Chocolate Bourbon Cake

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Chocolate. Bourbon. Cake. I think the moment my father spied this recipe in the New York Times he was a goner. (“You had me at chocolate.”)

Nothing was going to stop him from making this cake. When he found out I possessed a 10-cup bundt pan, that was it, he was halfway to the store getting chocolate and instant espresso for the recipe.

Reading Melissa Clark’s chocolate whisky cake recipe we both decided that 1/2 cup of Bourbon, instead of the full cup she used, would do. We were both wrong. With 1/2 cup we could barely taste the bourbon. The second time we made the cake we used the full cup.

(Why bourbon? This whisky has a heady smokiness to it that works beautifully in this cake.)

Perfect. This is a great cake. Fine crumb. You can slice it beautifully thin and it still holds its shape. Great for us gals who like to take a very thin slice. And then another one. And then another. (Drives my father nuts.)

For those of you who would want to substitute out the alcohol I apologize in advance, and suggest that you consider one of the other recipes on this site for chocolate cake that do not use alcohol. This is a whiskey cake; it requires whiskey. And chocolate. Yum.

Chocolate Bourbon Cake Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 10 to 12

Although this is a bundt pan recipe, you can also use the same amount of batter for 2 loaf pans (8 or 9 inch pans). Baking time will be less if you use loaf pans. Test at 55 minutes.


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, more for greasing pan
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, more for dusting pan
  • 5 ounces high quality, unsweetened dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup instant espresso powder (can use instant coffee)
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 1 cup bourbon whiskey (can use 1/2 cup), more for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups white granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar), for sprinkling


1 Preheat oven, prepare bundt pan: Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter and flour the inside of a large (10 cup) bundt pan.

2 Melt chocolate: Melt chocolate in a microwave oven or in a double boiler over simmering water. Let cool. Put a cup of water on to boil.

3 Mix instant espresso powder, cocoa powder, boiling water, bourbon, salt: Put instant espresso powder (or instant coffee) and cocoa powder in a large (at least 2 cup) glass measuring cup. Add enough boiling water to come up to the 1 cup measuring line. Mix until powders dissolve. Stir in the bourbon and salt. Set aside and let cool.

4 Beat butter, add sugar, eggs, vanilla, baking soda, melted chocolate: Beat butter until fluffy (2-3 minutes on high using an electric mixer). Add sugar and beat a minute longer. Add the eggs one at a time, beating a minute after each addition. Add the vanilla extract, baking soda and melted chocolate.

5 Alternate adding bourbon espresso mixture with flour: With the mixer on the lowest speed, beat in a third of the bourbon espresso cocoa mixture. When liquid is absorbed, beat in half of the flour (1 cup). Repeat additions, ending with bourbon mixture.

6 Bake: Scrape batter into prepared bundt pan and smooth the top. Bake at 325°F until a tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes.

7 Cool, sprinkle with whisky and powdered sugar: Move the cake to a rack. Gently un-mold after 15 minutes and sprinkle the cake with a little more bourbon whiskey. Let the cake cool completely before serving. Sprinkle powdered sugar through a mesh sieve over the cake before serving.

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Recipe from Melissa Clark's Whisky-Soaked Chocolate Bundt Cake, from the article, When Temperance Isn't in the Cards, in the New York Times, Dec 3, 2008

Chocolate Bourbon Cake

Showing 4 of 76 Comments

  • Kelly Zucker

    Made this for my daughter’s birthday and followed the directions exactly as written and the cake fell like a souffle. It also tastes terrible. Very disappointing for all the time and ingredients that I put into it. I do think that one cup of flour is not enough.

  • Sasha

    Hi Elise, I’d like to make this cake but have a question: for “1/4 cup instant espresso (can use instant coffee)”, is that 1/4 cup of powder of instant espresso, or 1/4 cup of liquid made from powdered instant espresso+water?

  • Mary

    I’ve made this cake every year (and sometimes twice) since the recipe was published. It has always come out great. Today for some reason it fell. I make it in a dark bundt pan and the cake is at least one inch shorter than it should be. I’m sure it will still taste wonderful. I’ve looked into reasons it may fall. One is the oven temp – it did not use an oven thermometer so maybe the temp is off. Another reason might be that I beat it too long putting too much air into the batter. I’ll be testing out the oven temp first and then I think I’ll try another…… it freezes well too ! Merry Christmas !

  • arcey

    I made this cake several years ago for a holiday dinner I go to every year. I had planned on making the egg nog pound cake for tonight’s dinner, but instead made this one again. Wow! It was good the first time, but this time I did something different, and it seems to have come out even better. Won’t really know until tonight when we cut into it, but just eating some of the scraps I shaved off to even out the top (well, really bottom), I could tell how good it is. The thing I did differently has to do with the butter. Whenever I make a cake where I have to cream the butter in the Kitchen Aid and then add sugar til fluffy, I forget to leave the butter out, or even to take it out of the freezer. Being as the Kitchen Aid paddle does such a great job of beating the butter, I never thought it was a big deal, since the paddle could cream even cold or frozen butter. Well this time, I did remember earlier in the day to take the butter from the freezer, and it was quite soft by the time I made the cake late last night. When I beat the butter, I could see how much fluffier it was that usual, when the butter is very cold, and it remained super fluffy throughout, after adding all other ingredients. I was amazed at the difference! Also, I was having a hard time getting the chocolate to melt well, and it wasn’t as liquid-y as usual, and I had to keep mixing it up with a fork to make sure it didn’t thicken. It was definitely thicker than usual when I melt chocolate, but when I moved it around with a fork, it would get shiny, so it wasn’t seized. But it did worry me that when I added it to the other ingredients, it would seize up and ruin the whole batter. But it didn’t! It might have even added to the luscious texture of the batter. I also was nervous about adding the baking soda with the wet ingredients and mixed it in with the flour.

    Sorry for the long story, but it was such a beautiful batter that it actually got me excited. :) And it baked beautifully and smells wonderful and tastes very bourbon-y, but in a very subtle way. Wow. Can’t wait to eat it tonight. I know everyone will ooh and ahh a lot when they see my new Bundt shape. I’ve always used the rose-shaped pan, but this time I used the one that’s very geometric, angle-y, and very striking. Ooh la la! (By the way, I baked it at 340 and it was done in an hour.)

  • Richard Buckmaster

    Followed the recipe to a “T” and it fell like a house of cards after about 45 minutes.

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