braised chicken with forty cloves of garlic roasted broccoli and farro salad with feta sparkling champagne margaritas cranberry hazelnut seed crisps


copyright jennifer yu © 2004-2014 all rights reserved: no photos or content may be reproduced without prior written consent


here comes the cake

Recipe: chocolate bourbon cake

Ask any of the people who know me well or even a little bit and they’ll tell you that I am rarely silent. It’s just that I had a marathon session of photo processing to finish before the snow storm arrived. YES. There is a snow storm dumping snow in my yard as I type and I intend to ski the bajeezus out of it come daybreak. As some of you know, after Jason and I visited Yosemite, we photographed a wedding in Northern California. I don’t typically shoot weddings… I’m not a wedding photographer. But this nice young woman – a long-time use real butter reader – asked so sweetly and her wedding sounded so cool that it was hard to say no. I later learned it’s not just me! No one is really capable of saying no to Selina.


mother of the bride looks on while the bride’s maids adjust the wedding gown

bridal party



The wedding took place at Capay Organic Farm west of Sacramento and was catered by gourmet food trucks: RoliRoti and Volks Waffle. How fun is that?! Selina and Dean are incredibly nice people. More than that, they are super chill in that awesome geeky way. No bridezillas. No Drama. Their families and friends were delightful. Everyone was so supportive of these two that it made the job a true pleasure.

selina got many honks from passing cars

a token “peace out, suckers!” shot because selina had read my blog post that morning!

the lovely couple



I am actually the last person anyone should consider to shoot their wedding because I don’t even know the basic logistics of these events. Jason schooled me on how weddings typically go down. “What about the speeches?” he asked me, to which I replied, “Speeches?” Yeah, it was like that. I could not have done this without Jason’s help (thanks, man!). And a huge thanks to my friends at Pro Photo Rental for outfitting us with additional lenses and bodies so we could both work the double-slinging action.

flower girls waiting for their cue

selina smiles at her dad as he escorts her to the aisle

an intimate and gorgeous venue

checking out the ceremony



And yes, there were speeches. Both fathers spoke heartfelt words that brought tears to many eyes. As the sun dropped behind the mountains, the maid of honor lit Selina’s father’s speech with her smart phone so he could read it in the waning light of that special day. First he spoke in English, then he spoke in Chinese. Even though my Chinese sucks, I understood what he was saying. It was getting tough to focus the camera on the bride, because my vision was blurred with tears.

dean’s father jokingly unfurls his “speech”

selina dabs at her tears as her father speaks

toasting the happy couple



Congratulations, Selina and Dean. Thank you for allowing us to document your special day. Thank you for sharing yourselves with us and letting us into your circle. Also? I especially loved how you exited the altar to the Star Wars theme. Rock on.

may your road lead to every happiness together



Are you ready for some cake now? I hope so. And booze. This is a boozy cake! Please don’t ask me what liquid you should use to substitute for the bourbon, because then it won’t be a chocolate bourbon cake anymore. If you don’t like bourbon, don’t make this cake. Make some other cake. I wouldn’t make this for children either. It’s got a lot of bourbon in the cake AND the icing. Booyah.

flour, butter, unsweetened chocolate, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda, salt, eggs, sugar, bourbon, vanilla

melt the chocolate



I’ve had this bottle of bourbon in my cupboards for a year, using a tablespoon here or there, but never putting a proper dent in the bourbon. I thought a cake soaked in bourbon might be a nice dessert for the cooler months of fall and began looking around for recipes. That’s when I came across Elise’s recipe for chocolate bourbon cake. She even made it twice, the first time using only 1/2 cup of bourbon. She remedied that in the second round with a full cup of bourbon and I have to agree with her that a full cup gives this cake the zing you expect when the word bourbon is in the name of the dessert.

add boiling water to the espresso powder and cocoa powder

top it off with a cup of bourbon (yes, do this)



