Recipe – Bourbon Vanilla Layer Cake

Happy Birthday Grandma!

Finished Cake!

As mentioned yesterday, I made the cake for my grandmother’s birthday party.  My mom had put out requests for people to contribute various items, and I tentatively volunteered to make the cake.  After all, I knew how to bake, right?  I could make a cake, and it would be awesome.  I responded to the group email about food responsibilities with the most tentative, hesitant claiming of the cake that anyone has ever seen.  And I got to do the cake, and I started to wonder what kind I would make.  My first thought was that birthday cakes need layers, so since I email myself interesting recipes all the time, I searched within my email folder for desserts (I’m a librarian, OF COURSE I organize the emails I send to myself so I can find them more easily later!) for “layer cake”, and “Bourbon Vanilla Layer Cake” was at the top of my results, having been sent just a week or so earlier.

Anyone who has met my grandmother knows that her drink of choice is Jack Daniels, and the fact that a boozy layer cake showed up a the top of the list seemed like a sign.  Technically Jack Daniels is not bourbon, but Tennessee whiskey, which…I don’t know the difference.  It seems pretty close to me.  So instead of the Makers Mark in the recipe, I used Jack.  I also decided not to do red, since it wouldn’t have an aesthetic reasoning in this case, and instead decided to go with a pretty purple, which would be appropriate for a February birthday (since the birthstone is amethyst).

There was quite a lot of drama because I ordered some of the special ingredients and tools (the Bake-Even strips, the candy melts and the sorghum molasses) from Amazon nearly two weeks before the party, but due to luck, the snowstorm delayed things.  I didn’t get my box from Amazon until the night I was to start baking…after I’d already gone to Michael’s to get “just in case” replacements.  Thankfully, Amazon has a great return policy, and they were very helpful.  I got a packing slip and a shipping label, and they’re taking back the two items I didn’t need.

“But forget talking about shipping mishaps”, you say, “How was the cake???”  The answer in a word, is SCRUMPTIOUS.  Basically, it has a very small hint of whatever booze you put in it, and a fantastic flavor that is not super sweet, but all around delicious.  I had to substitute fig butter for apple butter (apple butter is seasonal at Trader Joe’s), and it was still amazing tasting (not that I was surprised about that).  I got rave reviews from everyone who tasted it, and my grandmother was especially pleased and proud.  It also looked really good, and as someone who doesn’t have a lot of fancy cake decorating experience, it was fairly easy.

I know there was about 1/5 leftover (everyone at the party got thin slices if they wanted some, and it was more than enough), and I’m now wondering where it went.  *Sigh*.  My name is Maggie, and I love cake.  And frosting.  Really, just all of this.

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Bourbon Vanilla Layer Cake

Yield: one 9-inch triple layer cake, 12-15 servings (or more depending on slice size)


Bourbon cake layers
1 cup (2 sticks, 8 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups (405 g) light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup (80 g) sorghum molasses
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
3 cups/360g all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
4 oz. sour cream
1/2 cup (120 ml) bourbon whisky (I used Jack Daniels throughout this recipe, the original called for Makers Mark)

Bourbon simple syrup
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
1/2 (120 ml) cup water
2 tablespoons bourbon whisky

Vanilla-bourbon frosting and filling
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks, 12 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 lbs. confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup (80 g) sorghum molasses
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons bourbon whisky
6 tablespoons fig butter (The original recipe calls for spiced apple butter. Use what you can find.)

6 ounces candy melts (candy coating) finely chopped
5 tablespoons heavy cream

Make the cake layers:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease three 9-inch round cake pans with flour-based baking spray (or grease pans and line bottoms with parchment). Apply Bake Even Cake Strips to the outside of the pans if you have them.
Beat together butter and brown sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the sorghum and beat until incorporated. Scrape down bowl with a spatula. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.
Whisk together flour, salt and baking soda in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the sour cream and bourbon. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture in 3 additions, with the mixer on low speed, alternating with sour cream mixture and starting and ending with flour mixture. Scrape down the mixing bowl with a large rubber spatula and turn the batter over several times to ensure all of the ingredients are well incorporated.
Divide batter between pans (this works out to be about 1 1/2 cups per pan). Bake until golden and cakes spring back when pressed in their centers, about 21-27 minutes. Let cakes cool in pans for 5 minutes. The cakes should pull away from the sides of the pan. Invert cakes, remove pans and let cool completely on a wire rack. Level the cakes if needed (you may skip this part if your Bake Even Cake Strips worked correctly).

Make the simple syrup:
In a microwave-safe bowl combine the water and sugar. Cook at 100% power for 1 minute 30 seconds. Stir well until the sugar is completely melted (you can also make this on the stove top in a saucepan over medium-high heat if you don’t have a microwave). Add bourbon; drizzle on/brush syrup over cake layers. Use as much or as little of the syrup as desired (I had 1/2 cup left over).

Make the vanilla bourbon frosting:
Cream the butter until smooth in an electric mixer on high speed. Add the sugar and beat on low speed until incorporated, then on high speed until fluffy. Add the sorghum and vanilla bean paste. Beat on high speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl and turn the frosting over a few times to ensure all the ingredients are incorporated. Beat in the bourbon; whip for 1 minute.
Thinly spread 3 tablespoons of the apple butter on a cake layer. Place the cake layer on a cake stand. Top with a generous 1/2 cup of vanilla bourbon frosting; top cake layer with a second cake layer. Spread the remaining 3 tablespoons apple butter on top of the second cake layer, top with generous 1/2 cup of frosting. Place final cake layer on top. Cover the cake with a thin layer of frosting (crumb coat) and refrigerate until firm. (Be sure to cover remaining frosting with a damp paper towel to prevent drying.) Cover chilled cake with a final smooth layer of frosting. Chill the cake again in the refrigerator while you prepare the red ganache. Transfer remaining frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large closed star tip.

Make the ganache:

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the chopped candy melts and heavy cream. Place in the microwave and heat at 100% power at 30 second intervals, stirring well between heating (about 1 minute total cook time). Alternatively, you may use a saucepan on the stovetop over medium-low heat.
Let ganache cool until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes at room temperature. Remove the cake from the refrigerator. Gently and slowly, spoon a small amount of ganache over the edge of the cake allowing it to flow over the sides in drippy fashion (some of the ganache will drip off of the cake, so place it on a surface you don’t mind getting drippy – read: not your finest table linens). Cover any bare spots on top of the cake by spooning on ganache. You may not have to use all of the ganache.

Use the piping bag of reserved frosting to pipe swirls of frosting around the top edge of the cake.

From: SprinkleBakes

3 Comment

  1. April says: Reply

    Red would also seem appropriate, given your grandmother’s name. 😀

    1. maggie says: Reply

      I didn’t think about that, but you’re right. But the dripping red would have felt slightly gory to me if its not inspired by dripping wax on a bottle.

  2. […] (and what I know they like), and I find a way to make it work.  I’ve made that big fancy bourbon cake for my grandma’s birthday, a couple of different “fancy” takes on cupcakes for […]

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