corner store bakeries in St. Louis.
“We wanted to recreate that small little place where you could go in and get something really fresh and quality and actually see the cake being made,” explained Stieferman.
Stieferman grew up making gooey butter cake with her mother and grandmother and decided to open the store when she had her first son. She sees gooey butter cake as something tied to St. Louis history: “People all over the country are proud of their heritage, and gooey butter cake is just a part of our culture. People have memories [of the cake] from barbeques and Christmases.”
While the store carries the standard gooey butter cake, it also has unique flavors that relate to its St. Louis origins. If you had to deal with the construction on Highway 40, then you might appreciate “HWY 40: Driving Me Nuts,” a gooey butter cake topped with pecans and walnuts. Or, if you went to Zoofari at the St. Louis Zoo, you’ll enjoy “Turtle Park Butter Cake,” which mixes chocolate, caramel and pecans with the standard cake.
In addition to fun flavors, Gooey Louie also offers unique packaging for its cakes. All boxes feature the glasses-wearing cartoon character, Louie, and relate to the theme of the cake flavor. There’s even a special Washington University package.
As Stieferman explained, the distinct packages not only enliven the gooey butter cake itself, but also spice up the store. “Gooey butter cake is not like a fancy cupcake where you can decorate it. The boxes just make the store more interesting,” she said. The purple and yellow house-like exterior and brightly colored walls of Gooey Louie also make the bakery hard to miss among the brownstones on Chippewa Street.
In order to spread the St. Louis love across the country, Gooey Louie offers shipping for a variety of products and even has unique gifts. If you want to give someone a little taste of St. Louis, be sure to send them a Gooey Louie cake. After all, as Stieferman said it best, “When are you not happy having cake?”