There are cakes for children, and there are cakes for adults. Cakes for children more often than not involve some sort of chocolate, and are frequently adorned with sprinkles or, well, more chocolate. They are simple affairs, lacking in surprise, as per the preferences of children when it comes to their food, but nearly always enjoyable.
Cakes for adults are not simple. They can share similarities with cakes for children, mind you, oftentimes also involving chocolate, but they might also involve things that children tend to greet with wrinkled noses and tightly shut mouths. Things like coconut, glazes, nuts, soaking syrups, creams, custards, fruits, or booze. Whereas cakes for children are generally seen as favorable by adults, cakes for adults are most often shunned by children.
This is a cake for adults. Made to celebrate a friend’s birthday, the cake was decided upon as a primarily adult-centric treat, being as though it features not only bourbon and chopped nuts, but also a hefty does of bittersweet and child-repellant molasses. Rich and moist, this is a cake that is best eaten in small, thin slices, it being not only incredibly buttery and indulgent, but also highly satisfying. You can, of course, eat more than one slice—you can eat as many slices as you please, this being a cake for adults, and adults, as we all know, are perfectly capable of knowing their own limitations, am I right?—but I would be lying if I told you that I, unofficial president of the Cake Appreciators Coalition, was able to take in more than one slice of this decadent wonder.
It’s like a self-policing dessert, really. Its sheer level of deliciousness and fulfillment, heightened by the sweet and crunchy layer of nuts nestled within each slice, and taken nearly over the top by the thick and intense bourbon and molasses glaze on top, is exactly what makes you unable—though not unwilling—to tackle more than once slice at a time.
But not more than once slice total, mind you. For if you miraculously have any of this cake leftover from its initial presentation, a day’s digestion will certainly facilitate your ability to greet it once more with great welcome.
Pecan-Bourbon Bundt Cake
An absolutely perfect recipe from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book
In reality, this cake was actually enjoyed by several children who did not have to be at all coerced into eating it. However, since the thick glaze on this cake contains bourbon (as does the cake itself, but since the cake is baked, the alcohol content in the bourbon is evaporated), I recommend removing the glaze from each slice of cake before it gets served to a child. While it is true that the small amount of bourbon included in the glaze most likely won’t have any ill effects on a child, I like to err on the side of caution.
1 cup (4 ounces) pecans, toasted and chopped fine
½ cup packed (3 ½ ounces) light brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 cups (15 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup buttermilk, room temperature
¼ cup light molasses
¼ cup bourbon (I used whiskey this time, and it was perfectly delicious)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 ¼ sticks unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened
1 ¾ cups (12 ¼ ounces) granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1 ¾ cups (7 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 tablespoon light molasses
1 tablespoon water
Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Thoroughly butter and flour a 12-cup bundt pan.
In a small bowl, toss together all of the ingredients for the nut filling, then set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, molasses, bourbon, and vanilla.
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-6 minutes. One at a time, beat in the eggs and the egg yolk. Beat until combined, about 1 minute.
Reduce the mixer speed to low, and beat in one-third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the buttermilk mixture. Repeat with remaining half of the flour mixture, followed by the remainder of the buttermilk mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed, then add the last of the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated.
Scrape half of the batter into the prepared bundt pan, smooth the top, then sprinkle evenly with the pecan filling. Scrap the remaining batter over the pecans and smooth the top. Gently tap the bundt pan on the counter to settle the batter.
Bake cake on the lower-middle rack of the oven for 50-60 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through cooking. The cake will be done when a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.
Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then flip it out onto a wire rack. Let the cake cool completely, at least 2 hours, until applying the glaze.
Once the cake has almost completely cooled, make the glaze by whisking all of the glaze ingredients together until smooth. Allow the glaze to sit until thickened, about 25 minutes. Drizzle the glaze over the top and sides of the cake, then allow the glaze to set before serving, at least 25 minutes.