Tuesday, February 8, 2011

whiskey-soaked dark chocolate cake

The first time I baked this cake and shipped it to my father-in-law for Christmas, he called to claim he had to be helped up the stairs after eating it. Although he was kidding, you may be surprised by just how potent it is, as other cakes of the type tend to wimp out on the booze.

I found this recipe while I was searching for something else: a decent rum cake recipe. I had recently tasted a highly regarded commercially-made cake, only to be shocked, (shocked!) at how awful it was. Although the ingredients list did boast a smidgen of rum, it tasted more like a calamity of artificial extracts, each obscuring the flavor of the others so none were recognizable in the end.

This challenged me to make my own cake, one with quality ingredients and a true rum kick - but that turned out to be easier said than done too. Since I rarely bake cakes I turned to the internet for help, expecting to find numerous enticing recipes from which to start. But surprisingly, all links pointed to a recipe based on yellow cake mix, and I mean, people love this recipe with the same fervor shown to the aforementioned  store-bought cake.  While it very possibly does taste good, I couldn't muster the proper enthusiasm knowing of its dubious underpinnings. Call me a control freak, but  I wanted to bake my cake from scratch.

While eventually I did find one rum cake contender to try in the future, I became bewitched in the meantime by an all together different recipe for the following chocolate cake.

Boy, is this cake good: deeply chocolaty, dense and moist, and very grown up. I figure if I love it this much, a true whiskey tippler would take a crazy shine to it. (And, just a reminder for you romantics out there, Valentine's Day is fast approaching.)

The recipe, originally published in the New York Times, expands on one by Maida Heatter, using more chocolate, less sugar and more booze - agreeable adjustments in my opinion! It may not be for everyone though, so know your crowd.

Whiskey-Soaked Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, more for greasing pan
2 cups all-purpose flour, more for dusting pan
5 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup bourbon, rye or other whiskey, more for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
confectioner's sugar, for garnish (optional)

1. Grease and flour a 10-cup capacity Bundt pan (or two 8 or 9 inch loaf pans). Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a microwave or double boiler over simmering water, melt chocolate. Let cool.

2. Put espresso and cocoa powders in a 2-cup (or larger) glass measuring cup. Add enough boiling water to come up to the 1 cup measuring line. Mix until powders dissolve. Add whiskey and salt; let cool.

3. Using an electric mixer, beat 1 cup butter until fluffy. Add sugar and beat until well combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract, baking soda and melted chocolate, scraping down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula.


4. On low speed, beat in a third of the whiskey mixture. When liquid is absorbed, beat in 1 cup flour. Repeat additions, ending with whiskey mixture.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Bake until cake tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes for Bundt pan (loaf pans will take less time; start checking them after 55 minutes).

5. Transfer cake to a rack. Unmold after 15 minutes and sprinkle warm cake with more whiskey. Let cool before serving; garnish with confectioners' sugar if you like.

Yield: 10 to 12 servings.

Recipe by Melissa Clark, New York Times, December 3, 2008


* I used strong brewed espresso instead of espresso powder, adding it to the cocoa powder until it reached the 1 cup line.

* Use high quality unsweetened chocolate.

* If you're going to saturate a cake with whiskey, it should be something you enjoy drinking. In my case, I used Crown Royal because that's what we had in the bar, but I'll probably try Jack Daniels the next time around.

* I sprinkled about a half cup of whiskey over the cake after unmolding it, rendering it "soaked" indeed, as the name suggests.

* It seems this cake, like most liquor-infused cakes, just gets better with age as all the flavors meld.


  1. This looks delicious! I may have to try it this weekend. Thanks for all the step-by-step photos. :)

  2. I'm due to make the next office birthday cake. Happens to be for the boss! This recipe looks soooo worthy. First up though is making that beautiful Coq au vin from last week. Can't wait!

  3. Two paws up on the whipped cream!

  4. "Thank you Jack Daniels Old Number Seven
    Tennessee whiskey got me drink'in in heaven

    Words to a song by Devil Makes Three. A favorite tune that has me enticed to try some JD old # 7 (I'm a vodka kind of girl). Well now I can have my cake and eat it, too (I will indulge in anything laden with chocolate). What a perfect Valentine confection for big kids. Just need to find me one of those very pretty bundt pans.

    You know the Angels start to look good to me
    There gonna have to deport me to the firey deep."

  5. Thanks for the comments! If anyone makes it, I'd love to hear what you think!

  6. Had had my eye on this recipe for months. Made it for my boss's birthday b/c 2 of her favorite things in life are chocolate and bourbon. Simple to make and gloriously rich and chocolatey. Didn't douse the top w bourbon after baking b/c I didn't want to get the staff in trouble after lunch .;) Served it w sweet cream ice cream from the homemade ice cream store in town. Was a hit!

  7. The recipe is easy and I am so hungry, haha maybe later I'll try the recipe. Thank you my permission to share this yea
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