Bourbon Butterscotch Cake
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Mixing butter, sugar, and bourbon in this cake is like creating boozy liquid gold and what the absolutely delicious Bourbon Butterscotch Sauce is made of. The sauce is added to the buttercream frosting as well as poured over the top of the cake as a finishing touch. The cake is also wonderfully flavored with bourbon and a hint of nutmeg, a very nice flavor combination.

Tip: Both the cake and the sauce can be prepared the day before to make final cake assembly quicker, a chilled cake is easier to work with and there are less crumbs when it is cut or handled. Once the baked cake is completely cooled, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
Recipe type: Dessert | Butter Layer Cake | Butterscotch Cake | Bourbon Cake
Serves: 8 to 10 Servings
Small amount of vegetable shortening and flour for preparing pan
Cake Batter:
  • 2¼ cups sifted cake flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup buttermilk (preferably whole buttermilk)
  • ¼ cup bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
Bourbon Butterscotch Sauce:
Tip: this recipe makes about 1¾ cup. ½ cup will be used in the buttercream and ½ to ¾ cup will be used for the topping. The remainder of the sauce may be refrigerated and used as you desire.
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • ½ cup whipping (heavy) cream, room temperature
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons bourbon
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Bourbon Butterscotch Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/16 teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup cooled Bourbon Butterscotch Sauce
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare two 8 inch round layer cake pans; lightly grease the pans with shortening and dust with flour. Tip: to make baked cake easier to remove from pan, lightly grease the pan, line with parchment paper, and then lightly grease the top of the parchment paper and dust with flour.
Cake Batter:
  1. In a medium-size mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg; sift or whisk together to mix. Set aside.
  2. In a medium-size mixing bowl, stir the buttermilk, bourbon, and vanilla together. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Tip: To cream, start by placing the butter in the bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed begin by beating the butter about 1 minute until it is smooth and light in color. With the mixer still on medium speed, slowly add the granulated sugar to the butter, either one tablespoon at a time, or in a very slow steady stream, taking from 2 to 3 minutes to add all of the sugar, then add the brown sugar one or two tablespoons at a time, taking an additional 3 to 4 minutes, beating until the butter and sugar are fully incorporated and the mixture is a light, or pale color, with a fluffy texture. While adding the sugars, stop the mixer occasionally to scrape the mixture off the paddle and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula so the mixture blends evenly.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, beating until thoroughly mixed.
  5. With the mixer on low speed, add about one third of the flour mixture, mix just until the flour is almost completely blended. Scrape the bowl down, and add about one half of the buttermilk mixture, blending just until mixed. Scrape the bowl down again and continue alternating with the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture, ending with the last portion of the flour, and stirring just until blended.
  6. Bake: Spoon the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the surface with a small offset spatula or the back of a large spoon. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until a long toothpick, wooden skewer, or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Tip: 32 minutes bake time was just right in my oven.
  7. Remove from oven and place pans on a wire cooling rack to cool for 10 to 15 minutes then remove cake from the pans and place the cake on the wire cooling rack to finish cooling.
Bourbon Butterscotch Sauce:
  1. Tip: The sauce can be prepapred the day before and refrigerated until ready to use. Bring to room temperature before using in this recipe.
  2. In a medium size heavy saucepan; combine brown sugar, water, and corn syrup. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Stir gently to avoid splashing the mixture onto the sides of the pan. Use a pastry brush to wash down the sides of the pan to remove any stray granules of sugar. Increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil, without stirring, until the syrup reaches a temperature of 325 degrees F, a light caramel stage, using a candy or instant read thermometer to gauge the temperature. Immediately remove pan from the heat. Let stand about 1 minute to let the bubbling subside. Be careful, the caramel is extremely hot and will cause serious burns if you touch it. Tip: Heating the sugar mixture to 325 degrees is called a light caramel stage. Using brown sugar in this recipe will make the mixture look deceptively dark, but don’t worry this is normal.
