Kentucky Bourbon Cake


One of the foods I most associate with the holidays is Kentucky Bourbon Cake, which is a dense, heavy, pecan packed cake that has been covered with bourbon. My grandmother makes it every single year and it just wouldn’t be the holidays without it. While some may compare it to a fruitcake, I think that’s blasphemous as I think fruitcakes are awful. However, I guess there are some similarities between the two since both include nuts, dried fruit, and booze. After baking bourbon into the cake, you brush on additional bourbon periodically (ever 4 days or so [or when it starts to dry out]) for a few weeks. Traditionally, my grandmother would make the cake around Thanksgiving and let it “age” for a few weeks before serving it around Christmas. The flavor does actually improve over time but if you don’t have a month, a week and a half or so works almost as well.  That means, if you make it now it will be ready for the holidays!

While waiting weeks on end to enjoy this delicious cake is irritating (especially for someone impatient), I promise that it’s worth it. It stores really well, it’s something that can be enjoyed over the course of several days (probably for much longer, but it usually disappears really quickly), is desserty, but not excessively sweet. Since it’s packed with nuts and only has 1 cup sugar in the whole recipe (which is a lot of servings) I’ve decided it’s perfectly acceptable to have it for breakfast, which I usually do.

Kentucky Bourbon Cake

A recipe my family has been making for decades

  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup bourbon (plus additional for coating)
  • 5 eggs (separated into whites and yolks)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 1/2 cup flour (plus an additional 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup currants or raisins
  • 4 cups pecans

Spread pecans on a sheet tray in an even layer and toast in a preheated 375 degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes, or until very aromatic. Let cool and chop.

Soak nutmeg in 1/4 cup bourbon. Set aside.

Coat pecans and currants with 1/4 cup flour. Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites until frothy. Add in salt and cream of tartar. Whip until stiff and fluffy, but not dried out. Remove from bowl and set aside.

In the same stand mixer bowl (I don’t even bother cleaning it out), beat butter and sugar with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Add egg yolks and blend until mixed.

In a medium bowl, sift together 1 1/2 cups flour and baking soda. Gradually mix in to butter mixture until just mixed. Mix in nutmeg and bourbon mixture. Gently fold in egg whites until just blended. Gently fold in pecan and raisin mixture.

Pour batter into a greased and floured bundt pan. Bake in preheated 325 degree oven for 1 hour 15 minutes.

Once cooled, remove from pan, and brush with additional bourbon (about a few tablespoons). Wrap tightly and store for at least a week and a half, periodically brushing cake with additional bourbon every 4 days or so.


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