This layer cake is a whiskey lover’s dream come true— layers of bourbon cake frosted with a bourbon butterscotch buttercream and drizzled with more butterscotch.
My husband turned another year older over the weekend and we made the most of it. We spent the day outdoors hiking all together as a family, went out for our favorite local pizza, and then spent the rest of the night in binging on Netflix and devouring this cake.
A few weeks before his birthday every year, I pull out my cake cookbooks and let my hubby flip through them. He makes a choice and I bake it! I’m not sure who benefits from it more— he gets to eat the cake, sure, but I get all the fun of trying a new cake recipe.
This year he chose this Bourbon Butterscotch Cake from Layered: Baking, Building, and Styling Spectacular Cakes by Tessa Huff. The book came out last year and it’s my new fave (so many incredible cakes!), and he doggy-eared several before finally settling on this one.
He loves whiskey, and bourbon especially, so it was kind of a no-brainer!
This cake is bourbon through and through without being too much. The cake is pretty much a basic buttermilk (yellow) cake recipe with just a hint of bourbon flavor. While the flavor may seem strong if you sample the batter, once it’s baked it’s just a well-rounded flavorful cake with a little something extra.
The frosting starts with an incredible, lip-smacking-good homemade bourbon butterscotch sauce. Most of it is added to a batch of vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream to cover and fill the cake layers, and the rest is drizzled over the top of the finished the cake. It’s a simple but stunning presentation, no additional decorating needed.
Pair a slice of this cake with a little bourbon if you’d like (we did!) and revel as all the flavors mix and mingle on your tongue.
Grown-ups are going to love this one!
Other spectacular cake recipes
Interested in other cakes I’ve made for my hubby over the years? Here are a few:
baking tip:Why you should use cake flour
Cake flour is high in starch and low in protein. It’s the proteins in all-purpose flour that cause a cake to be tough if the batter is overworked, and cake flour helps to make sure that doesn’t happen. Use cake flour in a recipe when it calls for it and you’ll get tender cakes every time.
If you don’t have cake flour on hand, substitute 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour for 1 cup of cake flour.
Boubon Butterscotch Layer Cake
- 3/4 cup (170 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (135 grams) light or dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 1/4 cups (270 grams) cake flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (preferrably freshly grated)
- 1 cup (250 ml) buttermilk
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) bourbon whiskey
- 6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, cubed
- 3/4 cup (160 grams) light or dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon corn syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons bourbon whiskey
Butterscotch Swiss meringue buttercream:
- 5 large egg whites
- 1 1/4 cup (250 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 cups (450 grams) unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup bourbon butterscotch (above)
To make the cake:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three (or two if that's all you have) 6-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. (See Notes)
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugars on high speed until pale and creamy, about 3-4 minutes. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
- Add the vanilla and then the eggs and yolks one at a time, mixing after each.
- In a separate bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Add to the mixer in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix in the bourbon.
- Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans and bake until edges are golden, and the tops bounce back when gently pressed, about 25 minutes. Let cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. (If using only two pans, you can bake in 2 batches, washing a pan before baking the third layer).
- Wrap in plastic and chill in the fridge until ready to assemble the cake.
To make the bourbon butterscotch:
- In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, add the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Heat, stirring frequently, until butter melts, sugar dissolves, and mixture is smooth, about 5 minutes.
- Add heavy cream (mixture may sputter at first) and whisk until smooth. Increase heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes until thickened slightly.
- Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract and bourbon. Let cool to room temperature.
To make the Swiss meringue buttercream:
- Place the egg whites and sugar in the metal bowl of a stand mixer and set over a small pot of simmering water (the bowl should not touch the water). Heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is 160 degrees F or hot to the touch.
- Transfer bowl to stand mixer and beat on high speed with a whisk attachment to medium stiff peaks, about 8 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to medium low and add butter a tablespoon at a time, letting it incorporate into the meringue for few moments before adding more.
- Add vanilla extract and salt and beat on high for 1-2 minutes until smooth and creamy.
- Add butterscotch all at once and mix until incorporated.
To assemble the cake:
- If you'd like six cake layers, carefully cut each of the three layers in half (this step is optional). Set one cake layer on plate or cake stand. Cover with 1/2 cup buttercream for 3 layers or 1/3 cup for 6 layers. Top with another cake layer. Repeat till cake is assembled.
- Use an offset spatula to frost cake with buttercream. If desired, first make a thin coat to seal in crumbs and chill for 30 minutes. Cover completely with another layer of frosting.
- Chill cake for 30 minutes.
- Warm up remaining butterscotch for 20-30 seconds in the microwave so that it's pourable. Use a spoon to drizzle butterscotch over the top of the cake. Serve right away or chill until ready to serve. If chilled, let cake come to room temperature for 30 minutes before slicing. Store leftovers in the fridge for 3-5 days.
- This cake can also be baked in 2 8-inch pans for a shorter, wider cake. Also makes approximately 2 1/2 dozen cupcakes.
- Cake layers can be made ahead of time and stored tightly wrapped in the fridge for up to 5 days and in the freezer (double-wrapped) for up to 2 months. Thaw in wrappings before assembling cake.
- Any leftover butterscotch can be stored in the fridge for several weeks.
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