Ina Garten's Ultra Boozy Twist On Applesauce Cake

Here at Tasting Table, we're all about having your cake and eating it too. With booze-infused desserts, it's never been easier to live the proverbial "sweet life" and "high life" at the same time.

If you've ever stirred a little Kahlua into your coffee cake or made Grand Marnier orange soufflé, then you already know how transformative a little "spirit" can be to a sweet treat. A splash of liquor adds depth and complexity to the flavor profile, not to mention it adds a fun adult kick that's sure to please dinner party guests.

But today, we're talking about one familiar comforting dessert in particular and how the Barefoot Contessa herself gives it a boozy facelift: applesauce cake. This dessert is a Southern specialty, loaded with spices such as ginger and cinnamon. The addition of applesauce as well as other commonly used ingredients like sour cream, buttermilk, or yogurt keeps it ultra-moist, and the one-bowl preparation saves you from a sink full of dirty dishes.

Even though this cake is often slathered in cream cheese frosting, it stays relatively nutritious, thanks to the applesauce, which cuts down on the amount of fats (i.e. butter and oil) typically needed to keep a cake from drying out. But applesauce isn't Ina Garten's secret ingredient for this treat — it's bourbon. Her ultra-boozy applesauce cake uses bourbon in two ways.

Soak the raisins in bourbon and whip up a spiked frosting

To elevate her applesauce cake, the Barefoot Contessa soaks her raisins in bourbon and also infuses a little bourbon into the cream cheese frosting. While raisins might not be a typical ingredient in applesauce cakes, as an outspoken fan of golden raisins, Garten recommends using this variety for a subtly sweet flavor in her recipe.

To do it, soak ¾ cup of golden raisins in two tablespoons of bourbon and microwave them for 30 seconds to aid absorption before incorporating them into the cake batter. For the frosting, Garten uses one tablespoon of bourbon for every 6 ounces of cream cheese. If it sounds like a lot of heat, stay rest assured. Garten makes her applesauce cake extra-spiced to stand up to the power of the bourbon. In addition to the usual cinnamon, she also uses cloves and nutmeg.

This recipe is a thrifty way to use up the leftover inch of bourbon sitting at the bottom of the bottle in your home bar. Luckily for home cooks, there are a number of good budget-friendly bourbons on the market. Garten recommends using Maker's Mark, but Basil Hayden's or Evan Williams would work well here too. This boozy applesauce cake would make a warming treat at a fall tailgate — but it would also work well year-round as a cheeky weekend breakfast with a hot cup of coffee.