Kentucky Bourbon Cake

This Kentucky bourbon cake is the real deal, an authentic Southern recipe classic. It's much like a pound cake given its obscene amount of butter and its tender, perfect crumb. And oh, baby, wait'll you taste the bourbon glaze.

Kentucky Bourbon Cake Recipe

“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 authentic Southern bourbon cake. And each person thereafter said pretty much the same thing. Not that this is a bad thing. Not at all. But it does merit us offering the caveat to   reach for a really quite decent bottle of bourbon seeing as it plays such a prominent role in the cake’s flavor profile. Thank us later. This recipe has been updated. Originally published March 21, 2016.Renee Schettler Rossi

Special Equipment: One 10- or 12-cup Bundt pan or two 6-cup Bundt pans

Kentucky Bourbon Cake Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 1 H, 5 M
  • Serves 10 to 12

Ingredients

  • Make the bourbon cake
  • 3 cups (12 ounces or 360 grams) sifted cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon (4 grams) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (6 grams) fine sea salt
  • 1 cup (8 ounces or 227 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces or 297 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (3 3/4 ounces or 107 grams) firmly packed brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces or 57 milliliters) really quite smooth and decent bourbon (we like Bulleit)
  • 1 cup (8 ounces or 227 grams) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • Make the glaze
  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces or 85 grams) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces or 149 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces or 57 milliliters) really quite smooth and decent bourbon (we like Bulleit)

Directions

  • Make the bourbon cake
  • 1. Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Generously butter a 10- or 12-cup Bundt pan or fluted metal tube pan or two 6-cup Bundt pans.
  • 2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt in a bowl, then whisk the mixture by hand to ensure that the ingredients are well mixed.
  • 3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together on medium-high speed 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 one at a time. Combine the bourbon and buttermilk in a small bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the buttermilk-bourbon mixture in 2 parts, beginning and ending with the flour. After each addition, mix until just barely blended and stop and scrape the bowl. Stop the mixer before the last of the flour has been incorporated and complete the blending by hand with a rubber spatula. The batter should be smooth and shiny, like liquid silk.
  • 4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out 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
  • 5. Combine the butter, sugar, and bourbon in a small saucepan over low heat just until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves, whisking to combine.
  • 6. 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. Allow the cake to cool for 30 minutes.
  • 7. 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.
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Recipe Testers Reviews

Hillary Hawkins

May 06, 2017

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 would 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!

Larry Noak

May 06, 2017

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.

Tammori Petty

May 06, 2017

This Kentucky bourbon cake was such a delight. The actual cake itself has the texture of a pound cake laced with hints of bourbon. The glaze adds a nice layer of sweetness and texture. The cake is even better served warm. I thought the glaze was going to be too sweet, but it was actually just right. I will be adding this to my list of go-to cakes. At 45 minutes, my cake was almost set. When poked for doneness, the knife didn't come out clean. I had to put it back in the oven for an additional 20 minutes. I used a fluted metal tube pan, which gave me some problems. When I went to un-mold the cake, the pan pulled a little cake from the bottom so my top surface wasn't smooth. This also could've happened because the cake needed to cool some more.

Elsa M. Jacobson

May 06, 2017

I don’t usually like cake, but this Kentucky bourbon cake is the exception, especially right out of the oven when it's just been glazed. I could hardly wait the last of the 30 minutes of cooling time before serving it. I generously gifted 2 slices to a couple who visited right after I baked this. They saved the cake for the next day, and I received the following text: “Your cake was awesome! I do feel a tad bit guilty. Mat slept in, and I ate his piece too! The good thing is he didn’t know it was there. Ha ha!” I used a 10-cup (2.4-liter) fluted metal tube pan. I had considered other options, including a Bundt pan, but I was happy I used exactly what was called for. My bake time was a little longer than the 40 to 45 minutes noted; at 52 minutes, it seemed perfect. And, apart from using a different shape than the photo, this cake was as picture-perfect as the accompanying photo.

Anna Scott

May 06, 2017

The first words to come to mind after tasting this Kentucky bourbon cake are "simple" and "decadent." The cake itself is made with very simple ingredients that you most likely already have in your pantry. The use of cake flour and buttermilk gives this scrumptious cake a lighter-than-air texture (a great crumb, if you will!) that's sort of like a spongecake—the whole thing just melts in your mouth. The use of a bit of Kentucky bourbon in the cake itself and as a glaze on the top and bottom of the cake is the utterly decadent part. I adore this cake and am looking forward to a second slice for dessert this evening! In terms of the recipe itself, I used a regular 12-cup Bundt pan. The cake took 1 hour to cook all the way through in this pan. Unlike the photo, my cake was not dark brown—it was more lightly browned but still very pretty. This is one of those recipes that we loved so much that I can't wait to make it again and share the recipe with other bourbon (and dessert!) lovers!

