At one of my first jobs, I’d get so bored that getting up to refill my water was the highlight of my day. It was even better when the ice machine on our floor was broken, because then I got to go on a little mid-afternoon odyssey, if you will. The quest for ice was full of exciting choices: should I try the break room upstairs or head down to the cafeteria? Should I take the stairs or elevator?

Yep, it was straight out of Indiana Jones.

I finally started doing this thing where around 1 o’clock, I’d think to myself: “It’s 1 o’clock! Which is almost 2 o’clock! And that’s almost 3 o’clock. And 3 o’clock is basically 4 o’clock. So essentially, it’s time to go home.” My absurd time logic got me through the day. That and paperclip art projects.

Thankfully, I love my current job and don’t have a spare moment to count down the hours of the day. I do occasionally find myself counting down with the students towards summer, though, in spite of myself. And right now I’m thinking, “It’s finally May! Which means it’s almost the end of May! Which means June is basically here! Which means it’s essentially summer!”

Really, though, I need summer told hold off a bit while I finalize my summer to-do list. This summer I have a lot of very important plans. For instance:

1. Find an entire day to set aside for painting my nails so that, for once in my life, I can let them fully dry instead of immediately smearing them all over everything.

2. Convince Byrd that going for a walk is not some unique form of doggie torture. What kind of a dog doesn’t like walks? (I ask her all the time, and she has yet to provide a reasonable response.)

3. Drink lots of berry or lemon water, preferably while wearing a ridiculous floppy hat.

4. Go to the gym. And maybe even exercise there instead of getting nervous and awkward and deciding to run back out the door before anyone notices me. I bought a Groupon, so I have to do it now, right? Groupons are like little mini contracts I make with myself: “Here, self, you have to go to the gym for a month,” or the less productive, “Here, self, you have to go buy $30 worth of Mexican fare at this taqueria.”

5. Continue the chronological reading of the Bible that I’m doing with my church.

6. Bake all the things, photograph all the things, post all the things! Blog blog blog.

7. Drive to the beach with Mike with the windows rolled down and the 80s pop music turned up. Note to self: This will probably require convincing Mike that he likes the beach, driving with the windows down, and 80s pop music.

8. Cart my laptop (!!) all over creation, and do fancy things on the internet anywhere I can find some wi-fi and a fountain soda. Fancy things include (but are not limited to) posting witty Facebook statuses, pinning ridiculous baked goods, and checking my email obsessively.

9. Lead a Cupcake Capers summer camp for middle schoolers that will end in a cupcake picnic every single day (if you know of a middle schooler in Charlotte who might want to join in, get in touch!)

10. Eat berries. Eat cake. Eat berries with cake!

I’ve always loved strawberry shortcake, but this Gooey Butter Strawberry Shortcake is a new take on the summery dessert. Gooey Butter Cake itself is a super-moist, almost custard-like buttery cake that hails from St. Louis. By most accounts, it began life as a happy culinary accident, but it’s now a well-beloved local quirk in the Lou.

My fear is that you’re going to immediately deem Gooey Butter Strawberry Shortcake too sweet for your taste, so let me address that next: this dessert has the perfect balance of sweet cake, tangy berries, and freshly whipped cream that, without sugar added, lends a rich background bitterness. In short, it’s quite a savvy combination and not cloying in the least.

Indeed, it’s one of those desserts where you take the first bite and just have to give yourself a hearty, full-mouthed, back-patting, “Uh-huh!”

It’s rare to find a treat that manages to be so decadent and summery at the same time. Also — a real plus for busy summer days — it’s easy to throw together and (you know me) eat straight from the skillet.

What are your summer plans?

One year ago: Pasta Carbonara
Two years ago: Mini Doughnuts for your coffee cup: a creative use for yeast dough scraps!

Gooey Butter Strawberry Shortcake

Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, adapted from one provided to St. Louis Today by Fred and Audrey Heimburger of Heimburger Bakery.
Yield: would easily serve 4-6 people

I don’t know if I really need to sell this to you, but just in case: this is gooey butter cake + strawberry shortcake, so basically, it’s perfect. The tart strawberries and soft whipping cream are unsweetened, and the gooey butter cake itself has a surprisingly balanced sweetness (I expected it to lean more towards cloying), so altogether, this dish has the perfect sweetness level. It’s a beautiful, simple harbinger of summer.

Crust Ingredients:
1 cup cake flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened

Filling Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
icing sugar

Toppings Ingredients:
1 pound strawberries, quartered
2 cups heavy whipping cream

NOTE: If you don’t have a skillet, I believe you can bake this in a greased 9-inch square baking dish (I’d use a glass one if you have it, and check it early and often. Remove when there’s some jiggle left.) Let us know how it goes if you try it this way for all the other skilletless people!

Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together cake flour and sugar in a medium bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or two knives until the mixture resembles fine crumbs and starts to cling together. Press the mixture into the bottom (this step is a lot harder than it sounds, but be patient and use the back of a spoon to help spread/press the mixture down. I also stuck mine in the fridge for a bit to make the butter less sticky) and up the sides of a 10-inch cast iron skillet.

Make the filling: Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy and pale yellow (about 2-3 minutes). Mix in the egg until just combined. Alternate adding the flour and evaporated milk, mixing after each addition. Mix in the corn syrup and vanilla. Pour the filling into the crust and sprinkle the top with icing sugar (I forgot to do this, and did it afterwards. Oops).

Bake and assemble the cake: Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until cake is nearly set (mine was probably ready around 30). Some jiggle is fine — do not overcook! It’ll finish setting up as it cools. Let it cool in pan for 2 hours. In the meantime, beat heavy cream to stiff peaks. Pile heaps of fresh strawberries into the center of your cooled, set gooey butter cake, top with a mountain of freshly whipped cream, and serve.

P.S. This lovely background fabric is from a sweet local fabric shop in Cornelius, NC, called Cotton Ginny’s. If you’re in the area, you should stop in — there’s great stuff there and a sweet little canine greeter named Maggie.

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48 Comments on Gooey Butter Strawberry Shortcake

  1. Averie @ Averie Cooks
    May 6, 2012 at 7:18 am (12 years ago)

    This looks so good…and made in a cast iron skillet. Gotta love the ease of that and those berries. Yum!

  2. Lauren at Keep It Sweet
    May 6, 2012 at 2:37 pm (12 years ago)

    I love your skillet recipes and this is another winner! Even though I don’t have off for the summer I’m also counting down… everything just becomes more relaxed after memorial day!

  3. Foodiewife
    May 6, 2012 at 3:15 pm (12 years ago)

    Yes. I have a skillet. Yes, I love strawberries. Gooey, yes. This recipe has all the components that screams, yes, makes this! I’m an 11 month employee, so I stay for 4 weeks after the kiddos are gone. I have files to roll over, and prep work to do for back-to-school. My last day of school, we head off to fly to Yellowstone for a week– and I cannot wait! Then, I will blog, blog, blog, swim and sleep in past 5am for a whole month. I love summer!

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      May 6, 2012 at 3:55 pm (12 years ago)

      ME TOO! Even though I love the school year as well 🙂 It’s nice to have two lovely parts of the year that are very different. I hope Yellowstone is amaaaazing! It sounds wonderful!

      Thanks, Debby 🙂

  4. Anna
    May 6, 2012 at 4:01 pm (12 years ago)

    Gorgeous cake! I love how you scooped out the middle and filled it with berries and cream – yummy!

  5. Jackie @ dessertification
    May 13, 2012 at 11:50 pm (12 years ago)

    Thanks so much for posting this amazing cake – it was a huge hit at our Mother’s Day cookout!

  6. Paula
    May 15, 2012 at 6:53 am (12 years ago)

    Wow, this just looks amazing! I have put it on file ready for Wimbledon week and whilst my husband is absorbed in the tennis I’ll be treating the junior cake monsters and myself to this. I can hardly wait.

  7. Kajal
    May 17, 2012 at 6:49 am (12 years ago)

    Julie, i’m loving all your skillet baking goodies! they look so good! and i always look forward to your gif! 😀

  8. Jenny @ BAKE
    May 22, 2012 at 12:49 pm (12 years ago)

    these photos are so adorable! I love how you have made a lump of cast iron so delicate and feminine. I am going to have to try this recipe!

  9. Dinah
    June 11, 2012 at 4:50 pm (11 years ago)

    Thank you for posting this. Your pictures are beautiful and appetizing that we could not help but give it a go. Plus, it is perfect timing for the season. My daughter and I tried it this past weekend and it was a scrumptious treat. We have left overs so I think we’ll mix it up and add blueberries with the strawberries tonight. My whole family thanks you!

  10. Robin
    February 11, 2013 at 6:15 pm (11 years ago)

    Made this for a dinner party Saturday night. It was the best shortcake I’ve ever had. Thank goodness, had enough leftover for one more sampling the next night. Too decadent!
    Will be doing it again.

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      February 11, 2013 at 6:16 pm (11 years ago)

      Aww, that makes me so happy to hear, Robin! Hooray!! Thank you for letting me know.

  11. Patty Trimble
    March 3, 2013 at 3:43 pm (11 years ago)

    Every June I love to go strawberry picking. I pick everyday that I can get into the field and have a ridiculous bounty of strawberrys to do wonderfully delicious things with as a result. Since my strawberry picking addiction (which I admit to freely and without restraint) necessitates a constant quest to find new recipes to showcase this wonderful fruit, I can’t wait to make this recipe. And I anticipate it will become a permanent choice in my strawberry repertoire.

