Bourbon Butter Pound Cake
First of all, a BIG thank you to all the folks who left kind words of congratulations in my wedding announcement posts the other day! It’s been especially wonderful to hear from all the folks who shared their similar non-traditional engagement stories with me. I LOVED hearing them and feeling like we weren’t alone or weird for doing what we did. I do genuinely think that these types of engagements are more reflective of the modern relationships that we have today, too. But I’ll save all those musings for another post, yes? Because it’s time to talk about this bourbon butter cake!
So one of my most popular recipes over the last few years has been this Kentucky Bourbon Bundt Cake (forgive the photos, it was 2012, okay?!). It’s absolutely addicting—the cake has a tender, delicate with lots of bourbon and flavors, all complete with the most addictive bourbon butter syrup ever. The only problem? Bundts are kind of a commitment; they’re the kind of cake you pull out for a special occasion since they look impressive, can feed a crowd, and are justttt enough of a hassle to make since you need a bundt pan (not to mention that one of my biggest fears is not being able to turn the cake out of its pan, especially when using a fancy one like this one or this one). I wanted to see if there was a way I could turn the recipe into a more accessible, everyday kind of cake… like a pound cake!
Why You Should Make Pound Cake
Pound cake is easier to make than “celebration” cakes like layer cakes or bundt cakes. Here’s why:
One Pan Baking
Unlike layer cakes, when making a loaf cake like a pound cake, there’s no need to bake the batter in multiple pans and assemble them as layers. You simply throw the batter in one pan and you’re done!
No Specialty Pans
Most bakers already have a loaf pan—either a 9 x 5-inch one or an 8 x 4-inch one—in their cupboard. Unlike bundt cakes, there’s no need to buy a specific pan for most pound cake recipes. Obviously you can also use a specialty decorative one like I did for this recipe, but it is absolutely NOT a requirement.
Most folks don’t know this, but traditional pound cake recipes don’t actually contain any leaveners like baking powder or baking soda in them. That’s because a good pound cake recipe should make just enough batter to fill a loaf pan and make a mounded loaf cake. For infrequent bakers, this is good news—if you don’t bake frequently, it’s likely that you don’t have those ingredients already in your pantry. But you’ll probably have everything else you need for this cake! That means you can whip up a delicious pound cake without an extra trip to the grocery store.
Here’s another fun fact about pound cake: the recipe gets its name from its ingredients. Specifically, traditional pound cake recipes have exactly 1 pound of flour, sugar, eggs, and butter in them! Pretty cool, right?
Unfortunately when I was testing these traditional pound cake recipes with that ratio, I found that most of them made too much batter for a typical loaf pan. That meant that the top and sides of the cake would cook way too quickly, while the middle would stay raw. I felt like I had to chose between having a cake with done center with burnt edges, or one with perfect edges but a slightly raw center. I actually found that tweaking the ratios and reducing each quantity of the ingredient just by a hair made the perfect cake!
So if you’re a seasoned baker, you’ll notice that my recipe doesn’t quite have these ratios. But if you’re ever in a pinch and find yourself needing to make pound cake without a recipe, just remember the rule above and use a pound of each ingredient—you’ll still end up with a pretty decent cake.
One of the most time-consuming parts about making a cake is frosting and decorating it. But luckily, most pound cake recipes are so flavorful that they don’t even need frosting! This bourbon butter cake is the perfect example—you can leave it without the bourbon butter syrup for a pretty flavorful, buttery and slightly bourbon-scented pound cake. But at the end of the day, the bourbon butter syrup really takes it to the next level!
Ingredients in Bourbon Butter Pound Cake
Alright, now that I’ve convinced you to make this pound cake (I think), here are the key ingredients in the recipe worth chatting about:
The main flavor profile of this cake is BOURBON and I’m not the least bit sorry. Truth be told, you can use any kind of whiskey you want, but I’ve always had a soft spot for bourbon so that’s what I went for. I don’t necessarily recommend shelling out for a nice bottle of bourbon—a lot of the nuances from an expensive liquor will likely be lost (since you’re going to be baking and cooking with it). I used one of those cheap-o plastic bottles of whiskey myself (shhhh).
