Ladies and gentlemen of the internet, today I bring you a recipe that is not something I have ever cooked myself, but is instead something I found myself sitting in front of last weekend. That’s right, in addition to being the anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown, last Sunday was also the day my auto insurance premiums decrease slightly. I could hardly contain myself. And what better way to a commemorate such a sobering milestone than with a birthday cake that’s completely sloshed with more than a cup of Kentucky’s finest?
My friend Meg, a renowned ice-cream alchemist, adapted this cake from a NY Times recipe for Bourbon-Soaked Bundt Cake but it’s really her own creation: she ditched the bundt pan and the stingy sprinkling of bourbon on top of the original cake, and instead opted to slather the whole damn thing with a yet more liquor in the form of a whiskey frosting and whiskey ganache. If that’s not genius, I don’t know what is. The result is a powerfully good cake: dense and chocolatey, with a savory hint from the small amount of salt, and then, right up front, clear as the black string tie on Colonel Sanders’ white suit, is the alcoholic bite and caramel flavor of the bourbon.
Below is my best stab at recreating Meg’s recipe. It’s a multi-step process, and a little time consuming, but I assure you the results are well worth the work and the wait.
(2) 9” cake pans, insides covered with grease/butter and dusted with flour
(1) oven, preheated to 325 degrees
Booze in your Cake:
2 sticks (16 Tbsp!) butter
2 cups all purpose flour – (or substitute cake flour for a lighter, airier cake)
5 oz. unsweetened chocolate
¼ cup instant espresso (or coffee)
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup (1 cup!) bourbon whiskey
½ tsp salt
2 granulated sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
– First melt the chocolate in a simmering double boiler. If, like me, you turned down that double boiler your parents offered you by saying, “pfff, like I’ll really need to boil something twice”, then do what I do: put a big pot of water on the stove, and put a little pot in the big pot. Congrats, Macguyver, you have yourself a double boiler. Anyway, as I was saying, melt the chocolate, then let it cool.
– Put coffee and cocoa powders in a large measuring cup. Pour in boiling water up to the 1 Cup line, and stir until dissolved. Add bourbon and salt, then let cool.
– If you have an electric mixer, beat 8 oz. butter until foamy then pour in sugar and keep beating until they are combined. Keep the mixer going as you add the eggs (one at a time), the vanilla, the baking soda and the melted chocolate. But say you don’t have a mixer, what then? What of the cheapskates, the Luddites, the apartment dwellers yearning to save space? Well, if you’re still flush with the success of your jury-rigged double boiler and want to keep improvising on the cheap then you can try to cream the butter and sugar together with a fork which, as I discovered months ago while making bread pudding with whiskey sauce, “after several minutes of stirring and squashing the chunks of butter, achieved something at least foam-esque.” Assuming your shoulder doesn’t fall off midway through, you should be able to add the vanilla, baking soda and chocolate the same way.
– Stir the mixture slowly and add 1/3 of the bourbon/coffee/cocoa combo. When the liquid is completely absorbed, beat in 1 cup of flour. Then pour in another 1/3 of the liquid, and so on and so forth until you are out of things to pour and it is time to put the cake in the oven.
– Divide the batter evenly into the two cake pans, smooth out the top, and bake for about 50 minutes – or until you can stab your cake with a knife and pull the blade out clean and cake-free. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool, presumably on a windowsill, for 15 minutes before you take it out of the pan. Meanwhile, back on the stovetop…
Booze in your Ganache:
8 oz. semisweet chocolate
1 Tbsp bourbon
1 tsp of vanilla
A splash of heavy cream – for a smooth, glossy consistency
– Once again you will melt the chocolate in a simmering double boiler, then stir in the vanilla, bourbon, and cream. Spread over all over cake #1, and stick cake #2 on top. Now for the finishing touch…
Booze in your Frosting:
1 pint heavy cream, minus that splash from the ganache
2 to 3 Tbsp Sugar
1 Tbsp bourbon
Dash of vanilla
– Combine everything in a bowl and whip. Then cover the cake with it. There, it’s frosting. This is another step that’s difficult to do without an electric mixer, but if you jamming a whisk up the business end of a power drill will get the job done just as well. I mean it too, as anyone who watched my college roommates make eggnog will vouch.
When all is said and done you’ll be blowing out candles on a cake that… let’s see… carry the two… that contains a whopping nine ounces of whiskey. Nine ounces? I don’t know whether to serve this cake with ice cream or fire retardant.