This cake was going to be ice cream. Or popsicles. Something frozen, but definitely something Mint Julep-themed. Then my mom called me up and told me there was a potluck at her work on Friday and would I maybe possibly be making something that she could take with her to impress all her little work friends? (Okay, she didn’t say the part about impressing her little work friends.)
I’m the type of person who loves to help. Against my better judgment, most of the time, actually. I love to help family most of all, and would probably jump through burning hoops over piranha-infested waters to make their lives easier.
And I can’t even swim, so that’s a big deal, yo.
With other people, I have the best intentions of saying no. Like, in my head, I say: Maria. You have too much on your plate right now and what has this person ever done for you anyway? But by that point, my lips have already said, “SURE!” to the complete stranger who has asked me for assistance, advice, etc. I literally helped a woman in Target choose shoes to go with her dress because she had a party coming up and just didn’t know what would go. She didn’t even have the dress with her, she just described it to me.
So I guess you could say I’m a little bit of people-pleaser. Pushover?
Anyway, no mother of mine was going to the work potluck with a plastic tray of cookies from the Kroger down the road. And because my mom needed something she could transport to work, ice cream and popsicles were clearly off the table.
I mulled over Mint Julep Cupcakes for a little while, but I really didn’t want to use extract for flavoring and I have so far been unsuccessful in creating a real mint frosting that I’m proud of (one of my many Try-Try-Again projects). Plus, transporting cupcakes is a pain in the butt and the frosting usually looks all bajankity by the time you get to where you’re going unless you have a couple of those cupcake carriers. And what am I, the prince of a small island nation? Who has the money for that?
I did a search for “bourbon cake” which reminded me of the Kentucky Bourbon Cake from the Vintage Cakes book I’ve owned for a while now. I fuhreaking love that book. It’s obscenely gorgeous. I pined for the Heritage Bundt pan for months because of that specific cake.
I decided to infuse the bourbon with fresh mint leaves, and also the butter for the glaze, and crossed my fingers that the flavor would be strong enough without adding extract. You need to start a day or two in advance to fully let the mint flavor get all up in the bourbon. Luckily for you, you have quite a few days before the Kentucky Derby, which means you have absolutely no excuse to not make this cake in time for large-hat-wearing and watching horses and guys in colorful jackets run around a track.
Because halle-freaking-lujah, this cake. I sliced myself off a sliver so paper-thin not even the most persnickety accountant would notice it was missing. And then I lost my shit over how amazing it is. Natural mint flavor in a buttery, boozy, moist cake. Dead. I texted my mom and said it’s a damn good thing I love her because I wanted to eat the whole thing myself. I mean, what have her coworkers ever done for me, anyway?
- ½ cup Kentucky bourbon, such as Knob Creek or Jim Beam
- 15-20 fresh mint leaves
- Cake Magic
- 3 cups (340 grams) sifted cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 cup (225 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1½ cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (110 grams) packed light brown sugar
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- ¼ cup (60 mL) mint-infused bourbon
- 1 cup (240 mL) buttermilk, at room temperature
- 6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter
- 10-12 fresh mint leaves
- ¾ cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
- ¼ cup (60 mL) mint-infused bourbon
- 1-2 days in advance, combine bourbon and mint leaves in a jar. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes. Pour bourbon through a sieve into a small bowl or measuring cup, pressing the mint leaves against the sieve to get out any juices. Gently wring the mint leaves over the bourbon to release any remaining juices and the essential oils. Place the mint leaves back in the bourbon and return it to the jar to steep for at least 24 and up to 48 hours. When you are ready to make the cake, strain out the mint leaves, catching the bourbon in a liquid measuring cup.
- Place your oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Brush Cake Magic into a 10-cup Bundt pan, making sure to get in all the nooks and crannies really well. (Alternatively, brush the pan with melted butter and then flour it, tapping out the excess flour.)
- Sift cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large mixing bowl. Whisk to make sure all the ingredients are thoroughly combined, then set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until combined after each egg.
- In a large measuring cup, whisk together mint-infused bourbon and buttermilk.
- Add the flour in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until just barely combined after each addition. When the last of the flour has been incorporated, remove the bowl from the mixer and stir a few times by hand with a rubber spatula, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure everything is evenly mixed.
- Pour batter into your prepared Bundt pan, distributing and smoothing out the top with a rubber spatula. Sharply tap the Bundt pan against the counter 2-3 times to make sure the batter gets into the crevices of the pan's design (especially if you are using a more elaborately-designed pan).
- Bake for 40-50 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the cake comes out clean.
- While the cake is baking, start the glaze: In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Crush mint leaves to release their oils, and place them in the melted butter. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for the remainder of the time the cake is in the oven.
- When the cake is finished baking, move it to a wire rack and finish making the glaze. Remove mint leaves from the butter, wringing them out to get all the butter and flavor out of them. Add the granulated sugar and the remaining mint-infused bourbon to the butter and return to medium-high heat. Stir until granulated sugar has dissolved, 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a liquid measuring cup.
- Poke holes all over what will become the bottom of the hot cake (the part that is exposed with the cake still in the pan) with a long wooden skewer. Very slowly pour ¾ cup of the glaze over the bottom of the cake, letting it seep into the holes. (You should have about ¼ cup of glaze remaining.) Let the cake sit for 30 minutes.
- Invert the Bundt onto a serving plate or cake stand. Whack the sides of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen things up*, then lift the pan off of the cake. Reheat the glaze if it has become too solid, then gently brush the cake with the remaining glaze. Cut, serve, and prepare to be worshipped by everyone who eats a slice.
- *I don't know if this really helps anything, but I always do it with Bundt cakes and they come out perfectly, so I trust the system! Be careful if your Bundt pan is thin metal though; you don't want to dent it!