How to Make Bourbon Cake Recipe

Learn how to make a bourbon cake recipe. This cake is sometimes called the Kentucky Derby cake and is from Kentucky where the people enjoy eating a variety of bourbon recipes. As with most alcohols such as bourbon and beers, many recipes will emerge from these areas where the alcohol is produced which include these ingredients in the recipes.

Bourbon cakes are commonly found in my home state of Ohio. Bourbon is a type of American whiskey and most of it is being produced in distilleries in Cincinnati. This is about fifty miles from where I grew up and also not very far from Churchill Downs, the site of the Kentucky Derby and other great events. Learn how to make bourbon cake recipe from this area and it is generally served during the Kentucky Derby as well as throughout the year.

When I learned how to make bourbon cake recipes I included them among my great cake recipes. Fruit and nut recipes like this fit well into the holiday cooking and this one has the added flavors of the spices. Bourbon has the flavors of caramel, honey, fruit, floral, vanilla and spices which enhance the flavors in this fruitcake recipe. More tastiness is added by dripping the bourbon syrup over the baked cake. All this is why I have included this cake in my Christmas cake recipes.

NOTE: The MINT JULEP is the historical traditional drink of the Kentucky Derby. It is made with bourbon, mint and sugar syrup.


  • 1 ½ Cups raisins
  • 1 ¼ Cup bourbon
  • 4 Cups flour
  • 2 Teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 Teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 Teaspoon ground mace
  • 1 ½ Cups butter
  • 2 ¼ Cups packed brown sugar
  • 6 Eggs
  • 4 ½ Cups chopped pecans
  • 1 Cup chopped candied cherries
  • 1 Cup chopped candied pineapple
  • 1 ½ Cups orange marmalade

Preheat oven to 300 F Degrees

Combine the raisins and the 1 ¼ Cups bourbon and let set for 1 hour. Drain the raisins and save the bourbon.

Grease a 10 inch tube pan. Line the bottom and sides with strips of heavy brown paper and then grease the paper.

Combine the flour, baking powder, nutmeg and mace. Beat the butter and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time beating well after each.

Add the saved bourbon and the flour mixture alternately to the creamed mixture, beating well after each addition.

Turn batter into a very large bowl and add the raisins, pecans, cherries, pineapple and orange marmalade. Stir with a large spoon until all is well blended.

Spoon batter into prepared pan and bake for 3 to 3 ½ hours or until pick comes out clean.

Cool cake for a few minutes and remove from the pan; cool to warm and add following syrup.

BOURBON SYRUP (for bourbon cake recipe)

  • ½ Cup butter
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • ½ Cup bourbon

Melt butter and sugar in a saucepan. Stir in the bourbon and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and let liquid set on the burner for three minutes. Cool until warm. Pierce top of cake and drip syrup over cake until it is all soaked in. When cake is cold, wrap in clear plastic wrap and refrigerate for a week.

The next bourbon cake recipe is my favorite. The flavor is fabulous and I do not even like alcohol taste!  It is a very large cake and makes a pretty presentation for special events like the Kentucky Derby.

NOTE: You need a large size about 16 cups) SOLID bottom tube pan because the batter leaks through the bottom cracks into your oven. If you place foil under the pan to keep the oven clean, the heat is not able to circulate up the tube for the baking thus taking much longer to bake.


how to make a kentucky derby bourbon cakeHow to Make a Kentucky Derby Bourbon Cake
  • 2 ¼ Cups packed brown sugar
  • 2 Cups granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ Cups softened butter
  • 6 Eggs
  • 5 ½ Cups sifted flour
  • ¼ Teaspoon salt
  • 1 Teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 ½ Cups chopped pecans
  • 2 Cups Kentucky Bourbon

Preheat oven to 300F degrees; grease tube pan liberally with solid shortening.
Combine two sugars in a bowl; stir to blend making sure no lumps are in the brown sugar.
Place butter in a very large bowl (at least 18 cups).
Sift flour and measure into another bowl; sift again with salt and nutmeg.
Place eggs in another bowl; measure pecans and Bourbon in separate bowls.
TO MIX cream butter with mixer; add about half of the sugar mix and beat until fluffy and light.
Beat eggs with mixer until light lemony color; beat in remaining sugar mix until well blended.
Combine egg sugar mix with the butter sugar mix and beat until well blended.
Add flour mix to the creamy mixture alternating with the Bourbon.
Blend in the pecans; spoon batter into prepared tube cake pan.
Bake 1 ½ to 1 ¾ hours or until cake shrinks slightly from the sides of the pan.
NOTE: My cake rises up over the brim so you cannot see if it shrinks from the sides. Use a cake tester in the middle going as deep as possible. If the cake has any crumbs sticking to the pick, bake it longer.
After removing from the oven allow it to cook 15 minutes, and then turn it out on rack to cool completely.
NOTE: Bourbon cake improves with age. Wrap securely and store in the refrigerator.
OPTIONAL: Serve with Bourbon sauce below.

kentucky derby bourbon cake recipesKentucky Derby Bourbon Cake Recipe


kentucky bourbon dessert sauceKentucky Bourbon Sauce

I show the above Bourbon cake recipe with the following sauce.  This sauce has a STRONG flavor of bourbon. If you like Kentucky Bourbon, you will love this sauce on everything; ice cream, cake, gingerbread, etc. If you don’t care for the flavor, the above cake recipe really needs nothing added; the flavor is already great. This recipe should be made ahead and set in the refrigerator for the flavors to blend.

  • 1 Cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 Cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Cup water
  • 1 Cup strawberry preserves
  • 1 Cup chopped pecans
  • 1 Orange
  • 1 Lemon
  • 1 Cup Kentucky Bourbon

Prepare citrus by removing the rind with a potato peeler; cut into small pieces and set aside.
Remove sections of citrus and cut into small pieces; DISCARD WHITE MEMBRANE.
Combine sugars with water and cook until syrup reaches 240F degrees.
Remove from heat; stir in preserves, pecans, citrus fruit and rinds and Bourbon.
Makes 1 quart; keeps in the refrigerator indefinitely.