Make Ahead

Kentucky Whiskey Soaked Cake -- An Updated Version for Making Mini-Loaves

November  4, 2014
10 Ratings
Photo by AntoniaJames
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Makes 4 mini-loaves
Author Notes

I’ve adapted here -- to incorporate various tips I’ve learned over the years on how to make a better pound cake -- a family favorite my mother made every Christmas for decades. She received it from a sorority sister’s mother about 65 years ago. This makes four mini-loaves, or one regular loaf; the recipe can easily be doubled. Please see my rather detailed instructions for how to wrap: booze-soaked cloth is non-negotiable here. Enjoy! ;o) —AntoniaJames

Test Kitchen Notes

This is a wonderful cake, perfect for snacking on, any time of the day or night. It is the ideal cake to make and give away for the holidays with its deep, boozy, not-too-sweet flavors and its moist but not dense texture. While this is not a recipe that can be whipped up quickly, it is thoroughly satisfying to make, and made my kitchen smell amazing. There are a number of steps, but AntoniaJames gives very clear, thoughtful instructions. When I made this cake, I used a pumpkin-infused rye whisky from Quebec, which added some lovely, spicy floral notes to the cake. —cookinginvictoria

What You'll Need
  • 3/4 cup (4 ounces, 112 grams) yellow raisins
  • 1 2/3 cups (8 ounces, 224 grams) dried cherries
  • 1 cup Kentucky bourbon + 1/4 cup for soaking the wrapping cloth
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons, 6 ounces) butter
  • 3 eggs, separated + 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups (8 1/4 ounces, 231 grams) sifted flour (measured after sifting)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup (192 grams) sugar
  • Scant 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 pound pecan pieces
  1. The night before: Soak the raisins and cherries in 1 cup of bourbon.
  2. When you’re ready to bake, heat the oven to 300° F.
  3. Cut the butter into 12 pieces as soon as you take it from the fridge, and put them in your mixing bowl. (Do this no more than 30 minutes before you plan to start mixing the batter.)
  4. Using a fork, beat the 4 egg yolks together with the vanilla extract in a glass liquid measure (its pouring spout is handy here) or a small bowl.
  5. If using decorative paper mini-loaf pans, line them completely with foil. Otherwise, use parchment to line the long sides and bottoms of your pans, to create a sling. Generously butter the ends and corners of the loaf pans.
  6. Sift the flour with the nutmeg and baking powder.
  7. Beat the butter in the mixing bowl on medium high for 3 minutes, scraping down once, halfway through. It should be light in color and starting to look a bit fluffy. Gradually add the sugar while beating on medium, scraping down the sides after you’ve added about half. Once all of the sugar is incorporated, beat on medium high for 3 minutes.
  8. Very slowly add the beaten yolks in a stream while beating at medium speed. Continue to beat for another 2 minutes, scraping down after 1 minute.
  9. Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar just until firm peaks hold their shape when the beaters are lifted out. (Do not let the beaten whites get too stiff, as they will be dry and that will make the cake drier as a consequence.)
  10. Stir the fruit and their soaking liquid into the batter. Fold the dry ingredients, a third at a time, into the batter, adding the pecans with the final third.
  11. Take a big dollop (no more than 1/5th by volume) of the egg whites and stir them into the batter. Gently fold the remaining egg whites into the batter.
  12. Pour the batter into the prepared mini-loaves. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the center is clean when removed.
  13. Let the loaves cool for about five minutes in the pans. Gently remove them from the foil and let them cool on a wire rack for at least an hour.
  14. To wrap for storage, measure and cut four rectangles of cheesecloth large enough to wrap each loaf as if it were a gift to be wrapped with paper. Cut four somewhat larger rectangles of foil. In a wide, shallow bowl, put two pieces of cloth. Moisten them thoroughly with 2 tablespoons of whiskey. Center one of the soaked pieces of cloth onto one of the pieces of cut foil. Place one loaf on the cloth and wrap it, tucking the ends under to secure. Wrap tightly with the foil. Do the same thing for each of the four loaves. Wrap each loaf tightly with plastic wrap / cling film. Put the four loaves into a larger plastic bag and store in a cool place until ready to give. The cakes will continue to taste great, if these steps are followed, for at least two months.
  15. Also, please note that this slices best when cool. The original recipe recommends storing it in the fridge for a few hours before serving. The slices will soon warm up.
  16. Enjoy! ;o)
  17. You can double this to bake in a large tube pan for 3 hours, or two large loaves, baked for an hour and a half to two hours, or until a toothpick tests clean.
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Bevi
  • SGSF
  • Regine
  • Annie stader
    Annie stader
  • aargersi

