Kentucky Bourbon Cake

UPDATE: This Kentucky Bourbon Cake has people going so bonkers, we decided to publish it again just in time for the Kentucky Derby. This is the real deal, an authentic Southern recipe classic. It’s much like a pound cake given its, er, obscene amount of butter and its tender, perfect crumb. And oh, baby, wait’ll you taste the bourbon glaze.

A fancy Bundt Kentucky bourbon cake on a silver platter.

“Make no mistake, this cake is a BOOZY affair!” Thus were the first words we heard from our recipe testers about this moist, tender, ridiculously-hard-to-stop-eating Southern bourbon cake. And each person thereafter said pretty much the same thing. Not that this is a bad thing in their esteem or ours! Not at all. But it does merit the caveat to reach for a quite decent bottle of bourbon seeing as it plays such a prominent role in the cake’s flavor profile. Thank us later.–Julie Richardson

HOW LONG WILL THIS KENTUCKY BOURBON CAKE LAST?

Our testers unanimously agreed that while the cake was good on day one, it was superb on the second day. The flavors had time to meld and really soak into the cake. By day three, the cake was still tasted sublime but was starting to dry out. If you’re not planning to finish it off in those first few days, tightly wrap it and stash it in the freezer to buy yourself some time.

☞ Table of Contents

Kentucky Bourbon Cake

A fancy Bundt Kentucky bourbon cake on a silver platter.
UPDATE: This Kentucky Bourbon Cake has people going so bonkers, we decided to publish it again just in time for the Kentucky Derby. This is the real deal, an authentic Southern recipe classic. It's much like a pound cake given its, er, obscene amount of butter and its tender, perfect crumb. And oh, baby, wait'll you taste the bourbon glaze.

Prep 45 mins
Cook 35 mins
Total 1 hr 5 mins
Dessert
Southern
10 servings
648 kcal
4.84 / 36 votes
Print RecipeBuy the Vintage Cakes cookbook

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Equipment

  • One 10- or 12-cup Bundt pan or two 6-cup Bundt pans

Ingredients 

For the bourbon cake

  • 3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup really quite smooth and decent bourbon (we like Bulleit)
  • 1 cup buttermilk at room temperature

For the glaze

  • 6 tablespoons (3 oz) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup really quite smooth and decent bourbon (we like Bulleit)

Directions
 

Make the bourbon cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Adjust an oven rack to the center position. Generously butter a 10- or 12-cup Bundt pan or fluted metal tube pan or two 6-cup Bundt pans.
  • In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt, then whisk the mixture by hand to ensure that the ingredients are well mixed.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed, beat the butter and sugars together until fluffy, about 5 minutes. As you make the batter, stop the mixer frequently and scrape the paddle and the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Blend in the eggs 1 at a time.
  • In a small bowl, combine the bourbon and buttermilk. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the buttermilk-bourbon mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the flour. After each addition, mix until just barely blended and stop and scrape the bowl. Before the last of the flour has been incorporated, stop the mixer and complete the blending by hand with a rubber spatula. The batter should be smooth and shiny, like liquid silk.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the cake is golden and springs back when gently pressed, 40 to 45 minutes if using a 10- or 12-cup Bundt pan and 30 to 35 minutes if using a 6-cup Bundt pan.

Make the glaze

  • In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the butter, sugar, and bourbon just until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves, whisking to combine.
  • Remove the cake from the oven but leave it in the pan. Poke holes all over the top of the cake with a wooden skewer. Pour 3/4 of the glaze slowly over the cake, saving the remaining glaze. Let the cake to cool for 30 minutes.
  • Invert the cake pan and glazed cake onto a cake stand or serving plate and gently remove the pan. If desired, brush the top of the cake with the remaining glaze. (If the glaze has thickened to the point where it doesn't want to budge, simply rewarm it over low heat.) Slice and serve.
Print RecipeBuy the Vintage Cakes cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portionCalories: 648kcal (32%)Carbohydrates: 84g (28%)Protein: 8g (16%)Fat: 29g (45%)Saturated Fat: 17g (106%)Trans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 145mg (48%)Sodium: 391mg (17%)Potassium: 121mg (3%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 57g (63%)Vitamin A: 935IU (19%)Calcium: 85mg (9%)Iron: 1mg (6%)

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

Bourbon lovers will adore this Kentucky bourbon cake. The crumb was dense and moist with a lovely golden brown exterior. The bourbon both inside the cake and in the glaze provided a wonderful rich bourbon flavor with the burn of the alcohol. It is easy to come together and bakes in under an hour. With batter smelling like a sweet bourbon cocktail and the bottle still sitting out, I will admit to mixing up a Kentucky Mule for myself while waiting for the cake to bake and cool. (That would make a great adaptation to the original recipe: add some ginger and some lime zest as well as some lime juice to the glaze. Oh, my, I think I need to get some more bourbon!)