This cake is easy peasy. It’s a mix-it-up and pour-it-in-a-bundt-pan dealio. No layers, no assembly required. I just love that, don’t you? It smells heady when you add the bourbon mixture to the batter. If your mixer likes to spit liquid or dry ingredients out like mine does when first mixing additions, just take a spoon or spatula and incorporate the liquid or flour manually with a few stirs then give it back to the mixer.

beat eggs in one at a time

add the chocolate

alternate bourbon mixture with flour



Thinking of skipping the grease and flour your bundt pan step? Don’t. I have a heck of a time getting cakes out of pans. Lining cake pans with parchment paper really helps, but that’s a bit of a pickle with a bundt pan. That would be some amazing feat of origami too. I brush melted butter on my pan and dust it with flour. Even so, the ridges of the bundt pan have a tendency to want to grab hold of cakes. That’s what happened with mine – a few chunks remained in the pan, so I carefully peeled them off and set them on the cake like puzzle pieces.

pour the batter

inverted with a few filled holes



Originally, I planned to dust the cake with powdered sugar. The chunks of torn cake were pretty obvious though, and would likely show through the powdered sugar. So I made an icing, a boozy bourbon icing. It’s just confectioner’s sugar with some vanilla and a lot of bourbon. Make it to taste, but I’m pretty sure if you’re making this cake, you already like how bourbon tastes.

adding vanilla extract

pour icing over the cake



You don’t have to decorate the cake at all, but I wanted to hide the booboos. Then I found these cute chocolate-covered crisped cereal pearls at the Boulder Whole Foods and thought they’d be a great visual and textural addition to the cake (I was right!). The cake itself is moist and boozy without being crumbly. It holds together well (something that Elise noted too). I’m not a sweets fan, but I like how the icing adds a spike of sweet as well as bourbon (remember, it’s loaded with more bourbon) to the cake. There are two kinds of adult cakes and this is not the naughty kind. It’s the boozy kind. It’s boozalicious.

i can give you a slice, but i’ll have to card you first

a little extra bourbon icing never hurt anyone



Chocolate Bourbon Cake
[print recipe]
from Simply Recipes

5 oz. high quality unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup instant espresso powder (can use instant coffee as a substitute)
2 tbsps unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup bourbon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup (8 oz.) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour

boozy bourbon icing
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
2 tsps vanilla extract
6 tbsps bourbon (or to taste)

Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Melt the chocolate over a water bath or in the microwave (typically best to do this 30 seconds at a time on half power, checking that you don’t burn the chocolate). Set the chocolate aside and let it cool. Place the espresso powder (or instant coffee) and the unsweetened cocoa powder in a liquid measuring cup. Add boiling water to the cup until the total volume is 1 cup. Stir to dissolve the granules in the hot water. Add 1 cup of bourbon and the salt to the espresso mixture. Set aside and let cool. Place the butter in a mixing bowl and beat until fluffy. Beat the sugar into the butter. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until well-mixed after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract, the baking soda, and the melted chocolate. Mix until uniform in color. Beat in a third of the espresso-bourbon liquid (mine splashed all over the place, so do this carefully – stir it by hand a little at first if you must) until incorporated. Add half of the flour and mix. Repeat until you finish with a third of the liquid. Blend well then pour the batter into a greased and floured 10-cup bundt pan (or two 8- or 9-inch loaf pans). Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, but start toothpick testing around 55 minutes. Mine was done in an hour before the inserted toothpick came out clean. Remove from heat and let cool for 15 minutes before unmolding the cake.

Make the icing: Combine the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract in a medium bowl. Add bourbon a tablespoon at a time. Whisk the liquid into the sugar to make the icing. Taste for the desired strength of the icing. Add more bourbon as necessary. If the icing is too thick, but it is boozy enough for you, add water to thin it. If it is too thin, add more confectioner’s sugar. Drizzle over the cake. Serves 10-12.

39 nibbles at “here comes the cake”

  1. Debbie says:

    Such beautiful pictures and such a beautiful bride. Instead of having a drink at the end of a long day maybe a slice of this cake would be better!!!