  3. Add the whipping cream and stir until combined. Be careful as the mixture will bubble up vigorously. Add the butter and stir until thoroughly combined. Tip: if any caramel mixture is stuck to the bottom of the pan, place the pan on low heat and stir until the caramel liquefies and blends with the butter and cream. Remove from the heat.
  4. Add the bourbon and vanilla, stir until combined.
  5. Let cool completely. Sauce will thicken slightly as it cools. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Bourbon Butterscotch Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  1. In a large bowl of an electric stand mixer combine egg whites, sugar, and salt; place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Using a wire whisk, whisk constantly by hand until the mixture is hot, about 3 to 5 minutes. Tip: the mixture should reach about 130 degrees using a candy or instant read thermometer to gauge the temperature, or feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips. Remove from heat.
  2. Attach the bowl to the electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium high speed for 5 to 7 minutes or until the mixture forms a thick fluffy meringue and is cool. Tip: Touch the meringue and make sure it has cooled to room temperature. Also the outside of the bowl should feel cool to the touch.
  3. Stop the mixer, remove the whisk and attach the paddle. With the mixer on medium speed add the butter, about 2 tablespoons at a time and mixing 20 to 30 seconds after each addition. While adding the butter, stop the mixer occasionally to scrape the mixture off the paddle and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula so the mixture blends evenly. Add the vanilla and room temperature Bourbon Butterscotch Sauce and continue beating until the Buttercream is thick and smooth, about another 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Buttercream should be used immediately, or refrigerate or freeze until needed.
  1. Using a long serrated kitchen knife, split each cake into 2 horizontal layers.
  2. Reserve about ¼ cup of the buttercream to create a pearl finish around the bottom of the cake.
  3. Place one of the bottom halves of the layers on a cake plate. Using an offset spatula spread about ¾ cup buttercream over the layer. Repeat with the next two layers. Place the last cake layer on top.
  4. Crumb coat the cake by covering the sides and top of the cake with a thin layer of the buttercream. Refrigerate the cake until the crumb coat is firm, about 30 minutes. Tip: the crumb coat is a thin layer. Don’t worry if the cake shows through in places, it will be covered again with the final layer of buttercream.
  5. When the crumb coat is set, cover the sides and top of the cake with the remaining buttercream.
  1. Frosting Finish: Start with a smoothly frosted cake sitting on top of a turntable. To finish the sides of the cake use an icing comb with a serrated edge to go around the sides of the cake to create horizontal stripes. Gently press the edge of the icing comb into the buttercream and while holding the icing comb still, rotate the cake by spinning the turntable one full turn until the ends of the stripes meet. To finish the top of the cake use an offset spatula to smooth the top and top edge in preparation for topping with the Bourbon Butterscotch Sauce.
  2. Place the reserved ¼ cup buttercream into a pastry bag with a small round tip. Pipe two rows of dots around the base of the cake. I used a size 8 round tip.
  3. Refrigerate the cake at least 30 minutes to set and chill the buttercream before adding the Bourbon Butterscotch Sauce.
  4. Bourbon Butterscotch Sauce Topping: Sauce should be room temperature or warmed very slightly in the microwave so it is spreadable. Starting with about ½ cup, slowly pour the sauce onto the center of the top of the cake. Use an offset spatula or back of a spoon to gently spread over the entire top and allow the sauce to drip over the edges. Use and additional ¼ cup sauce if needed to achieve the amount of drips you want. Refrigerate cake to slow the drips but the drips will tend to continue until thoroughly chilled.
  5. Refrigerate cake until ready to serve. Refrigerate leftovers.
Adapted from Huff, Tessa, Layered, Stewart Tabori & Chang, New York, 2016
Recipe Notes
Pan: Two 8" Round Layers Pan Prep: Greased and floured Oven Temp: 350° Storage: Cover and refrigerate

Help: Cake Hints and Tips

TheBakingPan Recommends: The BEST instant read thermometer I’ve used for cooking and baking; the ThermoWorks Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen Thermometer is incredibly fast, ThermoWorks Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapenaccurate, and well worth the investment. I use my Thermapen Thermometer for checking room temperature ingredients, tempering chocolate, baking bread, making pastry creams, sugar syrup, caramel, and candy, cooking meats and fish, and deep frying. Thermapen Thermometer available here.
Recipe by at