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Spice cake was my father’s favorite cake.  My mother had two recipes, a variation on her Sour Cream Cake, which frankly I’ve never had good luck with, and this one.  Which I always have very, very good luck with. Of course, my mother didn’t add the bourbon or the coffee.  She didn’t cook with alcohol…except occasionally adding beer to her pizza dough.  And coffee was to drink.  But, I love spice with bourbon, and coffee works so well with both.  Why not?

I’ve written the recipe the way it was written on the card.  This is a one-bowl, no-mixer cake.  I think this was a Depression era recipe perhaps…she’d had it for years and I think she got it from a neighbor lady, Mrs. Carstens.  They had a large family and not much to work with, but she could cook.  I think my mother cut the recipe in half.

Anyway, I start with the wet ingredients first.  Pour the bourbon into a glass measuring cup, and fill to the one-cup level with sour milk.  If you don’t have sour milk, add 1 tablespoon cider vinegar along with the bourbon and then fill with milk to the one-cup level.  I prefer to use whole milk, but I’m not certain it matters too, too much.  Set that aside for at least 15 minutes.  Preheat the oven and prepare your baking pan.

The dry ingredients go into a large bowl.  I use a whisk to stir them up and lighten the flour a bit.  My mother always added the nuts to the batter, but I don’t.  If you like them, add them here, with the flour.  I prefer to sprinkle them over each portion, when I serve it.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and

pour in the sour milk/bourbon mixture and the oil.  Using a spatula, fold it all together just until it’s combined.

Pour into the pan; it’s a pretty thick batter.  Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean; there is just a little “bit” clinging there.  We didn’t frost cakes too much, as my father was diabetic and we just weren’t that into frosting.  But, if you want, I would make a brown sugar or cream cheese frosting.  I simply sprinkle with powdered sugar.  It is excellent served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or some whipped cream.  I drizzled Bourbon-Caramel Sauce over each portion, because I happened to have some on hand.  It was pretty tasty.  This cake is also damn fine, as is, with a cup of espresso!

TIP:  Today, just because I thought of it, I used 1/4 cup roasted walnut oil and 1/4 cup vegetable oil.  Very nice, subtle nuttiness…which works for The Goddess’s nuttiness!

Espresso-Bourbon Spice Cake

  • Servings: 9-12
  • Difficulty: Easy
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This is the way the recipe was written, so I thought I’d share it as is (more or less!)

Grease and flour a 9×9-inch baking pan.  Set the oven to 350°F.   In a large bowl, place:

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons freshly ground coffee (espresso or Turkish grind)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground Vietnamese cinnamon (I use a bit more)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 3/4 cup chopped, toasted walnuts or pecans (optional)

Give it a good stir, to make certain everything is evenly mixed.  In a glass measuring cup, place:

  • 3 tablespoon bourbon (or rum) and fill to the 1 cup mark with sour (whole) milk

Give it a good stir.  Make a well in the center and pour in the milk and the oil.  Stir until just combined.  Pour into the prepared pan and bake  for 40-45 minutes.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if you want to fancy it up.  Good with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream and berries.

NOTE:  To make sour milk, add 1 tablespoon cider vinegar to the cup, along with the bourbon, and proceed as indicated.  The original recipe did not include the bourbon or the espresso.  You may use 1/4 cup roasted walnut oil and 1/4 cup vegetable oil, if you wish.

Espresso-Bourbon Spice Cake Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2020.  All rights reserved.