Chocolate Whiskey Cake with Fudgy Frosting


I decided to make this cake for a work potluck even though I originally signed up to make lemon bars. I got home Saturday afternoon from a trip to the grocery store and realized I had forgotten to buy lemons. Whoops. It was then I decided to go in a completely different direction: a recipe that would help use up the whiskey my dad bought at Christmas for the Caramel-Whiskey Sauce.

It took me awhile to find a usable recipe. Apparently we Americans aren’t that big on our whiskey cakes. For the record, the British and the Irish are very into whiskey cakes. Most the recipes I found were chock full of flavourful ingredients but detailed in metric measurement. Which wasn’t going to do. I don’t have the patience to convert a recipe!

Finally I found an American recipe for bourbon whiskey cake and tweaked it slightly. The recipe did not call for frosting (simply a dusting of powder sugar), but what’s the point of having cake without frosting? So I found a recipe for chocolate ganache frosting (to use up some of the heavy cream in the fridge from making the Caramel-Whisky Sauce), and I thought it would pair well with the whiskey cake.

The result? A very rich, dense chocolate cake with only a hint of whiskey flavouring (thankfully!) and a thick fudgy frosting.

Sis suggests making a pot of coffee before you sit down to eat this cake.

cake ingredients.

  • 1 1/2 c. (3 sticks) butter, softened, more for greasing pan
  • 3 c. all-purpose flour, more for dusting pan
  • 7.5 oz high quality, unsweetened dark chocolate
  • 1/4 plus 1/8 c. instant espresso (can use instant coffee)
  • 3 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 c. bourbon whiskey, more for sprinkling
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 c. granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 T. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder

cake directions.

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease and flour three 9×9″ cake pans. Melt chocolate in a microwave oven or in a double boiler over simmering water. Let cool.
  2. Put instant espresso and cocoa powder in a 4-cup glass measuring cup. Add enough boiling water to come up to the 1 1/2 cup measuring line. Mix until powders dissolve. Stir in whiskey and salt; let cool.
  3. Beat softened butter until fluffy (2-3 minutes on high). Add sugar and beat until well combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract, baking soda, baking powder and melted chocolate, scraping down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula.
  4. With the mixer on low-speed, beat in a third of the whiskey espresso cocoa mixture. When liquid is absorbed, beat in 1/2 cup flour. Repeat additions, ending with whiskey mixture. Scrape batter into prepared pans and shake to distribute the batter evenly throughout the pan. Bake until a cake tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 40 minutes.
  5. Transfer cake to a rack. After 15 minutes remove the cake from the pan and sprinkle warm cake with more whiskey, if desired. Let cool.

chocolate ganache icing ingredients.

  • 2 lb fine-quality semisweet chocolate
  • 2 c. heavy cream
  • 4 T. sugar
  • 4 T. light corn syrup
  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter

chocolate ganache icing directions.

  1. Finely chop chocolate. In a 2-quart saucepan bring cream, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil over moderately low heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted. Cut butter into pieces and add to icing, whisking until smooth.
  2. Transfer icing to a bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, until spreadable.
  3. Lay wax paper down in pieces on the surface where you’ll be icing so that the surface does not get full of icing.
  4. Spread icing between cake layers and over top and sides. Once the icing has set, remove the wax paper. Add butterscotch piping, if desired.
  5. Cake keeps, covered and chilled, 3 days. Bring cake to room temperature before serving.


butterscotch piping.

  1. Find a design that will fit on the side of your cake and place some wax paper over the design.
  2. Place butterscotch chips into the corner of a sandwich baggy (no fancy decorating bag needed!) and melt in the microwave for about 30 to 45 seconds. Let it cool slightly, cut a the corner off the baggy (really small or the piping will be too thick), and then squeeze along the lines of the design. If the baggy clogs, microwave it for a few seconds and start again.
  3. Let the piping set before placing along the side of the cake. Press into the cake so it sticks. Don’t worry if the piping breaks, it will break when you cut the cake anyway. If the piping breaks, just piece back together and press into the frosting.


This is probably about the most expensive cake I’ve ever made. Between the cake itself and the frosting, I used almost two and a half pounds of chocolate. And good baking chocolate ain’t cheap. In case you were wondering.

It was also a very putzy cake to make. Part of that was my fault. It shouldn’t have been putzy, but I’m impatient. My impatience inevitably ends up costing me even more time than I originally plan to put into something.

After attempting to flip two layers over at the same time, I nearly ruined two of my three layers. I salvaged one completely and the other I had to piece back together, wrap in Saran wrap, and freeze in order to get it to hold its shape so I could frost the cake without losing an entire layer. (I originally intended to do a six-layer cake by slicing each layer in half, but after I pieced together one of my layers, there was no way I could slice that layer in half to make two.)

The frosting proved to be even more putzy. After shaving away at almost an entire pound block of chocolate, I managed to get chocolate shavings all over the island I was working on as well as the floor below me. It was a serious mess! I later had problems applying the frosting. Because I’m impatient, I started frosting the cake before the ganache was set. A frosting job that should have taken me five minutes took me half an hour.

And then because I saw this awesome design on a whiskey cake I found in a British blog when searching for a recipe, I decided I needed to try to replicate the design in the cake by making my own piping for my cake. As usual, the cake was a labor of love.

But it tasted great! Well worth the effort.

Recipe rating:



  1. Deb,

    As usual… I love your blog. You have a unique writing style that communicates in such an entertaining way.

    I’m looking forward to trying this recipe. I’ll let you know how it goes…

    Take care, have fun, and keep baking!



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