Bourbon. In. A. Cake. Also on it. Soooooo. This cake is delicious and, before you ask, kid safe. There is very little bourbon in the actual cake and the alcohol gets baked out of it. The glaze, that gets sexily poured on, is also heated. But, if you’re missing the warm buzz of bourbon you could also take a few sips while baking, and while eating, and a few more while cleaning up.
Why bourbon? This fermented, mostly corn based mash liquor is naturally sweet and smooth with maple syrup, caramel, and vanilla notes. Unlike scotch, bourbon isn’t marked with smoke which makes it suited for baked goods. Adding it to your cake, both in the baked cake and the glaze, takes your boring vanilla Bundt and turns it into the Uncle Jesse of cakes. Cool. Smooth. Classy. And your guests will for sure drop the, “Have mercy.”
When you use liquor in cooking or baking remember this, if you wouldn’t drink it at room temperature then don’t use it for food. Stop the thinking that, “I’ll just buy the cheap wine since it’s getting cooked.” Now I’m not saying go out and buy top shelf, but don’t use the TwoBuckChuck for your pasta sauce or the rail bourbon for your cake. You want the added alcohol there for flavor, and if you’re going cheap your end result will taste off. A $15 bottle of wine for your marinara and a $30 bottle of bourbon is sufficient.
For this cake I used Four Roses Bourbon, which happens to be one of my favorites. It has notes of apple and pear, a maple syrup and vanilla finish, and just enough oak to bring it together. In total you’re using less than a half a cup of bourbon, so you don’t have to fear using up your bottle just for a cake. Elijah Craig, Evan Williams, and George Dickel No. 8 are good for baking. You hit a threshold of function at the $25-30 range of bourbon. I’m not a fan of the brands they use for rail drinks (Jim Beam, etc.) so I can’t attest to their baking goodness.
Before you jump into the recipe I want to explain the science behind the process for putting the batter together. The standard method of cake making is to cream the butter and sugar together then add in the egg and slowly fold in the flour mixture. Instead of messing around with that for a cake that is intentionally dense I cream the flour mix and sugar at the same time in the butter/oil then add all the liquids last. Seems crazy right? Well, there’s science behind it, and it’s actually the same technique for making perfectly fluffy mashed potatoes.
Gluten is the enemy of cakes. Great for bread. Terrible for cakes. Gluten forms when the two proteins, gliadin and glutenin, are hydrated and rubbed together. *Insert sex joke. This is why typically flour, which contains the two proteins, is added last and folded in rather than mixed. The goal is to not let those proteins touch too much (I know none of that is the proper chemical language, but it works as an explanation). A cake or muffin that was over-mixed will be tough and too dense.
- Oil inhibits gluten structures from forming which is why cutting back on the oil in baked goods changes their texture.
- Cake flour, which is a cup of all purpose flour with a tablespoon replaced with corn starch, has less wheat protein by volume.
- Folding the dry into the wet moves the gliadin and glutenin as little as possible which creates the smallest amount of gluten possible.
Okay, now I’m going to break the cake baking rules a little but I’ll explain why first. This cake recipe adds all of the dry ingredients to the butter/oil first. Instead of mixing the wet and dry separately I first coat the flour in the fat which prevents gluten from forming. I wouldn’t do this for a cake that I want to be light and fluffy though. It makes a cake that is dense but creamy and still soft. A bundt cake is a heavier cake by nature. So why use this technique? It allows you to whip the ingredients together at the end rather than try folding together such a heavy batter. You can use your stand mixer for a cake batter! (Which you should avoid doing for nearly any other baked good).
Now that we’ve gotten through all of that you’ve earned the recipe. Enjoy! If you make this please let me know any and all feedback. The good, the bad, the ugly. I want my recipes to work for anyone!
Bourbon Bundt Cake
- 12 cup bundt pan
- 3 cups all purpose flour (*see notes in recipe)
- 3 Tbl corn starch
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 cups sugar (GW is a vegan brand)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature (2 sticks; I use Earth Balance)
- 1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 Tbl bourbon
- 1 cup buttermilk (Oatmilk + 1 Tbl apple cider vinegar)
- 6 Tbl unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup bourbon
- 2 Tbl ginger juice or minced ginger (optional but delicious)
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray the inside of your bundt pan generously with oil. No need to flour the pan. However, if you sprinkle sugar into your oiled pan it will create a pleasant “crust” on your cake. I didn’t do that for this recipe though.
- Measure out the 3 cups of flour into a bowl. Remove 3 tablespoons of the flour. Add in the listed 3 tablespoons of corn starch. You just made your own cake flour!
- Measure 1 cup of oatmilk or other non-dairy milk. Add 1 Tbl of apple cider vinegar and mix. Let stand while you prepare the other ingredients. You just made vegan buttermilk! Look at all the things you’re making today!
- Whisk together all of the dry ingredients. For cake making I prefer to sift the dry ingredients together ensure leaveners are fully incorporated and there are no clumps.
- Using the paddle attachment on your stand mixer mix the room temperature butter into the dry ingredients. It should look like sand after 2-3 minutes of mixing.
- Add the apple sauce, vanilla, bourbon. Mix until fully incorporated.
- Add in the buttermilk. Mix until batter is smooth. Don’t be afraid to turn up the speed.
- Pour into greased bundt pan. Bake on middle rack for 45-55 minutes. Inserted toothpick or cake tester should come out clean.
- In the last 10 minutes of baking make your glaze. Heat all ingredients in a sauce pan while stirring. When the glaze starts to bubble on the edges turn the head down to medium. Heat while stirring for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and set aside for the next step.
- Leave cake in pan. Using a chopstick or similar item poke holes in the cake bottom. Be careful to not go all the way through. The holes only need to be an inch deep.
- Spoon 3/4 of the warm glaze into the holes. Avoid simply dumping the glaze into the pan. You want the hot glaze to soak into the cake.
- Let cake sit in pan for 30 minutes. Carefully invert onto cake stand or plate. Drizzle the remaining glaze over the top of the cake.
- A bundt cake is always best the next day. These dense cakes get better as the flavors temper and infuse.