I used an older, thinner, 10-cup Bundt pan that I had laying around. I'd really recommend the Nordic Ware style that is heavy and nonstick. Had some major issues with sticking in the grooves even though I buttered the pan really well. Still delicious, though!

Make no mistake, this Kentucky bourbon cake is a BOOZY affair. I made two gorgeous 6-cup Bundt cakes with this recipe. Because of the small pans, I needed to shave 10 minutes from the bake time so 35 minutes at 350°F. I also discovered that it was completely unnecessary to save a portion of the glaze to brush over the cakes after removing them from the pans because the glaze that I poured over the cakes while they were in the pans conveniently coated the tops of the cakes with a glorious bourbon-y sheen! My mother would have referred to this as "the stuff of dreams."

We took these cakes to my wife's office, and everyone raved about them. These are either brilliant cakes or it was the booze talking. The only thing I'll do differently is opt for Wild Turkey, as the final 1/4 cup bourbon wasn't baked into the cake but rather poured over the cake, which soaked up the glaze like a sponge. Because of this, the flavor was very apparent. I have no complaint against any of the fine Kentucky bourbons out there, but for my money and palate, I prefer Wild Turkey. It's simply delicious straight from the bottle.


Originally published March 21, 2016

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Comments

  1. I’m just prepping the ingredients to make tomorrow and realize when I sift then measure the cake flour I only had 300 grams. Your metric indicates 360 grams. To confirm, I should use 360 grams for this cake and then sift after measuring, is that correct?

    1. Denise, measuring by weight is definitely the most accurate way to go, so yes, weigh out 360 grams, then sift it. 300 grams seems very light for 3 cups of flour.

  2. We are bourbon drinkers but Bulleit is not in our current repertoire. In your in-house recipe using Bulleit, did you use the basic or the 10 year. We are up to purchase either or both, but since the bourbon surely makes a difference in this recipe 1/2 cup, we want to get the one you used. Then drink it, regardless of which one it is!!!

    1. Den, our testers have baked this cake with many different bourbons and all had great success. If you have another bourbon in your cabinet that you enjoy drinking, then is the best one to use! If you make it, please do let us know how it turns out.

      1. Thank you for your response. I have my go to favorite which is Blantons and it’s allocated here in Florida, hard to come by. I just can’t get myself to use it on this cake. I will get a bottle of the better Bulleit which seems to be a crowd pleaser around here as well as easy to find on the shelf! Will make Saturday for the Derby gathering. Yay!

        1. Den, I’m sure you will enjoy the Bulleit and save the Blantons for sipping. I hope you and your guests enjoy the cake as much as we do!

    2. Den, our testers actually used a variety of different bourbons when making this cake, all to great success. For those that did use Bulleit, they didn’t specify which one. My recommendation would be to use one that you enjoy as you will taste it in the finished cake.

  3. I’m thinking I can use 2, 8 x 4 loaf pans. (we want to test/taste before serving to a small gathering on Derby Day ) I see where some commenters used a cake pan. I hope that since the thickness of a loaf is closer to a bundt pans height it would be a good choice. Please give me your professional comments. Thank you.

    1. Den, as long as your loaf pans accommodate the volume of batter it should work well. I would use the suggested bake time for the two smaller bundt pans and adjust if needed. If you make it, please let us know how it turns out.

  4. 5 stars
    Correction on the Gluten Free flour mentioned above in my review… it’s actually in a blue bag and called Cup4Cup.

      1. Ok, so I don’t see anywhere in the instructions where it says when to mix the butter/sugar mixture with the flour… I added it at the end. The result was lumpy.. Baking now..When do you blend them?
        Ruth

          1. But when do you add the butter/sugar mixture? It says to mix that in a separate bowl but doesn’t say when to add that to the rest of ingredients?

          2. Oops, sorry, Ruth. I had misunderstood your question. David is correct, the “other” butter/sugar mixture with the bourbon is used in Steps 7 and 8.

          3. Hi Ruth. The butter/sugar mixture is in the bowl of your stand mixer, and everything else is added to it. First the eggs, then the dry ingredients (blended in a separate bowl) and the bourbon mixture (blended in another separate bowl). In Step 4, is says “With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the buttermilk-bourbon mixture in 2 additions . . .”

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