Recipe by: AntoniaJames

See problem, solve problem. Ask questions; question answers. Disrupt, with kindness, courtesy and respect. ;o)

21 Reviews

Bevi December 27, 2018
Happy Holidays AJ! I made this about 10 days ago and gave away half of the loaves. I opened my own loaf today. What a delicious cake. It is moist, full of delicious fruit, and infused with whiskey taste. Thanks for a stellar recipe. I plan on making these cakes again.
AntoniaJames August 29, 2019
Thank you so much, Bevi, for your kind words. I'm so glad you like this recipe. I was just taking a look at it, as I plan to adapt it to make a sturdier Jamaican black cake than the one I've been baking for the past five years of so. (That cake is so full of fruit, it's a bit difficult to slice, even when chilled.)
If you're interested in details on that, please let me know. The experiment will take place in late November -- though I plan to chop and start soaking my fruit in rum this weekend.

As much as I've loved this summer, I'm beginning to look forward to fall baking! ;o)
Bevi August 29, 2019
AJ, I am very interested. I was reading Laurie Colwin’s piece about Black Cake 2 nights ago. Please please keep me posted. Should I be soaking fruit, how much, and what fruit?
SGSF December 10, 2014
I am preparing to make this delicious looking cake as my fruitcake offering this year and was wondering about the size (dimensions) of the mini-loaves. I am hoping to make a big batch of small cakes and need to purchase pans. Thanks!
cookinginvictoria December 10, 2014
Hi SGSF, I tested this recipe for food52 and used mini loaf pans that are 3 (width) x 6 (length) inches. The yield was exactly four pans. I am whipping up another batch of these too for my holiday giving -- such a great recipe!
AntoniaJames December 11, 2014
SGSF, I bought paper bread molds from Sur La Table (what's shown in my photo) that are 6" long, 2 1/2" wide and 2" deep. The recipe made four of those. You can buy them individually at quite a reasonable price. I'm certain that the standard metal mini-loaf pans I have, which are 5 3/4" x 3 1/4" x 2 1/4", would also work. Have fun! ;o)
SGSF December 11, 2014
Thanks Antonia!
SGSF December 11, 2014
Thanks cookinginvictoria!
Regine November 23, 2014
Oops I meant selected. Not deleted. My iPhone spell check plays tricks on me.
Regine November 23, 2014
Antonia thanks for picture of crumb. Looks good. Congrats on being deleted as a community pick. LOL. Not u of course but the cake.
Annie S. November 20, 2014
I tested this cake and loved it! We ate up way too fast I wanted to try a variation and made it with carrots and dried apples and substituted cardamom for the nutmeg. It turned out well and now I am thinking about other options. Thank you for this lovely cake.
AntoniaJames August 29, 2019
Annie, your variation sounds altogether scrumptious. I'm inspired! ;o)
ciastoy November 16, 2014
how long should the bread sit to soak up the yummy flavor and can it be frozen?
AntoniaJames August 29, 2019
Let it sit in the boozy cloth for at least a few days . . . and yes, it can be frozen, in the whiskey-soaked cloth, tightly wrapped, but after defrosting, soak the cloth in more whiskey and wrap the cake to infuse it for at least another day.

I'm thinking now, I should make a second batch to freeze for special occasions later in the winter. No reason to limit this to the holidays! Freezing the minis is particularly a good idea because one of those loaves is just perfect the two of us. ;o)
Regine November 6, 2014
Yum. This looks like it will taste really good. One question. When you cut the cake, are there more fruits and nuts than cake batter? Just curious.
AntoniaJames November 6, 2014
No, the cake crumb to fruit/nuts ratio is about equal, or possibly a bit more cake. Thanks for asking, and for your kind words. The first one I open, I'll photograph and post the photo here. ;o)
AntoniaJames November 8, 2014
Regine, here's a photo of a loaf cut: If it seems too fruity, you can reduce the cherries and raisins by 1/4 or more. Hope this helps. ;o)
Annie S. November 5, 2014
I am new to this tpe of cak but have madeplumpudding etc. how far ahead can I make the cakes? What do you think of using Bee's Wrap instead of cling and foil? I try not to use them if I can help it. This is exactly what I was looking for thank you. It is a lovely cake!
AntoniaJames November 6, 2014
Annie, I don't know, because I've never used the bees wrap. Let me look into this further. Please bear with me while I do that. I'll respond with a more helpful answer once I find out. Thank you! ;o)
aargersi November 5, 2014
you are on a ROLL! These sound amazing! Also love your gift-wrap setup in the photo
AntoniaJames November 5, 2014
Thank you, Abbie! I particularly like any wrapping project where bourbon is involved in a critical step in the process, not to mention that, when done right, you smell the bourbon the second that you peel back the foil. ;o)