  12. Susan
    March 5, 2013 at 8:15 pm (11 years ago)

    Would like to try this recipe. Could you tell me the purpose of the 1/4 cup light corn syrup since you already have sugar in another form in it? In the interest of cutting back on so much sugar, is it possible to substitute another liquid or just leave the corn syrup out. Or perhaps, cut back on the other sugar. thanks

    • tanya
      November 5, 2014 at 10:05 am (9 years ago)

      Wondering the same thing about the corn syrup, anything I could sub or would it be alright to just omit. Looks divine

      • Julie Ruble
        November 5, 2014 at 10:39 am (9 years ago)

        You might be able to substitute golden or maple syrup, but I haven’t tried it. It will definitely change the flavor and may change the texture, too. I hope not! The “gooey” and soft texture of a gooey butter cake is what makes it truly unique.

  13. Kathy
    May 18, 2014 at 1:30 pm (10 years ago)

    will be trying this at the next camping trip — by the way, think I will make the gooey cake ahead of time — you know it is SUCH a CHORE to HAVE TO EAT the middle that needs scooping out !!!!! (happy face here )

  14. Fatima
    May 25, 2014 at 3:26 am (10 years ago)

    Thanks for this deeeeevine recipe…. Can’t wait to try it. Hope I don’t sound dumb but what’s the diff between cake flour and all purpose flour? And instead of corn syrup can I use golden syrup? Oven temperature? 350 is it celcius or Fahrenheit

  15. Fatima
    May 25, 2014 at 5:33 pm (10 years ago)

    @ Julie
    Thank you so much. My prob is I have cake flour and not all purpose flour. Is all purpose flour like bread flour? Could I use the cake flour instead of all purpose flour

    • Julie Ruble
      May 25, 2014 at 5:35 pm (10 years ago)

      I think in this case you could use it without too much effect.

  16. Ellen Hammond
    June 14, 2014 at 5:41 pm (9 years ago)

    Julie, I made this for Father’s Day tomorrow! Alas, I am not an owner of a skillet…I 1.5x the recipe and baked it in an 8.5 x 11 dish. It looks beautiful! I cannot wait to try it! xxoo

    • Julie Ruble
      June 19, 2014 at 10:38 am (9 years ago)

      I hope you all LOVED it, Ellen! Smart idea with the pan switch-up!! Thank you 🙂

  17. Kelsey Schrand
    June 29, 2014 at 10:56 pm (9 years ago)

    I just made this tonight and it was FABULOUS! I didn’t have a cast iron skillet so I just used a square baking dish (it was metal!) and it turned out great 🙂 thank you!!

    • Julie Ruble
      June 29, 2014 at 10:59 pm (9 years ago)

      Hooray, so glad to hear that you loved it!! Thanks, Kelsey!

  18. Allie
    June 3, 2015 at 9:56 pm (9 years ago)

    This looks great but what is icing sugar and can you make icing sugar at home?

    • Julie Ruble
      June 4, 2015 at 3:15 pm (9 years ago)

      Allie, icing sugar is also called powdered sugar, confectioners’ sugar, and 10X sugar.

  19. Kristal
    June 27, 2016 at 7:12 pm (7 years ago)

    You are so witty, funny and I love the way you see and describe things. You make me want to listen to 80s pop music and spend a day on my nails in the futile attempt to not see something shiny and hop up to get closer while messing up my polish by simply putting the lid back on. (don’t judge me for the run-on)
    I can’t wait to make this cake tonight! It sounds so amazing and you saying it’s not cloyingly sweet is exactly what sold me. The two other times I’ve made a version of a gooey butter cake, two bites was about it for me. I look forward to this one living up to all my inner fat-girl fantasies. Have a great day!

    • Julie Ruble
      June 27, 2016 at 7:27 pm (7 years ago)

      Aw, thanks Kristal! I hope you love it!!

  20. lil
    July 26, 2016 at 6:31 pm (7 years ago)

    I love peaches have you tried it with peaches

    • Julie Ruble
      July 26, 2016 at 6:32 pm (7 years ago)

      No, but that sounds delicious!! I’d say give it a shot!

  21. Charlene
    March 4, 2017 at 10:59 am (7 years ago)

    I would love this recipe gooey butter strawberry shortcake. And I would love to subscribe. Do you have a cookbook? Thanks…Charlene

  22. Jessica Person
    April 3, 2020 at 10:20 pm (4 years ago)

    This recipe is exactly as good as it sounds!! I tried baking it in a greased 8×8 glass baking dish and it came out perfectly! I thought I would be sad that the berries and whipping cream were unsweetened, but it turned out to be a perfect balance with the shortcake.

    • Julie Ruble
      April 3, 2020 at 10:37 pm (4 years ago)

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it and felt it was balanced perfectly, Jessica!


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