Irene Seales

May 06, 2017

Cake is a rare treat for us, but this Kentucky bourbon recipe tempted me. The result was a beautiful, moist cake with a perfect crumb. A combination of pan sizes and a desire to not let myself eat it all made me try this in a smaller Bundt pan for us as well as in 4-inch and 6-inch round cake pans for gifting. Although now I really want a super heavy and larger fancy swirly pan like the picture, I made it work fine using a classic 6-cup lightweight Bundt from Nordic Ware. I generously buttered all 3 pans. The little ones didn't have a center tube. If you do what I did, you'll also want to make a little extra glaze for the ones you give away. The batter looked very promising going into the pans. Because my pans were smaller, I checked them at 30 minutes but they all baked for 40 minutes. The glaze comes together easily (and smells delicious, reinforcing the more subtle bourbon flavor in the baked cake), but you might need extra glaze if you end up dividing the cake among multiple pans. I used Bulleit bourbon. My cake stuck a little to the lightweight Bundt pan, but the glaze covered any scars. Also, if the entire cake is not going to be eaten when served, the glaze does firm up when you chill leftovers (but the cake keeps remarkably well for several days). You can slightly warm servings on the subsequent days (just 20 seconds in the microwave took the chill off). I can safely say the ones I gave away were successful—I received messages via text requesting “More, please” that night. I'm still rationing our cake out between the 2 of us—I would say, with self-control, it easily serves 12 to 15. It also goes nicely with coffee.

Judith Peres

May 06, 2017

May the last crumb of your Kentucky bourbon cake transport you to cake heaven a full hour before the devil knows it's all gone. This recipe was a very easy preparation resulting in a dense, buttery, caramel-and-bourbon-flavored cake. I used my humble 10-inch tube pan. Our whimsical oven required a full hour for the cake to finally become golden brown and "springy to the touch." The initial application of glaze was absorbed within 10 minutes, and I had no issues brushing on the remainder of the glaze. I feared there might be some crumbling, but not to worry. Beautiful! With a modest spoonful of slightly sweetened whipped cream, this simple dessert was completely satisfying, as simple things done well are.

Comments

    1. Lloyd, we haven’t tested this recipe using rum so I can’t say for certain that it will work to a faretheewell. However, I know of many such recipes and I really think it should taste quite lovely with rum. Kindly let us know if you give it a try.

      1. I previously cooked a rum cake (40 years ago) that everyone loved, especially the tea-toaters! I will try this recipe with rum instead and let you know…

        1. Magnificent, Mary! Lovely to hear you’ll be trying it and I look forward to hearing what you think!

  1. Sadly, this cake was a dud. I followed the instructions exactly. The cake stuck badly to my (until this recipe) non-stick Bundt pan, and came out in pieces. (Yes, I did thoroughly butter the pan. I always do.) The crumb is heavy, almost leaden, rather than moist. The glaze did not soak significantly into the cake, forming a wet, sticky layer across the bottom that has an unpleasant taste and mouth feel, probably due to the density of the cake. (Yes, I did use a skewer to poke holes to give the glaze somewhere to go. Yes, I did pour warmed glaze slowly to allow time for it to soak in. I use a little syrup dispenser for glazes like this.) The bourbon overwhelms every other flavor and leaves a bitter aftertaste.

    I’ve made plenty of Bundt cakes involving alcohol and flavors of various types, and have always had at least edible success until now. Just didn’t work out.

    1. Hi Frankie, I am so sorry that this cake did not turn out for you. Our testers loved the boozy bourbon taste and used their favorite bourbon to amp up that flavor. As far as the crumb being dense, did you use cake flour for the recipe? Also, you might doublecheck that your baking powder and soda are still viable.

      1. Yup, cake flour, I know my baking powder & soda are good because I baked with them week before last, and I used a bourbon I’d be proud to serve guests. It just didn’t pull together.

        1. Frankie, we are going to run this by a few testers who baked this cake and get their input. We may retest it to see if we can recreate your results as no one experienced that the first time they made the cake. So very sorry that you had issues.

  2. Hi- Has anyone made this cake ahead of time and frozen it? If so, did you glaze and then freeze or add the glaze after freezing? Thanks!

    1. Hi Jill, I double checked with our testers and while none of them froze the cake (it was eaten too quickly!), they did recommend glazing the cake after it was defrosted. Hope this helps.

  3. I’ve made many traditional pound cakes as well as other types of bundt cakes, and this is one of the best so far, both for flavor and texture. The crumb isn’t heavy and dense like a pound cake. It’s dense, but moist, and light as a feather. Slices like a dream with no crumbling. I didn’t find it especially boozy but that may be because of the brand of bourbon I used. I followed the recipe as written and used the volume measures. I used the Nordic Ware anniversary bundt pan which has a 10 – 15 cup capacity, greased the pan well with shortening, then dusted it with ground pecans. The cake rose beautifully and released from the pan with no problem after the 30 minute cooling time. I warmed the 1/4 cup of reserved glaze and gradually brushed it on the outside of the cake after it was out of the pan. The glaze was absorbed into the cake but left a slight sheen on the outside crust. I’ll make 1.5 times the glaze the next time. I set my oven at 335° and the cake was done in 47 minutes. The glazed cake froze well. I cut it into individual portions, wrapped each piece in plastic wrap and foil, and then froze in a Ziploc freezer bag . There was absolutely no difference between the cake that wasn’t frozen and the pieces that were.

    1. Lovely, Sadie! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience. And yes, we found that the particular bourbon used does make a considerable difference in the final flavor. Again, we so appreciate your kind words! Looking forward to hearing which recipe on the site you try next…

  4. Hi, I’m going to use this cake as a layer cake. However, I need to freeze it as I’m making it in advance. Should I glaze it after it defrosts or before? (I’m filling it with a bitter salt caramel mousse and crispy bacon)
    Greetings from Norway :)

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