The BEST Whiskey Cake

4.73 from 43 votes

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Whiskey cake is one of many New York Times recipes we love. If you’re looking for a dessert that will make your taste buds sing with delight, then this is for you.

A chocolate cake, dusted with powdered sugar and 3 cups of coffee.

This indulgent treat combines the rich, decadent flavor of chocolate with the warmth and kick of whiskey, creating an irresistible dessert. Read on to learn why it’s one of my all-time favorite cake recipes!

About Chocolate Whiskey Cake

This Irish whiskey cake recipe is a no-frosting cake. It combines chocolate, strong coffee, and Irish whiskey. The black pepper and clove undertones support this chocolate cake, almost like a warm kiss with each bite.

I’m a huge fan of great desserts. And anything chocolate, like our chocolate peanut butter truffles and this wonderful chocolate chiffon cake.

But I especially love cake recipes. In fact, it dawned on me recently that they are my favorite thing to make in the kitchen.

This was somewhat of a relief because, for years, others asked me what recipes I enjoyed making the most. Now, I have a solid answer! And it’s a delicious one.

What are my favorites? Well, that’s a loaded question! I can safely say that our upside-down rhubarb cake, this chocolate chiffon cake, and this small chocolate cake recipe all rank very high in my book!

Each of these homemade cakes, including our easy almond cake, are perfect for Mother’s Day or just about any special occasion that involves food.

A big slice of chocolate cake.
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Those who know me best are aware that I overdosed on chocolate at the tender age of five. True story. This incident involved a trip to the emergency room, which sealed my love of chocolate. Forever.

You can make this chocolate whiskey cake in about the time it takes you to run to a bakery and back. Maybe less! The rich combination of flavors will leave everyone thinking that you’re a pastry chef and it took you all day to make it; only we know better. It will be our little secret.

Whiskey Cake Ingredients

Unsweetened cocoa powder and semi-sweet mini chocolate chips make up the backbone of this rustic and easy whiskey cake recipe. The ingredients that bring it to life include:

  • Coffee
  • Irish whiskey
  • Black pepper
  • Ground cloves

Here’s a list of everything you need to make the best whiskey cake at home!

  • Butter: Yummy, creamy butter makes the cake soft and moist.
  • Cocoa Powder: Cocoa powder is made from cocoa beans, adding a rich, chocolatey flavor to the cake. You’ll use this to dust the pan to keep the sides of the cake from sticking after it cools to room temperature.
  • Coffee: Strong coffee makes the cake extra flavorful and delicious. In the words of Forrest Gump, coffee and chocolate go together like peas and carrots.
  • Irish Whiskey: Irish whiskey is a type of alcohol that is added to the cake to give it a special kick. Jameson whiskey, Bushmills, Tullamore D.E.W., Redbreast, Powers, and Kilbeggan. Note: Don’t add more than one half-cup whiskey to this recipe, as it will overpower the other flavors. Like in our brandy chocolate pie, a little bit of booze goes a long way when baking.
  • Granulated Sugar: Granulated sugar is a sweet ingredient that makes the cake taste scrumptious.
  • Light Brown Sugar: Light brown sugar is a type of sugar that has a warm, caramel-like flavor that makes the cake taste even better.
  • All-Purpose Flour: Flour is a powdery ingredient that is used to help the cake rise and stay together.
  • Baking Soda: Baking soda is a special ingredient that helps the cake rise and become fluffy.
  • Fine Sea Salt: Salt is a seasoning that enhances the flavor of the cake and balances out the sweetness. Regular table salt can be used as well.
  • Black Pepper: Black pepper adds a unique, slightly spicy flavor to the cake.
  • Ground Cloves: Cloves will give a warm, sweet taste and add a special touch to this whiskey cake recipe.
  • Eggs: Eggs help the cake rise, become fluffy, and give it a rich, creamy texture. I also recommend that you use room-temperature eggs when baking. This will help ensure that the cake bakes evenly throughout. Here is a great way to quickly bring eggs to room temperature. Finally, I prefer to bake with jumbo eggs or extra-large ones. Always look for cage-free organic eggs if you can find them.
  • Vanilla Extract: Vanilla extract is made from vanilla beans and adds a sweet, delicious flavor to the cake. Always look for real vanilla extract. It’s a bit pricier but it’s so much better than the stuff made in the chemical factory!
  • Mini Semisweet Chocolate Chips: These tiny chocolate chips add a burst of chocolate flavor to the whiskey cake recipe and make it even more irresistible.
  • Powdered Sugar: Powdered sugar is a type of sugar that is very fine and powdery. It can be sprinkled on top of the cake to make it look pretty and add a touch of sweetness. Use a small fine mesh strainer to evenly sprinkle it. This little touch will add a lot of curb appeal to this beautiful cake!

Expert Tip: To add even more beauty, flavor, and decadence to this easy whiskey cake recipe, do this! After it has cooled to room temperature, and before you garnish it with powdered sugar, add a sprinkle of fresh lemon zest and/or some chocolate shavings.

