Tennessee Jam Cake

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: 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

Makes: one 9-inch layer cake


For the cake

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 10 ounces berry preserves or jam
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans (optional)

For the frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
In This Recipe


  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease and flour three 9-inch cake pans.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the jam and 4 eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl as you go.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt.
  5. Add the dry ingredients and buttermilk to the wet ingredients, alternating between both.
  6. Fold in the nuts, if using.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Frost between the layers and on the sides and top of the cake. Slice and eat!

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Reviews (7) Questions (0)

7 Reviews

CookingJoy September 12, 2016
Made this recipe this weekend. Flavor was great but the cake itself came out a bit dry...not sure why. I think it would have been nice to decorate also with some pecan halves or raspberries. I used raspberry preserves in the cake. Also, one note is that the frosting is not very forgiving and sets quickly so you have to work fast. You can't go back and fix the top once it's been frosted. Overall, it was something unique and I'm sure tastes perfect when you can get it to be less dry.
Aaron J. August 24, 2016
Eastern Redbud (Cercis Canadensis) blossoms are edible and would be a great substitute for the hydrangea flowers.
creamtea July 25, 2016
I don't know why the other comments disappeared, especially those noting that the hydrangea flowers are poisonous. The comments were here earlier today. I think it's a risk to post this photo. Though it's a beautiful shot, not everyone will scroll down to read the comments and there may be a chance that someone (a little kid?) will not realize they are inedible. Presumably it was a mistake that the comments were removed. Constructive criticism is important too.
Mindy S. July 24, 2016
Just made this today. Sadly I am giving it away so I won't know how it tastes until I get feedback. It came out very nice but I would suggest using cake flour to give the cake a little more lift (didn't really rise at all). I used toasted hazelnuts since I live in the Northwest and luckily have a hydrangea flower plant in my yard so I could give it that lovely finished look as in the image provided.
Author Comment
Posie (. July 24, 2016
Please make sure they remove the hydrangea flowers before eating! They are NOT edible!!!!
Mindy S. July 24, 2016
yes....they are local organic farmers and know about hydrangeas being non-edible. thanks<br />
CookingIsLikeLove July 26, 2016
Thats unfortunate, as they make a pretty decoration. :( Though when I first glanced at the picture, I thought they were mini pansies. Which would be edible and almost as pretty :)