  2. Kristin says:

    Well, maybe you SHOULD be a wedding photographer. I love the photos…especially the chicken! This cake! I can’t wait for an occasion to make it, although I’ll bet it would freeze well before glazing, so I could probably divide it. Yum yum yum!

  3. Fiona says:

    Looks wonderful. And Knob Creek is good bourbon. Bundt cakes are the under-appreciated heroes of cake baking, I think. So easy, so sliceable, and just as good as a pound cake.

  4. Eva @ Eva Bakes says:

    Beautiful wedding photos! The cake looks amazing as well!

  5. ARC says:

    The cake looks amazing! Love that you showed how you fixed the booboo :) and OMG those wedding photos. Also loving the green bridesmaid dresses! Thanks for all the pretty today!

  6. jenjenk says:

    Are you SURE you don’t want to do wedding photography?! I got teary-eyed just from looking at the pics! you caught the mood so beautifully!!!

  7. selina says:

    Jen, I have no idea where to start with this comment to express our love for you…When I discovered your blog years ago, I never thought I’d meet you one day. Having you as our wedding photographer was one of the best decisions Dean and I ever made, and the fact you took a chance with us (shoot engagement/wedding photos in hot weather, not knowing us, we could turn out to be crazies!) – that just shows how awesome and amazing you are.
    Our family loved you and Jason! You pretty much became part of the family when you spoke to my parents in (not really sucky at all) Chinese….Thank you so so so much for making our special day more special. xoxo

  8. megan says:

    hurray hurray!!! bourbon in baking!! thanks for posting the recipe, and the wedding shots look awesome! :) sounds like a ton of fun and GOOD FOOD!

  9. Karyn says:

    I got sniffly looking at the pictures, and the comments even more so. (weddings do that to me anyways) Beautiful pictures! I love Capay Farm – they delivered my veggies to me for years, until I moved (more sniffles :) ) Now I’m looking for a safe place for them to leave them since I moved to a very busy street in Berkeley.

    But I digress. I really want to make this cake, but I have no experience with espresso powder. Before I buy this (because, instant coffee? ptui!), I have some really finely ground coffee from Indonesia that my boyfriend says you’re just supposed to stir into hot water. Do you think I could use that coffee in this recipe?

    Can’t wait to make this cake for a belated birthday for my bourbon-loving boyfriend. His birthday was largely ignored this year due to other life events and I’d like to make it up to him.

  10. Liz N says:

    Jen, what a great way to honor one of your loyal readers! Such gorgeous, timeless photos! With this blog entry, you have sealed my decision with my hubby’s next birthday cake (Mr. Bourbon, himself). I think he will LOVE this. Thanks for sharing such an intimate event and a delectable, boozy treat!

  11. Stefanie says:

    What a special post! As a fellow fan, I can only imagine how incredible you made Selina feel. Wow. And the cake! Oh, my! Definitely a weekend only treat, glad tomorrow is Friday.

  12. Jill says:

    Jen, the photos came out beautiful! Perhaps you should add in your profile, “wedding photographer”? Great choice on the bourbon.

  13. sweetmaddy says:

    I just ate some tiramisu, hooray for boozy desserts! I love the final picture with the puddled icing and the cereal. The cake looks so festive! Also love those wedding pictures, that was so sweet of you to agree to photograph her wedding!

  14. farmerpam says:

    I have snow envy. Enjoy!

  15. thisoldbroad says:

    Best wedding pictures ever! Of course it doesn’t hurt to have a fun beautiful couple, great family & friends, wonderful location, food trucks catering & a curious chicken. What more could a clever photographer ask for!

    Your photographs always dazzle me & I’ll confess to illegally loading some into my puzzle game to play while I sat through chemo. They always make me smile, no matter the subject you’re shooting.

    So thank you for allowing me to live a great life with excellent food, beautiful scenery & a sweet dog vicariously through through your images.

