Gooey butter cake is a common treat for the residents of St. Louis
Park Avenue Coffee has taken the original recipe and turned it up a notch or two.
In addition to freshly brewed, small-batch, air-roasted coffee, the shop offers at least 70 flavors of gooey butter cake. Flavors range from Amaretto to apple cinnamon, banana split, butter pecan, carrot cake, pina colada and dozens more.
A handful of flavored squares are served in the store each day, often switched out when the seasons change.
The coffee shop began in 2006, opening up in the heart of historic Lafayette Square, known for its stately Victorian townhomes and lovely green space. Since then, the relaxed and comfortable coffee house has spread to five more locations around the city.
The coffee shop has a welcoming environment, and customers are greeted with smiles from friendly baristas and the sweet smell of fresh coffee. It’s common to find locals relaxing at the tables to the sound of soothing music, working on their laptops or sipping a Park Avenue mocha with a friend.
The customers themselves are very committed and loyal to the locally owned shop, barista Megan Wyler said. Quite often, the same 40 regulars will filter in and out of the shop on a typical busy morning.
Much of the loyalty is based on the rich, gooey cake and the story behind it. The first butter cake was created by mistake back in the early 1940s by Johnny Hoffman, a local baker trying to make a deep butter cake.
After tasting his accidental concoction, he and a friend, Herman Danzer, spent the rest of the day trying to recreate the buttery deliciousness.
When Danzer’s wife, Melba, tried the cake later that day, she said, “It’s good, but it sure is gooey,” lending the cake its name.
In 2008, Park Avenue invited Melba on her 91st birthday to try “mom’s traditional” flavor, one of the most popular in the shop.
“This is very close to the original cake that was made by my husband,” she said, according to a Park Avenue Coffee brochure.
Now the shop ships gooey butter cakes to all 50 states and around the world, and the coffee shop has launched a baking company called Ann and Allen. They have also won various “best of” accolades in the media, with a feature on Food Network’s “Food Feuds” and winning the “Best Gooey Butter Cake” award.
What: Park Avenue Coffee
Where: 1919 Park Ave. in Lafayette Square; 5105 Columbia Ave. on The Hill; 4240 Duncan Ave. in the Cortex Innovation District; 10301 Clayton Road in Frontenac; and the Soulard Farmers Market.
Hours vary by location.