Then lightly dust the whiskey cake with the white powdered sugar. I like to use this zester as it’s compact and gives you long, beautiful strands of bright citrus zest. Use dark chocolate for the optional shavings, and this is a good chocolate shaver to use for this purpose.

Common questions

How do I make this a non-alcoholic recipe?

You can use apple, grape, or cranberry juice instead of whiskey, which will give a slightly different flavor but still work well in the recipe

How do I store this?

Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and place it in an airtight container. You can store the cake at room temperature for up to 3 days.

This will also stay good in the refrigerator for up to a week.
If you want to freeze the cake, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and aluminum foil and place it in a freezer-safe container. You can freeze the cake for up to 2 months. When you’re ready to serve the cake, let it thaw at room temperature for a few hours before unwrapping and slicing.

How do I know when cake is done?

There are a couple of ways to do this.

  1. You can insert a toothpick or a wooden skewer into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, it is done.
  2. Another way is to lightly press the center of the cake with your finger. If it springs back, take it out of the oven.
  3. Look at the edges of the cake. If they are pulling away from the sides of the pan and are golden brown, this is likely done.
  4. Check the temperature of the whiskey cake using an instant-read thermometer like this one. The temperature should read 200°F (93°C) when it is fully baked.

How to Make a Whiskey Cake

(See the full directions in the recipe card below.)

A cake pan, dusted with cocoa.

To make this scrumptious whiskey cake, gather all the ingredients I listed above. Also, you’ll need to have the following kitchen tools to make this:

  1. Start with a preheated oven at 325 degrees. Then, use some butter to grease a 10-inch springform pan and dust it with 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder.
  2. In a small saucepan over low heat, warm up a mixture of coffee, Irish whiskey, 12 tablespoons of butter, and cocoa powder while occasionally whisking until the butter is melted. Add the sugars, whisking until they are dissolved. Remove the mixture from heat and allow it to cool to room temp.
  3. Use a large bowl to whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, black pepper, and ground cloves. In another bowl, whisk together eggs and vanilla. Slowly whisk the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture. Add the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Fold in mini semisweet chocolate chips.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and transfer it to the oven. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean, which should take around 55 to 65 minutes.
  5. Let the cake cool on a wire rack, then remove the sides of the pan. To give it an extra touch of elegance, sprinkle some powdered sugar on top of the cake before serving.

Variations and Substitutions

If you don’t have Irish whiskey in the house, things like Scotch whiskey and bourbon whiskey will work just fine. Jack Daniels, featured in our Jack and Coke recipe, can also be used to make a Jack Daniels whiskey cake.

If you don’t want to use alcohol in this recipe, you can leave it out or use a non-alcoholic substitute. You’ll want to use some vanilla extract or milk mixed with a little water to replace the liquid content.

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A round chocolate cake.

Expert Baking Tip: Remember that oven temperatures may vary, so it’s best to rely on a combination of these tests rather than just one to ensure the cake is fully cooked.

When I first saw this whiskey cake recipe, I knew it wasn’t if I would recreate this dessert but rather when.  Let’s just say I didn’t wait very long. Maybe a few hours.

Don’t wait as long as I did to make this whiskey cake. Life’s too short! Grab the ingredients and turn that oven on!


Pro Baking Tips

  • Use a kitchen scale to measure ingredients. Measuring cups and measuring spoons can vary in size. A kitchen scale is an affordable investment to give you better results!
  • This recipe starts with chocolate right from the beginning. It’s what you will use to dust your cake pan to make sure the cake batter doesn’t stick. Scott does a great job showing you how to dust a cake pan. Be sure to check it out!

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The BEST Chocolate Whiskey Cake Recipe

4.73 from 43 votes
This whiskey cake recipe is a tasty and indulgent dessert. Made with rich cocoa powder, brewed strong coffee, Irish whiskey, and all-purpose flour, this cake is a crowd-pleaser. Topped with a dusting of powdered sugar, it's perfect for any occasion or celebration. Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days at room temperature or up to a week in the refrigerator.
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 20 minutes
Yield: 12 people

Ingredients 

  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, more for pan
  • 85 grams unsweetened cocoa powder, about 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1 ½ cups brewed strong coffee
  • ½ cup Irish whiskey
  • 200 grams granulated sugar, about 1 cup
  • 156 grams light brown sugar, about 1 cup
  • 240 grams all-purpose flour, about 2 cups
  • 8 grams baking soda, about 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • 3 grams fine sea salt, about 3/4 teaspoon
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
  • Powdered sugar, for serving (optional)

Instructions 

  • Heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 10-inch springform pan. Dust with 2 tablespoons cocoa powder.
  • In a medium saucepan over low heat, warm coffee, Irish whiskey, 12 tablespoons butter and remaining cocoa powder, whisking occasionally, until butter is melted. Whisk in sugars until dissolved. Remove from heat and cool completely.
  • In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, pepper and cloves. In another bowl, whisk together eggs and vanilla. Slowly whisk egg mixture into chocolate mixture. Add dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Fold in chocolate chips.
  • Pour batter into prepared pan. Transfer to oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean, 55 to 65 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack, then remove sides of pan. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Video