  16. Sharmila says:

    The photos are so gorgeous, what beautiful wedding memories to see! And that cake, gosh you had this doesn’t-drink-but-loves-booze-in-her-food girl at bour-

  17. Mary @ Fit and Fed says:

    What a cool wedding! You really captured it. I, too, love the idea that they left the altar to the Star Wars theme. And I love the casual farm setting. The cake– the little chocolate-covered cereal balls on top are indeed a wonderful idea. And the bourbon– this summer I changed up our long-standing salmon marinade by using bourbon instead. Yum. I’m sure it’s great in this cake, too.

  18. Jessie {Life As A Strawberry} says:

    Beautiful photos! This cake looks stellar. I LOVE cooking with booze. Whiskey and I have been the best of friends in the kitchen lately but I’ve been eyeing the bourbon in our liquor cabinet – might be time to switch gears!

  19. Nan says:

    My bourbon-loving hubby and I were recently at the Knob Creek Distillery in Kentucky! Let’s just say that he enjoyed sampling several varieties. If you’re a real bourbon lover, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail lets you sample the best of the best that Kentucky has to offer — for free!. But spread it out over an entire weekend, or you won’t be capable of driving to the next distillery and may have to camp out in your car. :)

    I foresee a Bourbon Chocolate Cake in my husband’s birthday future, this winter. He’ gonna love this!

    Beautiful wedding photos Jen!

  20. bigFATcook says:

    Love the cake, excellent photos! it must have been really tasty :D

  21. Sarah for strawberryplum says:

    This sounds deicious. I’m infusing some boubon with orange peel and cloves- I bet it would be awesome in this cake!

  22. Denise Dewire says:

    Your photos were awesome and can’t wait to try the recipe for the cake.

  23. Samantha says:

    I LOVE that you’re unapologetic about this cake and substitutions.

  24. Bobbie says:

    Gorgeous wedding pictures, and that cake looks wonderful. A little trick I learned from a pro baker, you can make your own cake release at home (which Wilton sells for an arm and a leg). I have baked many cakes in different pans and it has never let me down. simply combine equal parts of veg shortening, veg oil and flour, and whip with an electric mixer. You can smear this on cake pans and it replaces the butter/flour combination. It lasts forever and can be kept in your pantry.

  25. Rocky Mountain Woman says:

    I love the pic with the chicken! AWESOME!

  26. Margie L. says:

    Sweet, sweet photo’s…Congratulations to the lovely couple!

    Oh no! I haven’t baked that beautiful pumpkin cake and now you offer up this bit of intoxication. Maybe there’s a solution? I could always bake half recipes and layer them for sheer madness… ;)

  27. Jacqueline says:

    We made this cake over the weekend. Hubby was having a chocolate craving and this was such a “manly” way to satisfy it. All I can say is WOW! It’s really rich, so the folks at work are enjoying it this morning, too. What a happy way to start a Monday. :)

  28. Agata says:

    This cake is amazing! I just have finished it and I’m eating it now. Than you for the recipe!

  29. Carol says:

    I have the perfect occasion for making the chocolate bourbon cake. My neighbors and I have had a monthly lunch and card party for about the last 15 years and this would be a wonderful dessert. Originally there were 7 of us, but 3 have died. We range in age from 61 (me) to 78 and the newest member has lived here for 20+ years and one since the houses were built 52 years ago. We have been through births, deaths, marriages, etc and I am so fortunate to have these amazing women in my life.

  30. jenyu says:

    Debbie – ;) Great idea!

    Kristin – you’re very sweet, but I don’t think I have it in me to be a full time wedding photog. I like nature way way too much :) The cake probably does freeze well. It’s dense and moist. Very sturdy too.

    Fiona – so true, my friend. So true. xo

    Eva – thanks!

    ARC – you’re very welcome, my dear :)

    jenjenk – ha! That is incredibly kind of you, but no – I’m happy with nature and food photography and the occasional awesome bride like Selina ;)

    selina – you’re such a dear. We had a really great time and you guys were awesome and so much fun to photograph. Congratulations and here is to a lifetime of love xo

    megan – thanks :)

    Karyn – I would probably go with the instant espresso powder because I think finely ground coffee might affect the texture of the cake. I find it in most grocery stores around here, but if you can’t get it, order it online (I use Medaglia D’oro).

