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This Bourbon vanilla cake is made with three layers of moist, bourbon-infused vanilla cake, bourbon caramel sauce and bourbon vanilla buttercream! Such an elegant and tasty dessert that’s perfect for your next event!
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Decadent Vanilla Bourbon Cake with Caramel Sauce
I love adding a little booze to my desserts. It can add so much flavor. Bourbon, especially. From this Bourbon vanilla cake, to my Bourbon Spice Toffee Cake and Bourbon Peach Streusel Cheesecake, there are several amazing options. I also love my Margarita Cake, if you enjoy tequila. They all make awesome desserts for an adult gathering, special occasion or even a 21st birthday.
Just when you thought cake couldn’t get any better, this cake makes it better. Part of what I love about this cake is that the bourbon is really able to shine against the vanilla. Even the caramel sauce has some bourbon in it. The moist, tender layers of vanilla cake are infused with just the right amount of bourbon and frosted with a smooth, creamy vanilla-bourbon buttercream. The subtle vanilla and almost smoky flavor of the bourbon are complimented beautifully by the caramel sauce. So good!
Why You’ll Love This Bourbon Vanilla Cake
Need a reason to hop in the kitchen and get started on this vanilla bourbon cake? I’ve got a few for you. Here they are.
- Unbeatable flavor combo. The subtle sweetness of the vanilla, the richness of the caramel, and the quiet smokiness of the bourbon come together in the perfect marriage of flavors.
- Best of both worlds (butter and oil). I decided to use both butter and vegetable oil in the cake batter. The butter brings a lovely richness to the cake while the oil makes it wonderfully moist.
- A unique buttercream. I used my favorite vanilla buttercream recipe and added a touch of bourbon to it. It’s silky smooth in texture and rich in flavor with just the slightest hint of smokiness from the bourbon.
- Visual appeal. The white buttercream and the drizzle of caramel sauce give this cake a show-stoppingly elegant appearance. It’s the perfect dessert for an engagement party, a bridal shower, or whatever other sophisticated event you have on your calendar.
What You’ll Need
Here’s what you’ll need to make vanilla bourbon cake. Be sure to scroll to the recipe card below for precise measurements.
Bourbon Vanilla cake
- All-purpose flour – Be sure to measure the flour properly. I suggest using a food scale or the spoon and level method.
- Baking powder – Adds rise to the cake to help give it’s fluffy texture.
- Salt – To accentuate the flavors in the cake. Be sure not to leave it out.
- Unsalted butter – The butter should be at room temperature otherwise it won’t cream properly with the oil and sugar.
- Vegetable oil – The oil adds a bit of extra moist to the cake.
- Sugar – Regular granulated sugar is used.
- Vanilla extract
- Eggs – Allow the eggs to come to room temperature before using. They will mix more smoothly and evenly into the batter.
- Milk – The milk should also be at room temperature so that it mixes more easily into the batter.
- Bourbon – I used Maker’s Mark, but feel free to use your favorite Bourbon.
Bourbon Vanilla Buttercream
- Unsalted butter – Start with room temperature butter. Butter that is too cold will give you a lumpy frosting. Butter that is melted will turn into a runny frosting.
- Powdered sugar – For volume and consistency. I use a fair amount of buttercream because I like it to be stiff enough to decorate the way I like. Feel free to cut it down (or cut down the overall amount of frosting), if you like a simpler way of frosting it or just like less frosting.
- Vanilla extract – For flavor.
- Bourbon – Also for flavor. Again, I used Maker’s Mark.
- Salt – You don’t have to add salt, but it does add a touch of flavor and cut down the sweetness just a touch.
- Bourbon caramel sauce – You’ll use this caramel sauce to fill the cake and add elegant drips to its exterior.
How to Make Bourbon Vanilla Cake
Here’s a quick overview of how to make this delicious layer cake. You’ll find more detailed instructions in the recipe card below.
Make the cakes, the caramel sauce, and the buttercream
- Prep. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, line the bottom of 3 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper, and grease the sides.
- Combine the dry ingredients. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Cream. Beat together the butter, sugar, oil, and vanilla extract until light in color and fluffy.
- Add the eggs. Mix in the eggs, one at a time.
- Put it all together. Mix in half of the dry ingredients followed by the milk and bourbon. Mix in the remaining dry ingredients.