I am a firm believer that really good butter is the secret ingredient to most baking recipes. While you can get away with using generic butter for most recipes, this bourbon butter pound cake recipe is SO butter-forward that I think it’s worth shelling out for the good stuff since you’ll really be able to taste it! So what is the good stuff? Try and find a European-style butter like Land O’Lakes Extra Creamy Butter or Vermont Creamery Unsalted Cultured Butter. European-style butter has more butterfat and will taste creamier and richer than traditional American butter.
Best Bourbon Butter Pound Cake Recipe Tips
- Although this recipe is originally made for a classic 9 x 5-inch loaf pan, I made the loaf in this special Nordic Ware Anniversary Loaf Pan. I’m not going to lie—even with a generous amount of cooking spray, I had ended up having to make the cake twice since half of the first loaf got stuck in the pan! It’s one of the most finnicky pans I own since it’s full of sharp nooks and crannies. If you go this route and use a fancy loaf pan with a design, be sure to use a LOT of cooking spray to spray the pan completely. Unmold the loaf while it’s still warm and fresh from the oven, about 15 minutes into the cooling process. If that sounds like too much work, you can also just bake the recipe in regular 9 x 5-inch loaf pan; if you do so, there’s no need to unmold it while it’s still warm!
- To give the pound cake its bourbon butter flavor, you’ll need to soak the pound cake in a homemade bourbon butter syrup. Let me warn you now—the syrup is definitely more like a sauce than a syrup since it’s super thick and meant to be sugary. Don’t try and dissolve all the sugar in the syrup! You want to keep the sugar pretty granulated and solid to give the cake texture and crunch. You’ll need to use the syrup while it’s still warm because it firms up like compound butter when it cools. I usually pull the cake out from the oven, then immediately make the syrup, and pour it over the cake. Once the syrup is on the cake, the whole thing will cool and look a little “flaky” from the sugar; it’s quite a rustic look, so if you’re taking photos for the ‘gram, I suggest garnishing the whole thing with powdered sugar.
Bourbon Butter Pound Cake Recipe
For the Bourbon Butter Pound Cake
- 1 ⅔ cup (7.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ¼ cups (10 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 ¼ cups (8.75 ounces) granulated sugar
- 5 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon bourbon whiskey
For the Bourbon Butter Syrup
- 6 tablespoons (2.65 ounces) granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons (1.5 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) bourbon whiskey
For the Bourbon Butter Cake
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray and line it with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the long sides. Spray the parchment, too.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-low until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the sugar; increase the mixer to medium-high and beat until light, fluffy, and doubled in volume, about 5 minutes, using a rubber spatula to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl as necessary. Reduce the mixer to low and add the bourbon, then add the eggs one at a time, adding the next egg only after the previous one has been fully incorporated, scraping down the bottom and sides of the bowl after each addition. With the mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl once more, and beat on low for an additional 30 seconds.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and use an offset spatula to smooth the top. Set the loaf pan on a sheet pan and bake for 60 to 65 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a few crumbs attached. Place on a wire rack and immediately use the skewer to poke holes all over the cake.
- As the cake cools, make the syrup. Combine the sugar, butter, and whiskey together in a small, heavy-bottomed sauce pan over medium-low heat. Cook until the butter melts, stirring slowly. The syrup will be thick and sugary.
- If using a decorative loaf pan, you'll need to use a pastry brush to brush half the syrup into the holes, turn the cake out onto a serving platter while still warm (per the baker's notes), then brush the remaining half the syrup over the top of the cake. If using a traditional 9 x 5-inch loaf pan, there’s no need to turn out the loaf. Use the syrup completely—it will seem like there’s too much for the loaf. You’ll need to wait for the syrup to absorb some before brushing the cake with the syrup again. Serve warm, or at room temperature. The bourbon butter cake can be stored at room temperature, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.