Bourbon Desserts’ Light Chocolate Layer Cake with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting

Originally Published in The Bourbon Review Winter 2015
Buy Bourbon Desserts by Lynn Marie Hulsman

When celebrating the holidays with friends and family over Bourbon, there are usually just as many hints of nostalgia and laughter present in the room as there are of oak, vanilla and caramel. In Lynn Marie Hulsman’s book, Bourbon Desserts, Hulsman explains how just one whiff of the liquid gold that is Bourbon floods her mind with fond memories.

Hulsman is the Kentucky-born daughter of Kentucky-born parents, and comes from a long line of Bourbon lovers. Although she now resides in New York City working as a freelance food writer, journalist, and editor, she still proudly claims the native spirit as her drink of choice, staying true to her Kentucky heritage. “To me, Bourbon signifies coming together with family and friends, slowing down to savor moments of sweetness and joy. Celebration. Connection. Reward… And that’s also how I feel about dessert.”

Hulsman’s Bourbon Desserts showcases how Bourbon can be incorporated into over 100 confections and sweets, ranging from cakes to candles, to sauces and sorbets. Hulsman demonstrates, with easy-to-follow steps, how the combination of Bourbon with luscious butter and sugar-laced goods, can be a pleasurable treat for your palette. The spice and smokiness followed by caramel and vanilla notes create a distinct flavor for a dessert that only Bourbon as an ingredient can provide.

Light Chocolate Layer Cake with Bourbon and Cream Cheese Frosting

For my money, the layer cake is the mother of all desserts. It’s really two treats in one, and I can’t decide which part is my favorite: the moist, satisfying cake or the creamy frosting that may as well be candy. I especially love this cake as a vehicle for one of my favorite frostings. The cake is chocolate, to be sure, but with a subtler flavor than devil’s food. Its delicate crumb and airy lightness make it a natural for stacking three layers high. With three layers, you get more frosting per bite. Given that I could eat Bourbon and Cream Cheese frosting spooned directly from the bowl, this construction only makes sense. Even so, I like to leave the sides of the cake bare; it reminds me of the kitchen-fresh creations raffled off at the cake wheels we’d bet on at Louisville’s church picnics.

Makes three 9-inch rounds.

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I like Scharffen Berger’s)
2 cups water, boiling
2¾ cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing pans
2. cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour three 9-inch cake pans.

In a medium mixing bowl, gradually add boiling water to cocoa while whisking until the mixture is smooth. Set aside and allow it to cool completely. (I like to do this step about an hour before making my cake. At the same time, I put the eggs and butter on the counter to bring them to room temperature.) In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder.

Using an electric mixer on high speed, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy and pale yellow, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing to combine after each, then add the vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

With the mixer on low speed, beat in the flour mixture and cocoa mixture, alternating about ¼ of each in turn. Beat only until combined; do not overbeat.

Divide the batter into the three prepared pans and bake for about 25 minutes, until a wooden cake tester or metal skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans set on cooling racks for about 15 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto the racks until completely cooled, about 30 minutes.

Caroline Paulus
Caroline Paulus is the Senior Editor for The Bourbon Review. She lives and writes in Lexington, Kentucky. Follow her on Instagram @misswhiskeyhistorian to keep up with her latest in bourbon news - and a few old finds, too.