- Bake. Divide the batter between the cake pans and bake for 22-25 minutes.
- Cool. Allow the cakes to cool in their pans for a couple of minutes before turning them out onto wire wracks to cool completely.
- Make the bourbon caramel sauce. Follow my recipe below Bourbon Caramel Sauce and allow the sauce to cool to room temperature.
- Make the buttercream. Beat the butter until smooth. Mix in half of the powdered sugar followed by the vanilla, half of the bourbon, and the salt. Mix in the remaining powdered sugar and extra bourbon if the frosting is too thick.
Build the cake
- Flatten. Cut the domes off of the cakes with a large serrated knife.
- Layer. Place the first cake on a serving plate and spread 1/2 cup frosting over the top. Pipe a dam of buttercream around the outer edge of the cake and fill the dam with about 1/3 a cup of Bourbon caramel sauce. Place the second cake on top and repeat. Top with the last cake layer.
- Frost. Frost the outside of the cake.
- Decorate. Use the remaining Bourbon caramel sauce to add a drip to the sides of the cake and to drizzle a circular pattern over the top of the cake. Use the remaining frosting to pipe a border around the top edge of the cake.
Tips for Decorating This Layer Cake
Vanilla bourbon cake is the perfect dessert for any elegant celebration, especially if you decorate it for the occasion. Here are some tips on how to do it.
- Allow the cake to cool. Rule number 1 of decorating a cake is to let the cake layers cool completely before you frost them. If they are still warm, the frosting will slide right off of them.
- Study up. Stop what you’re doing and check out my tutorial for frosting a smooth cake. You’ll learn everything you need to know to get a smooth coat of buttercream on this beautiful dessert.
- Pipe like a pro. After frosting the outside of the cake, you’ll want to pipe a border around its top edge. For this, you’ll need a piping bag. While you can just use a plastic bag with a hole cut in the corner, I recommend using a proper piping bag and fitting it with a fun tip. I like Ateco tip 847.
- Use a squeeze bottle. In order to add a caramel drip to the sides of the cake, I highly suggest putting the bourbon caramel sauce in a squeeze bottle. For more drip techniques, check out my tutorial on how to make a chocolate drip cake (just use caramel instead of chocolate).
Other Helpful Tips
Baking is a science and there are a few simple tips and tricks that you want to keep in mind for the best outcome. Here they come.
- Measure carefully. Pay special attention to the flour. Too much flour will make the cake overly dense and dry and too little won’t give it enough structure. I suggest using the spoon and level method (spoon flour into a measuring cup and level it off with a butter knife) or a food scale.
- Room temperature ingredients. The butter, eggs, and milk in the batter should all be at room temperature. The butter will not cream properly with the oil and sugar if it is too cold and the eggs and milk won’t mix smoothly and easily into the other ingredients if they are too cold, which can lead to over-mixing.
- Don’t skimp on creaming time. When creaming together the butter, oil, sugar, and vanilla do so until the mixture has become fluffy and has significantly lightened in color. It should take 2-3 minutes. This process adds air to the batter, which contributes greatly to the light, fluffy texture of the finished cake.
- Don’t over-mix. When combining the wet and dry ingredients, don’t over-mix. This can cause the glutens in the flour to overdevelop which can give you a tough, dense cake.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl. As you add ingredients and mix them in, scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally. This will help ensure that all of the ingredients make it into the mix. Keep this in mind when making the batter and the frosting.
- Check out my tutorials. This cake is not only stacked and frosted but it also has a filling which requires a little extra finesse. Check out my post on How to Fill and Stack a Layer Cake to learn how to do it.
Can I Prepare This Bourbon Vanilla Cake in Advance?
Yes! Store the fully cooled cake layers in a cake carrier or in separate Ziplock bags (get as much air out as possible) and store them at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. You can also make the frosting up to 4 days in advance and the caramel up to 2 weeks in advance. Store them in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator. When the time comes, allow the cake layers to thaw (if applicable) and bring your buttercream to room temperature. Stack, fill, frost and decorate the cake just as you normally would.
You can also make the whole cake a day or two in advance. Store it in an airtight cake carrier in the fridge. I recommend letting it sit out at room temperature for an hour or so before serving. For more information on proper storage, scroll to the next section.
