As I (mis)understand it, you may:
1) Create the live Type;
2) Set the Fill Color to None;
3) In the Appearance palette/panel flyout Add New Stroke, set it to the desired Stroke weight, and if applicable to be centred/inside/whatever suits you, and if desired choose colour.
It is still live Type so you may edit it.
Rereading the OP I believe Steve has it.
In that case,
I mean the background can show through.
means the background only shows through the letters.
That's right, with clipping mask! Thank you very much you two!
You are welcome, Fernan.
Any time :-)
Me and Him.