A classic old-fashioned Southern cake, this recipe is specific to Kentucky and Tennessee and features richly spiced layers, moist with buttermilk and berry jam. Stir in pecans for a nutty taste and crunch if you like. It's traditionally frosted with a brown sugar, caramel-like icing, but I add a little bourbon to mine because why not, right? —Posie (Harwood) Brien
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease and flour three 9-inch cake pans.
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the jam and 4 eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl as you go.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt.
Add the dry ingredients and buttermilk to the wet ingredients, alternating between both.
Fold in the nuts, if using.
Divide the batter evenly between the three pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cakes begin to pull away from the sides of the pans and the tops spring back when pressed lightly.
Let the cakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto a wire rack to finish cooling. I recommend popping the cakes in the freezer while you make the frosting—they are much easier to frost when they are fully chilled. You can also wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and freeze them for a few weeks if you want to make them in advance.
To make the frosting, bring the butter, brown sugar, and milk to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and let cool fully. Add the confectioners' sugar and beat for several minutes until light and fluffy. Add the bourbon and mix to incorporate.
Frost between the layers and on the sides and top of the cake. Slice and eat!