    Liz – Oh, I hope he likes it!

    Stefanie – thanks. I think she had a great day – she planned everything so well!

    Jill – ha!

    sweetmaddy – well, it’s a business transaction, but after communicating with and meeting Selina, I knew she and I would click on this :)

    farmerpam – I’m greedy, we need more!

    thisoldbroad – they really were ideal in every way. So glad that you enjoy the photos. The purpose is to share beauty with everyone :)

    Sharmila – ha ha!! I’m the same way!

    Mary – thanks, I loved the farm setting too. Hope you make the cake and enjoy.

    Jessie – hee hee.

    Nan – wow, I had no idea there was a Kentucky Bourbon Trail. How awesome ;)

    bigFATcook – thanks.

    Sarah – wowowowow! Great idea!

    Denise – thank you.

    Samantha – ha, I get sooo many questions asking about substituting major ingredients that I just didn’t want to go there with this one (it’s sooo good w the bourbon!)

    Bobbie – great tip and thank you!

    Rocky Mountain Woman – right?!?! :)

    Margie L – ;)

    Jacqueline – lucky hubby and co-workers!

    Agata – you’re welcome!

    Carol – what a lovely way to gather. I hope you all enjoy it and keep living life to the fullest xoxo

  31. Lisha says:

    I love your blog! I’ve been checking back regularly and have made a number of your recipes. When I saw this recipe I instantly sent it to my friend, who, with her husband, are HUGE bourbon lovers, and drinkers. Today we finally got together (delays due to Sandy) and baked the cake in a rectangular pan (no pretty bundt pan available). It only took 45 min in the oven. It tasted amazing! And you’re right, it’s a -very- boozy adult cake. Thank you for sharing!

  32. Jill says:

    That’s TPH’s favorite bourbon! I bet that would be his favorite cake. I must hide this blog, as I am not a baker!
    Beautiful wedding shots. I hope the bride is very happy. Love the chicken shot.
    I have the feeling that once you set your mind to anything, you will do it well.

  33. Melora says:

    My boss is a huge bourbon fan, so I suggested to a co-worker (who, unlike me is, unencumbered by a small child cutting into baking time) that she make this cake for his birthday. And lo, she did! We just enjoyed it very much. Thank you so much for posting something so delicious (as usual)! I am also now convinced I should buy a bundt pan…

  34. Cool Cake says:

    Sooo, I just baked this cake to my husband for his birthday yesterday, and it was a huge success! Everyone loved the special taste that the burbon gives to the cake. This recipe is definitely going to my favorite list – Thanks for sharing :)

  35. cake 19 whiskey spiked chocolate cake, the wicked and the damned « Radical Muffin says:

    [...] reduces in half and thickens. Pour into a measuring cup and let cool completely. Stir in another ¾ cup of whiskey. We used a really beautiful golden honey [...]

  36. Anna says:

    Hi! I have made this cake and it is amazing!! My collegues were happy and a little bit drunk) Now I am going to repeat it, and I wonder, will the cake will be ok, if I will make him beforehand a couple of days?

    Thanks!

  37. jenyu says:

    Anna – sorry I didn’t reply sooner! I think this cake is fine for a couple of days. It may start to get a little dry after that.

  38. Liz N. says:

    I finally got around to making this cake…of course when Denver gets slammed with a big snow storm right after Spring arrives! It is everything I wanted and more. I was worried the batter was too thin but of course, it turned out just fine. The cake was done at 55 minutes. I used all Colorado whiskers (Stranahan’s for the cake) and Down Slope in the drizzle. I will make this for my hubby when he comes back to town, as a belated birthday cake. This cake did not disappoint!

  39. One Lick Bourbon Drunk | My Waldo Way says:

    […] If anyone is interested in the gateway recipe that I used for this cake, you can find yourself going down the rabbit hole right here. […]

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