Bourbon or Dessert? Why Not Both?

Written by Darian Bianco, UPK Marketing Intern

The November chill is just beginning to set in, and suddenly, we all have another reason to stay cooped up indoors. We’ve already read every book on our shelves — twice — played every board game, binge-watched every Netflix show we were interested in. What to do with ourselves now, when suddenly, we are without the possibility of finding a park to stroll through, or at least a picnic bench to sit at?

Never fret — tis the season for recipes! One thing you can always expect from the month of November is good food, and that’s something I’ll be sharing with you all today. I must, however, offer two prefaces. The first is that I am not a professional chef or baker by any means. I make a mean spaghetti, but otherwise, my cooking and baking is trial and error, occasionally saying “oh well” and hoping nothing blows up. More often than not, my fiancé has to jump in, just to make sure I don’t paint our kitchen white with flour. The second preface is that I have a sweet tooth. Doesn’t matter how much I ate for dinner; I can always make room for dessert. Hence, why I’ve decided the first recipe I would test and share is a cake!

I broke open Bourbon Desserts by Lynn Marie Hulsman and tried to keep from salivating as I read the many, many dessert options I had to pick from. Bourbon Pecan-Pie Muffins, Bourn and Buttermilk Pie in a Cream Cheese Crust, Bourbon Blackout Sorbet, Sweet and Boozy Graham Cracker Candies, Warm Chocolate and Bourbon Silk — is your mouth watering yet? Sorry, misery loves company. Regardless, I flagged my fiancé, Evan, down and asked him which recipe he would like to try, since he would inevitably wind up helping me at some point or another. Eventually, he landed on the Light Chocolate Layer Cake with Bourbon and Cream Cheese Frosting.

The ingredients for this decadent dessert are as follows:

  • 1 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder (Hulsman prefers Scharffen Berger’s)
  • 2 cups of water, boiling
  • 2 and 3/4 cups of sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 cup (or 2 sticks) of unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the pans
  • 2 and 1/2 cups of granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract

Surprisingly, we already had many of these ingredients crammed into our pantry — all I needed to go out and buy were the cocoa powder, baking soda, and butter. We also realized that this recipe called for an electric mixer, of which we do not own. We decided we would mix it by hand, electricity be damned. It would be more rewarding that way, right?

It all started with preheating the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. That was the easy part. I greased our cake pan with butter afterwards. Granted, the recipe says to also line the pan with flour, and to use three cake pans as opposed to one, but I was making do with the resources I had available.

Once the two cups of water I had set on the stove reached a boil, Evan began to very carefully add the cocoa mix to the water. He was more trustworthy with this task — he has a steadier hand, cooking experience, and I have a reputation of breaking objects and/or myself. While there was a brief spatter incident, we eventually mixed the cocoa and water into a smooth mixture that tasted delicious.

While he had been mixing the cocoa and water, I was sifting together the flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. Basically, I had the easy job, and I was able to set the bowl of powders aside to move on to the next task, which was creaming the butter and sugar together.

Now, this is the step we were meant to have an electric mixer for. Upon realizing we only had one very small bowl left and a single rubber spatula, it occurred to me that this was going to be a laborious process. In swooped Evan yet again — he plopped down in the recliner and patiently, methodically, creamed the butter and sugar together by hand. In most situations, I’m the one with more patience, but he was a godsend that evening. We took turns cracking the eggs into the mixture, and finally, it was time to combine all of it together to create the batter.

The work from there went quickly, as we combined our three separate bowls into one. I was honestly a little surprised when it resulted in a batter-like consistency. Had I actually managed (with a lot of help) to make a cake? One way to find out. We spooned the batter into the baking pan and spread it smoothly, before popping it into the oven for twenty-five minutes. It was a thick mixture, and I had my doubts as to whether it would actually be finished in twenty-five minutes; but once again, my doubts were spun on their head. Twenty-five minutes later, after poking the cake with a fork, it was finished. Slices were doled out to myself and a friend who was over to visit, while my fiancé and roommate stole bites.

It was delicious. Light, fluffy, chocolate-y, you name it. I give Evan 75% of the credit, but I was still proud of myself. I had made something edible. Will wonders never cease?

Now, you may be thinking: Wait. Where’s the bourbon and cream cheese frosting? My answer is two-fold. First, Evan is not a big fan of icing, and given that he did most of the work, I wasn’t going to cover the fruits of his labors in something he hates. Also — I completely missed that the icing recipe was on the next page. Oops! But hey, it works out as a lovely teaser. If you want to attempt this recipe for yourself, and if you want to do it properly, you’ll just have to invest in Bourbon Desserts by Lynn Marie Hulsman. It is packed to the brim with delicious recipes, and if I can manage to follow her directions and make something that tastes good, you certainly can too.

I hope you attempt a scrumptious bourbon dessert in preparation for Thanksgiving! UPK wishes you the best in all of your baking endeavors.

This entry was posted in Daily Notes on by .

About University Press of Kentucky

The University Press of Kentucky has a dual mission—the publication of books of high scholarly merit in a variety of fields for a largely academic audience and the publication of books about the history and culture of Kentucky, the Ohio Valley region, the Upper South, and Appalachia. The Press is the statewide mandated nonprofit scholarly publisher for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, operated as an agency of the University of Kentucky and serving all state institutions of higher learning, plus five private colleges and Kentucky's two major historical societies.

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