Cooking with Kay: A real blue-ribbon cake recipe

By Kay Harrod Published:

For those of you who either attended the Franklin County Fair and Horse Show or read the results from the baking competitions in the Spectrum section of Sunday’s State Journal, you know there were mouth-watering desserts and other dishes that took home top prizes.

I’m always in need of a new cake recipe and love trying them. When Laurel Dailey posted on Facebook she was entering a Chocolate Bourbon Cake, it immediately made my mouth water. Two things I love together are chocolate and bourbon.

It was fun reading the posts of the young mother as she explained to her friends her preparation and talked of her excitement of entering, even posting she would share the recipe after the contest – she was taking no chances her recipe might be replicated beforehand. I love a good competitor.

She first went on a search for the perfect Bundt pan – it needed to be one with a 10-cup capacity. I admired that her first stop was at New Leash on Life, the Humane Society’s thrift store, on Broadway.

Why do we think everything “has” to be new? I am definitely a believer of reclaim, repurpose and recycle. I have found some great finds at the Humane Society’s shop on the corner of Broadway and Wilkinson Street and at the St. Vincent DePaul’s thrift store off Wright Street.

Plus, in shopping these stores, we are benefiting two wonderful groups that support the needs of both animals and our fellow man. And don’t forget the Goodwill retail store behind McDonald’s on Versailles Road.

I also find many of the older mixing bowls and pans for the likes of making angel food cakes are heavier and better quality than what is made today.

But back to the fair.

Dailey’s Cake took the Blue Ribbon in the “Other Cakes” category. Actually, there is only one type of cake that has its own category – Jam Cake. I’m not sure why, but perhaps it’s because it may be made from freshly preserved blackberries or jam.

But it was one happy young lady who again posted on Facebook that she had won. But she reneged on her promise to her followers and no recipe came.

I emailed Dailey and she quickly responded saying she was happy to share her recipe with SJ readers. I am eager to try it and think my friends and family who are chocolate lovers are going to love it.

All the notes in the recipe are suggestions Dailey makes that she learned in preparing her award-winning cake.


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease (butter) and flour large Bundt pan (10 cup capacity).

Note: Pam and other cooking sprays are not recommended, as they will leave an unappealing film on the cake.

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (NOT melted!)

2 cups, minus 2 T, granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1 T pure vanilla extract

1 t baking soda

6 oz HIGH QUALITY dark chocolate (70% cocoa or higher), melted

½ cup instant espresso (can use instant coffee if you must)

2 T unsweetened cocoa powder

½ t sea salt or fine kosher salt

2/3 cup GOOD bourbon (I used Woodford Reserve)

2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

¾ cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Combine espresso powder and cocoa powder in a two-cup measuring cup, then add enough hot water to the mixture until it reaches the one-cup line. Mix until coffee/cocoa mixture is dissolved. Add bourbon to mixture along with salt. Stir to combine well. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Beat butter on low setting until fluffy, about 2 minutes; add sugar. Blend well. Add eggs one at a time, blending well in between each egg. Beat in vanilla, baking soda and melted chocolate.

With mixer on low speed, add a third of the bourbon/coffee/cocoa mixture. Blend until liquid is absorbed, then mix in one cup of flour. Repeat process, alternating with bourbon mixture and flour, ending with bourbon mixture. Blend until all ingredients are well incorporated.

Gently fold in pecans and chocolate chips.

Pour mixture into prepared Bundt pan, taking care to level off the top. Bake for one hour and 10 minutes or until tester inserted into the center of cake comes out clean. (Note: When using a Bundt pan, the center is halfway between the outer edge and the center ring.)

Cool 15 minutes on wire rack, remove from pan and allow to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with whipped cream or vanilla bean ice cream.

Dailey says if you allow it to rest, this cake tastes better a day or two later, as the bourbon has time to mellow. If you’re making it for guests, make it a day or two in advance and keep covered.

Do not put the cake in the fridge!

She followed up with an email with this advice: “You should also note that this cake is very dense and fudgey, but not overly rich since it is made with darker chocolates. When served as recommended, it very closely resembles the taste of bourbon chocolate candy (aka Bourbon Balls).”

For any of you that also won Blue Ribbons with your culinary presentations and would be gracious enough to share with our readers, please email me at


Readers often send me helpful hints, and I have two this week that I want to share with you. I’m definitely going to make the tip about the egg whites my go-to ointment for burns.


When you get your berries home, prepare a mixture of one part vinegar (white or apple cider probably work best) and 10 parts water. 

Dump the berries into the mixture and swirl around. Drain, rinse (if you want – the mixture is so diluted you can’t taste the vinegar), and pop in the fridge.

I’ve used this method before. The vinegar kills any mold spores and other bacteria that might be on the surface of the fruit. Raspberries will last a week or more, and strawberries go almost two weeks without getting moldy and soft. Now when you find those pricey little gems in abundance or on sale, know they’ll stay fresh for as long as it takes you to eat them.


The humble egg white appears to be the solution to burns, according to an email I received.

Immediately rinse the burned area, no matter how large, in cold water. Then, depending on how large an area you need to cover, separate an egg white or whites from the yolks.

Dip or cover the affected area with the egg white. Obviously, if the burn is severe, seek immediate medical attention.

I am always burning my arm on the racks of the oven and call the tracks my war room cooking scars, so you can bet I am going to try this suggestion the next time that happens. The article suggests even reapplying the whites several more times during the day.

According to the piece I received, egg white is a natural collagen and not only removes the sting of the burn, but helps restore the burned skin.

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  • Thanks Kay; for this wonderful article; and for directing folks to shop at their local thrift and salvage stores! One thing though...I DID provide the recipe, but only to people who asked directly! :)