Notes

My Top Tips for Making a Whiskey Cake from Scratch
  • Make sure your ingredients are at room temperature: Before beginning your cake recipe, make sure your ingredients are at room temperature. This will allow them to mix together more easily and create a smoother batter. Cold ingredients can also cause the cake to bake unevenly.
  • Don’t overmix the batter: When adding the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, be careful not to overmix the batter. Overmixing can result in a tough and dense cake. Instead, mix until just combined, then fold in the chocolate chips.
  • Don’t overbake it:  Overbaking can result in a dry and tough cake. To avoid this, check your cake a few minutes before the recommended baking time is up. Insert a toothpick or cake tester into the center of the cake, and if it comes out clean, the cake is done. If there is still batter on the toothpick, let the cake bake for a few more minutes before checking again.

Nutrition

Calories: 460kcal, Carbohydrates: 59g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 21g, Saturated Fat: 12g, Cholesterol: 72mg, Sodium: 304mg, Potassium: 291mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 36g, Vitamin A: 420IU, Calcium: 45mg, Iron: 3.4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @plattertalk or tag #plattertalk!
Dan updated from the original post of March 9, 2016.
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Dan & Scott split their time between Wisconsin and Southwest Florida and are dads to six boys. Good food runs through their veins, and they love showing others how to cook easy recipes.

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4.73 from 43 votes (29 ratings without comment)

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50 Comments

  1. 3 stars
    I have been wanting to make this cake for a really long time! The batter, like some other folks said, is very runny, (like soup). I added another 1/2 cup of flour and ended up having to bake it for 1.5 hours and it was still a little soft at the bottom. I used the Irish Whiskey “Writers Tears” but the cake overall ended up tasting like bananas. My partner thought so too. I guess thats what happens to the whiskey once its baked in. Kind of strange. I was hoping this would turn out as amazing as everyone else said theirs did and I had high hopes for it. It was just okay.
    The details on how to not have your cake stick to the pan was helpful though, my cake slid right now. I used a spring-form pan, cut out the parchment paper and fit it into the bottom, then sprayed PAM on it and put in the 2 tbsp of cocoa.

  2. Made this today for a little catch up with some friends tomorrow, they have had their wedding cancelled like so many others due to covid so I am going to decorate with their names on top in icing sugar!
    I also made the gluten free version because sadly I cannot eat wheat, and it has come out lovely. I used half a tea spoon of xanthan gum too if anyone wants to make the GF version.

  3. Hi …do I need to use unsalted butter or would salted work too ? Also do we really have to use the cloves and the pepper ?
    I love baking and can not wait to try this recipe
    Also I have regular unsweetened cocoa … we Donot get too many options in India 😄

    1. You can use salted butter and feel free to season this cake with either pepper and cloves, or just one of them. If I were going to choose one over the other, I would recommend the cloves! Thanks for the excellent question and we can’t wait to hear how you enjoy this special cake recipe!

      1. 4 stars
        Baked this cake (without the pepper and cloves) for my father in laws 75 th birthday 🥳 I used 2 chocolate flavored Nespresso pods to make the coffee brew and used a 10 year malt whiskey
        The cake turned out delicious and moist but it was dense but I guess that’s what the recipe says
        Next time will add a chocolate ganache to make it gooey
        Thanks for the great recipe

  4. 5 stars
    Made this for my husband’s birthday and it turned out DELICIOUS. I left out the black pepper and cloves, but the flavor was amazing. Even better after a day in the fridge! I topped mine with a dark chocolate ganache.

  5. Could I make this a vanilla coffee whiskey cake? I know cocoa is one of the main ingredients but we’re stuck inside the house and the only ingredient I don’t have is cocoa! Maybe I could use the food processor on the chocolate chips or melt them them into the coffee/whiskey mixture?

  6. I made a half recipe for myself a week ago and tomorrow I will make it again for friends, to help us through a stormy winter. Tomorrow we will pair it with whipped cream and red wine. When I made it the first time I used some random cocoa powder I had in the cupboard. For the cake tomorrow I bought new cocoas, both plain cocoa and Dutch processed cocoa. That led to much refresher research on when to use each, and pairing each with it’s most appropriate rising agent, namely baking soda for regular cocoa and baking powder for Dutch processed. This brings me to my question. Your recipe indicates simply “unsweetened cocoa” which makes me think regular, not Dutch. Also your rising agent is baking soda which matches regular cocoa. But there is a link in your recipe to Amazon where they are selling Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa, which happens to be Dutch processed! I’m considering splitting the baby, by using half of each. The cake was perhaps a little heavier than it could be and I may cut back on the soda and add some baking powder. There is plenty of acid in the recipe already (coffee and whiskey), so less soda shouldn’t hurt in any case. Any words of advice?? Thanks, Patty

    1. Patty, first, what a great way to deal with winter; I like your style! Second, it sounds like you have indeed been doing a lot of reading on that matter. I would go with splitting the cocoa. As I recall I don’t believe this cake is, by nature, going to be on the lighter side in terms of density, making it even more suitable for a stormy winter and red wine. Thanks so much for the wonderful questions and insight.