Gooey Butter Cakes

By Michael Jordan.

In the book, Return to Order, John Horvat talks about healthy regionalism in this way: “Accordingly, they come to understand that their region is made for them and they for their region. For them, the region has a wide variety of supreme delights that no other place can offer.”

The following article tells the story of one of those supreme delights.

Over the years my wife has kept in touch with her Auntie “M” by phone. Auntie M lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, and every Monday morning at eleven o’clock sharp without fail, she calls. It has become known in our house as “the Monday Phone Call.” Their conversations usually lasts anywhere from two to three hours.

They talk about everything and anything; from their children to the State of the Union to the price of eggs. In their last call, Aunt M related what she thought was a funny story.

Recently she and her husband, my wife’s Uncle Mark, took a trip to St. Louis, Missouri to visit his family. Uncle Mark is in his late fifties, a heartland boy, born and bred in that great state. He thinks of himself as technically savvy, being up-to-date on all the latest gadgets. He joined the Navy straight out of high school and spent over 30 years in the military, 27 of them as an officer’s chief on the USS Constellation.

This was going to be his first trip home in quite a few years. He was looking forward to seeing his mother and siblings, the neighborhood where he grew-up, and the delight of having a large piece of Gooey Butter Cake!

Over the years, every time Uncle Mark had come home for a visit he would go to the bakery in his old neighborhood to buy a Gooey Butter Cake.Gooey Butter Cakes are a specialty of the St. Louis Area. They are found nowhere else in the country, and as far as Uncle Mark was concerned, his bakery makes the best of the best. Its Gooey Butter Cake border on the sublime!

He would always buy a number of cakes and bring them home to his family. When any family member from St. Louis would come to visit, they would always bring one of these wonderful cakes. This year he was going to buy five Gooey Butter Cakes to share with his children, and grandchildren. He especially wanted his grandchildren, who had never tasted such a treat, to experience something from the boyhood of their grandfather.

On the way to the airport in the morning, he stopped at the bakery and bought five Gooey Butter Cakes fresh out of the oven. His sister had given him a large red cooler, similar to a suit case on wheels with a handle. He very carefully stacked the treasured cakes into the cooler and off they went.

At the airport they checked- in their bags and proceeded to face that grueling experience known as security. Once through the security checkpoint, they stood in line at the gate to board the plane. Auntie M looked at her husband noting that he was standing there with the biggest smile on his face since he was certain no one was noticing the bright red cooler next to him.

She said to him, “You know, you’re going to have to check that in as baggage?”

He replied confidently:” No I won’t, it will fit in the overhead.”

She looked at the cooler and said to herself: “There is no way that is going to fit in the overhead.”

After boarding the plane and finding their seats, Uncle Mark tried to stow the cooler in the overhead. Aunt M heard her husband mutter under his breath, “It won’t fit.” Next he tried stowing it under the seats and again muttered: “It won’t fit!”

Out of desperation, he placed the bright red cooler on the floor between them hoping no one would notice it. As the plane was getting ready for take-off, the stewardesses were making their final check, when the stewardess noticed Uncle Mark’s cooler.

She said to him in a cool and impersonal tone: “Sir, you need to stow that in the overhead.”

Uncle Mark replied, “I have already tried, it doesn’t fit.”
The stewardess responded,” Then you must stow it under your seat.”

Uncle Mark said quietly,” I can’t. It’s too big.”

The stewardess then said, ‘Sir, you must check it in as baggage.”

Uncle Mark then started, “You don’t understand! I can’t check this in as baggage!”

Why not?!” asked the stewardess doubtfully. “What’s in the cooler?”

Five Gooey Butter Cakes” was Uncle Mack’s reply.

The stewardess’s eye widened, “Five Gooey what?!”

Five Gooey Butter Cakes!” Uncle Mark explained. “Gooey Butter Cakes are made only in St .Louis. It is a tradition and you can’t find them anywhere else in the world. When I was a boy every Sunday on the way home from Mass, my family would stop at the bakery in our neighborhood and buy a Gooey Butter Cake.”

Well, you will still have to check them in as baggage,” she said.

Then uncle Mark said,” No I can’t do that, they will be ruined, or lost, and besides they are for my children and grandchildren.”

By this time the other stewardess came down the aisle. Wondering what the delay was about she asked, “Is there a problem?” The first stewardess replied, “Yes, this man’s cooler won’t fit in the overhead and he can’t check it in as baggage. The second stewardess asked, “Why?” She replied, “Because it is full of Gooey Butter Cakes!” “Gooey what?” At this point, both Uncle Mark and the first stewardess explained the whole story. The second stewardess thought a moment and said,” I have an idea. We can stow them in the front in our refrigerated locking cabinet.”

To this, they all happily agreed. The rest of the first flight was uneventful. On the second leg of the flight, Uncle Mark was prepared. He knew exactly what to do when the stewardess would tell him he needed to stow his cooler. He confidently replied, “It won’t fit. Could you please stow it in the locked cabinet in the front of the plane as they did on the previous flight?”

However, the stewardess replied, “We don’t do that.” So Uncle Mark explained the importance of the cooler and its contents. However, it was to no avail as this stewardess was less sympathetic. Uncle Mark tried to plead with her one last time, “This is for my children and my grandchildren!” The stewardess relented, “I don’t know what we can do, but I will talk with the captain and see what he says.”

After a few minutes, the stewardess returned. Aunt M was sure that Uncle Mark would have to check in his big red cooler. The stewardess explained that this was a very unusual situation, but the captain would allow him to keep his cooler aboard the plane under one condition. He would have to place the cooler in the seat next to the window, and strap it in with the seat belt. To this, Uncle Mark happily complied. For the rest of the flight he sat next to his cooler with the biggest smile on his face.

After the flight had landed Uncle Mark and Aunt M waited for all the other passengers to deplane before unbuckling the cooler. As they made their way down the aisle, they noticed the captain was standing at the door. He greeted Uncle Mark and then asked, “What are Gooey Butter Cakes anyway?” So once again Uncle Mark explained the tradition of the cakes, his boyhood memories, and his desire to share them with his grandchildren.

The Captain said, “Couldn’t you have just ordered them from a catalog online?”

Subscription13Uncle Mark just smiled and said, “No, it really wouldn’t be the same thing.”

* * *

Do any of our readers have a story of a supreme delight from their region?

Please send us your story at