We Made an Authentic Kentucky Bourbon Cake

Even if you can't make it to Churchill Downs for the Derby, be sure to celebrate in style. Put on a fabulous hat, make a mint julep and keep this legendary Kentucky bourbon cake on the sideboard!

My dear friends Gretchen and Bill throw an epic Kentucky Derby party each year. It’s an excuse to get a fabulous new hat, dress up and drink one…or two mint juleps. Even though the race is over in seconds, the party before and after is full of food, drinks, music and laughter. I wanted to bring a fun contribution to their spread. Fortunately, I found the Kentucky Derby Bourbon Cake recipe in an amazing book—Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson. Armed with the recipe, I got to work.

Time to break out the Bundt pan for this amazing Kentucky Derby bourbon cake! Here are some of our favorite Bundt pans.

Pro Tip: Allow at least a half hour before you begin the recipe, so you can bring the buttermilk and eggs to room temperature. This is why.

How to Make a Kentucky Derby Bourbon Cake

For the Cake

  • 3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • ½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup bourbon
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature (Out of buttermilk? Make your own at home, as I did.)

For the Glaze

Get Cooking, Good Looking

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Sift together cake flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Whisk by hand to incorporate all ingredients. (You might also want to invest in this helpful KitchenAid attachment.)

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together at medium-high speed until light and fluffy. It should take about 5 minutes. Make sure to stop periodically to scrape down the sides and the paddle, so you have even mixing. Then, set the mixer on low speed and begin adding one egg at a time. Add the next egg once the previous one is just mixed in.

Finish the Batter and Bake

In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk and bourbon. On low speed, alternate adding one third of the flour mixture and one half of the bourbon mixture; repeat until all ingredients have been incorporated. As soon as you add the last third of the flour, turn off the mixer and gently blend by hand until just incorporated.

Prepare your Bundt pan like this. Then, pour the cake batter in evenly. Place the pan on the middle rack and bake for approximately 40-45 minutes or until the cake is a golden brown. It should spring back when pressed.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt the remaining butter, sugar and bourbon on low heat until the butter and sugar have melted. Remove from heat.

Glaze and Rest

Once your Kentucky bourbon cake is done baking, remove it from the oven, but leave the cake in the pan. Poke numerous holes in the top of the cake with a wooden skewer. Pour three-quarters of the glaze over the top, letting the mixture soak into the holes. (If the glaze has thickened, heat on low until it’s easily pourable once again.) Let the cake rest for half an hour.

Flip the cake onto a cake plate (with the glazed part on the bottom). Gently brush or pour the remaining glaze on top of the cake.

Pro Tip: Did your cake have trouble freeing itself from the Bundt pan? No matter how well you grease the pan, sometimes it just doesn’t want to come out gracefully. If this is the case, let the glaze soak into the cake for a few minutes. Then, sift powdered sugar gently and evenly over the cake. This hides the blemishes and adds a nice gentle sweetness to the cake.

Kentucky Bourbon CakeJennifer Schwarzkopf for Taste of Home

Final Thoughts

This cake is so incredibly springy, moist and buttery!

The bourbon softens with the addition of the butter and sugar, which makes the cake such a delight on its own, with coffee or even with a mint julep. (Need a good mint julep recipe? Learn from the experts.)

Keep this recipe in your back pocket, because a Kentucky Derby bourbon cake is sure to impress, however you decide to celebrate.

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Jennifer Schwarzkopf
Half Chilean, half Irish descent and all joie de vivre, I'm a food writer/photographer who loves to share stories about different cultures and the magic that is sharing a meal together. When not doing that, you'll find me working on my culinary degree, hanging with family & friends, and just trying to "live deep and suck out all the marrow of life." Salud!