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.

“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


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.

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.
Julie Richardson

Prep 45 mins
Cook 35 mins
Total 1 hr 5 mins
10 servings
648 kcal
5 / 15 votes
Print RecipeBuy the Vintage Cakes cookbook

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


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)


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

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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%)

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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  1. 5 stars
    Correction on the Gluten Free flour mentioned above in my review… it’s actually in a blue bag and called Cup4Cup.

  2. 5 stars
    Wow! Incredible. I may never make a rum cake again. Bourbon all the way. I did use the Bulleit brand as recommended- great choice. This cake did not feel overly “boozy” to me. Very smooth, moist and perfect. Because my friend is gluten free I subbed the cake flour with the “1 cup to 1 cup” brand of gluten free flour. To make gf cake flour I took out 2 tablespoons of my gf flour and replaced with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Everything else in the recipe I followed exactly as written.

      1. 5 stars
        I’m not a big “substitution” fan but my gluten-free friend really enjoys Bourbon and your recipe looked perfect (it is perfect!). So for friends and Bourbon I make the “sub” exception. Lol

  3. 5 stars
    Hi there. Over the summer, I made your Kentucky Bourbon Cake recipe. It was delicious and a huge success with our friends who loved it! I would like to make it for Thanksgiving. Can it be made ahead and frozen for 5 days? Thanks, Cathy.

    1. Hi Cathy, you can certainly freeze most cakes. I would tightly wrap it in freezer bags and let it defrost overnight.

  4. I’m a fan of Manhattans, and like the complex aromatics of vermouth, so I’m going to try this with the classic cocktail as the boozy ingredient. Will report back!

  5. Hello, I recently had an opportunity to try Kentucky Bourbon Cake at Costco. The cake itself was both white and chocolate. It was delicious, can you tell me how to accomplish that effect. Thank you.

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