Kentucky Bourbon Butter Cake Recipe

It doesn't have to be someone's birthday or another special occasion to indulge in a slice of perfectly sweet and moist cake. In fact, cakes like the Kentucky bourbon butter cake are practically designed to be served up daily as an afternoon or after-dinner treat that goes perfectly with a cup of coffee ... or something even stronger (you know, like bourbon). 

"I love the glaze in this cake, especially. When you poke holes in the bottom of the cake [to] let the glaze soak in, it makes the cake extra moist. Drizzling it on top gives it extra flavor," says recipe developer Jessica Morone of Jess Loves Baking. "It's a little bit sweet, buttery, and adds a lot of vanilla and bourbon flavors."

While the glaze is something special, the addition of the bourbon is what really sets this cake apart. "Usually, Kentucky butter cakes don't have bourbon in them, but since bourbon is also from Kentucky, and bourbon adds a delightful caramel flavor to baked goods, adding bourbon to this butter cake made it fun as well as delicious," Morone says. So go ahead and give yourself about an hour and a half to make the cake and a couple of extra hours to let it fully set, and you'll have the perfect sweet treat ready to serve with your favorite night cap.

Gather the ingredients for Kentucky bourbon butter cake

Start by gathering up your ingredients. Most of them are pretty standard baking fare: All-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, granulated sugar, butter, eggs, buttermilk, vanilla extract, and water. Then, of course, you'll need the special ingredient, which is the bourbon. Because you're baking this bourbon and not drinking it, it doesn't need to be a top-shelf variety — choose something you enjoy that's not excessively expensive. 

Do your prep work and mix the dry ingredients

With your ingredients gathered, measured, and ready to go, go ahead and preheat the oven to 325 F. Grab a 10-cup bundt pan and grease and flour it before setting it aside. "You don't have to use a bundt pan if you don't have one, but it is the classic pan for this type of cake. You could use something like a tube pan with a similar baking time, or you could probably split the batter into two round cake pans and bake them for around 30 minutes," Morone says. 

With the pan prepped, put the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and whisk them together. Set the dry mixture aside for just a bit.

Mix the wet ingredients and make the batter

Add 2 cups of sugar and 1 cup of butter to a large bowl. Beat them together with an electric mixer or stand mixer until the consistency is light and fluffy. This should take about 3 to 5 minutes. Next, add the eggs, buttermilk, 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, and ¼ cup of bourbon (4 tablespoons). Mix these ingredients into the butter and sugar mixture until they're well combined. 

Start gradually shaking in the dry ingredients, continuing to mix until everything is stirred through. Just be sure not to overmix. "Overmixing the cake would overdevelop the gluten in it and make it tough. So you just want to mix it until everything is evenly combined," Morone explains. 

Finish mixing the batter, fill the cake pan, and bake

With the batter prepared, pour it into the cake pan you previously set aside. Make sure it's spread evenly within the pan. Pop the cake into the oven and bake it for 50 to 60 minutes. You'll know it's done when you can insert a toothpick into the center (all around the cake), and it comes out clean without crumbs or batter. Leave the cake in the pan and set it aside while you make the glaze. 

Prepare the glaze

Place the remaining butter in a medium-sized saucepan and melt it over medium heat. Add the remaining sugar and the 2 tablespoons water to the pan, and whisk continuously as the mixture comes to a boil. Continue whisking and cooking until the sugar fully dissolves. "If you don't keep whisking it often, the sugar will just burn, and you will have to start over," warns Morone. When the sugar has dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining vanilla extract and bourbon. 

Soak and glaze the cake before allowing it to set

With the cake in the bundt pan, use a long, thin tool (like a skewer, or the handle of a wooden spoon) to poke holes across the bottom of the cake. Use about half the glaze and pour it over the bottom of the cake, allowing it to soak into the cake through the holes. Let the cake sit for about 30 minutes to let the glaze soak in. 

With the soaking period done, turn the cake out onto a cooling rack layered on top of a baking pan. Don't forget to use the baking pan! This will catch any of the remaining glaze that may drip off the cake. Take the remaining glaze and drizzle it over the top of cake as evenly as you can. 

Set the cake aside to allow the glaze to fully set. "It could take up to two hours for the glaze to be fully set. You could also put it in the fridge to quicken the process," advises Morone. 

Serve the cake

When the glaze is set, the cake is ready to enjoy! "You could drink bourbon with it, but you could also serve it with coffee, tea, or milk," Morone says. The alcohol in the bourbon will have largely cooked off, so it's a cake that's okay to serve to all ages, although there may still be a small amount of alcohol remaining in the glaze. 

If you don't finish it all in one sitting, Morone says you can store it covered at room temperature for about three days. Or if you prefer, you can freeze it wrapped in plastic for about two months. You could even freeze the individual slices and simply remove them from the freezer and defrost, as desired.

Kentucky Bourbon Butter Cake Recipe
5 from 41 ratings
This moist and rich Kentucky butter cake is infused with bourbon for extra decadence.
Prep Time
Cook Time
kentucky bourbon butter cake slice
Total time: 1 hour, 32 minutes
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 ½ cups butter, softened, divided
  • 4 large eggs
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
  • 6 tablespoons bourbon, divided
  • 2 tablespoons water
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Grease and flour a 10-cup bundt pan, set aside.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. in a separate large bowl add 2 cups of sugar and 1 cup of butter. Beat with an electric mixer or stand mixer until the mixture is light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Add in the eggs, buttermilk, 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, and 4 tablespoons of bourbon. Mix until well combined.
  5. Gradually add in the flour mixture and mix until just evenly combined.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and spread evenly. Bake in the preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean with no wet batter. Leave the cake in the pan while you make the glaze.
  7. Once the cake is baked, add the remaining ½ cup of butter to a medium saucepan over medium. Once melted, add the remaining 1 cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of water. Cook, whisking often, until the mixture comes to a boil. Continue cooking until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute.
  8. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons bourbon until combined.
  9. With the cake still in the pan, use a skewer or the handle of a wooden spoon to poke holes all over the bottom of the cake. Pour about ½ of the glaze over the cake, allowing the glaze to soak into the cake. If the liquid pools in places poke more holes to let the glaze soak in. Let the cake sit for about 30 minutes to fully soak in.
  10. Turn the cake over onto a cooling rack on top of a baking pan. Drizzle the rest of the glaze over the top of the cake (the baking pan will catch any glaze that drips down from the cake). Let the glaze set before slicing and serving the cake.
Calories per Serving 562
Total Fat 25.1 g
Saturated Fat 15.0 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 123.6 mg
Total Carbohydrates 75.0 g
Dietary Fiber 0.8 g
Total Sugars 51.1 g
Sodium 327.6 mg
Protein 6.1 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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