- Refrigerator. Seal the cake in an airtight cake carrier or wrap it in a double layer of plastic wrap. I like to use toothpicks to prop the plastic away from any decorations. If you already sliced the cake, arrange the slices in a single layer in an airtight container. Store the cake in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- Freezer. Allow the cake to firm up in the freezer for a couple of hours before wrapping the whole thing in a double layer of plastic wrap. Alternatively, arrange slices in a single layer in an airtight container. You can store it in the freezer for up to 3 months. Allow the cake to thaw in the fridge before serving.
This cake is best enjoyed at room temperature. So let it sit on the counter for about an hour before slicing and serving.
More Layer Cake Recipes
I love the creativity that layer cakes allow. You can pretty much pick any cake flavor, any frosting flavor, and any filling and stack them together to make a wonderfully elegant dessert. Here are some of my favorite creations.
- Chocolate Raspberry Layer Cake
- Pumpkin Layer Cake
- Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Layer Cake
- The Best Carrot Cake Recipe
- Hummingbird Cake
- Raspberry Orange Layer Cake
This elegant vanilla bourbon cake is made of 3 layers of moist, bourbon-infused vanilla cake layered with vanilla-bourbon buttercream and bourbon caramel sauce. Delicious!
Bourbon Vanilla cake
- 2 1/2 cups (325g) all-purpose flour (measured properly)
- 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup (168g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 cups (310g) sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp (ml) milk, room temperature
- 6 tbsp bourbon
Bourbon Vanilla Buttercream
- Bourbon caramel sauce
- 3 cups (672g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 12 cups (1380g) powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4–6 tablespoons bourbon
- Pinch of salt
For the cake:
- Prepare three 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper circles in the bottom and grease the sides. Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C).
- Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium sized bowl and set aside.
- Add the butter, sugar, oil and vanilla extract to a large mixer bowl and beat together until light in color and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Do not skimp on the creaming time.
- Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until mostly combined after each. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all ingredients are well incorporated.
- Add half of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix until mostly combined.
- Slowly add the milk and Bourbon and mix until well combined. The batter may look a little curdled, but that’s ok.
- Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until well combined and smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all ingredients are well incorporated. Do not over mix the batter.
- Divide the batter evenly between the cakes pans and bake for 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs.
- Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool for about 2-3 minutes, then remove to cooling racks to cool completely.
- While the cake bakes and cools, make the Bourbon Caramel Sauce and allow that to cool to room temperature.
For the frosting:
- To make the frosting, beat the butter until smooth.
- Slowly add half of the powdered sugar and mix until smooth.
- Add the vanilla extract, half of the Bourbon and the salt and mix until smooth.
- Slowly add the remaining powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Add additional Bourbon, as needed, to get the right consistency of frosting.
To build the cake:
- To put the cake together, use a large serrated knife to remove the domes from the top of the cakes so that they’re flat. These cakes don’t have a large dome, but I like to make sure they’re completely flat.
- Place the first cake on a serving plate or a cardboard cake round.
- Spread about 1/2 a cup of buttercream evenly on top of the cake.
- Pipe a dam of buttercream around the outer edge of the cake, on top of the layer of buttercream you just added. Fill the dam with about 1/3 a cup of Bourbon caramel sauce and spread evenly. After filling the dam, level off any excess. You want the top of the dam to be even with the caramel sauce.
- Add the second layer of cake and another layer of frosting, a dam and Bourbon caramel sauce.
- Top the cake with the remaining layer and frost the outside of the cake. Refer to my tutorial for frosting a smooth cake, if needed.
- Use the remaining Bourbon caramel sauce to add a drip to the sides of the cake, if desired. I also drizzled some sauce in a round circular pattern on top of the cake.
- Use the remaining buttercream to pipe a border around the top edge of the cake. I used Ateco tip 847.
- Store cake in an air-tight container in the fridge. Serve cool, but not super cold. Cake is best if eaten within 3-4 days.
- Serving Size: 1 Slice
- Calories: 1146
- Sugar: 136.2 g
- Sodium: 199.9 mg
- Fat: 55.2 g
- Carbohydrates: 156.1 g
- Protein: 5.3 g
- Cholesterol: 185.2 mg
Keywords: bourbon cake, bourbon vanilla cake, vanilla bourbon cake