Make Ahead

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

November  4, 2014
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

  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Makes 4 mini-loaves
  • 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
In This Recipe
  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.
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Recipe by: AntoniaJames

When I'm not working (negotiating transactions for internet companies), or outside enjoying the gorgeous surroundings here in the San Francisco Bay Area, I'm likely to be cooking, shopping for food, planning my next culinary experiment, or researching, voraciously, whatever interests me. In my kitchen, no matter what I am doing -- and I actually don't mind cleaning up -- I am deeply grateful for having the means to create, share with others and eat great food. Life is very good. ;o)