Bourbon, Cake, Caramel, Cupcakes

Bourbon Caramel Popcorn Cupcakes

These cupcakes are a love note to two of my favorite flavors: caramel and bourbon.

The guys over at Probably This have such inventive, tasty recipes, and they’re absolutely perfect the way they are. If you’re after a goat cheese buttercream or cookies with heaps of chocolate and rosemary, then they should be your go to guys for A Better Homo and Garden.

However, I am someone who enjoys riffing on a good idea like their brilliant Crunchy Caramel Popcorn Layer Cake with Rye Whiskey Buttercream:

Rye Whiskey? I prefer Kentucky Bourbon.

Layer cake? Let’s make cupcakes for a crowd instead.

Caramel  Cupcakes

yield: 2 dozen caramel cupcakes

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 six-ounce containers vanilla yogurt (not greek)
  • 1 cup salted caramel sauce
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 4 eggs

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line two muffin tins with 24 cupcake liners. Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.


In another large bowl, combine the yogurt, caramel sauce, butter, brown sugar, and vanilla. Mix in the eggs, one at a time just until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix until it comes together.

Honestly, you can mix these cupcakes by hand, and they work wonderfully. Using a 1/4 cup measure or two large tablespoons, fill each cupcake liner a little over halfway full and bake in the preheated oven for 15-18 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.


Let them cool in the pan for about 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Bourbon Buttercream

  • 1 1/2 cups salted butter, softened
  • 5 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted to remove lumps
  • 1/4 cup bourbon*
  • 3-4 tbsp heavy cream

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter for at least 3-5 minutes on medium-high speed, until nearly white in color. Add in 3 cups of the confectioner’s sugar, mixing on low to incorporate. Increase speed and mix on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes longer. Add one cup of confectioner’s sugar, the bourbon and the cream, and mix together, again starting on low before increasing speed to medium.  Add in the remaining cup of sugar gradually, until desired consistency and taste is achieved.

Transfer to a piping bag or spread generously on cupcakes.

*My favorite bourbon that comes in right around the $20 dollar mark is Jim Beam Double Oaked. It offers a hefty flavor that translates well in this frosting and is pleasant to drink on its own (which is always a perk!). Feel free to experiment with your own favorites!

Salted Caramel Sauce

Here’s my recent post to my own Sour Cream Salted Caramel Sauce, or you can always buy a trusted delicious brand. Either way, you’ll need a total of 2 cups to use in the cupcakes and for decoration.





  • Pipe a ring of frosting.
  • Fill the center with caramel.
  • Pipe frosting to cover.
  • Drizzle with a little caramel.
  • Top with caramel popcorn.

Bourbon, Cake, Cupcakes, Pecans, Vanilla

Somedays You Just Need a Win… (Bourbon Baller Cupcakes)

I’ve had some baking failures recently, and those are just no fun to post about: miniature blueberry pies came out with a perfect crust and a charred, congealed filling like dark candle wax; cookies spread; cakes fell; crops died; Trump became president; the world ended.

Okay maybe not all that, but definitely the first and second things. And sadly one of the last ones too.

And so I find myself wanting to bake something I know I can do well; I need a win to rebuild my confidence. And what is confidence in a bottle?


Bourbon can help anyone rebuild their confidence with a few quick swigs! I present to you, dear reader, Bourbon Baller Cupcakes, adapted from and embellished upon this delicious Whiskey Soaked Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake recipe I came across over at the New York Times. This recipe requires Mise-en-place: for everything to be in it’s place before you start creaming and baking.


Bourbon Baller Cupcakes

yield: 28-30 cupcakes

  • 5 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • ¼ cup instant espresso powder
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • boiling water
  • 1 cup bourbon, Four Roses Yellow Label is my preference
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two muffin tins with liners. Personally, I made 24 cupcakes and a dozen miniature cupcakes with this recipe. In the top of a double boiler, melt the unsweetened chocolate. Set aside to cool.

In a 2-cup or larger glass measuring cup, combine the espresso and cocoa powders. Add enough boiling water to reach the 1-cup mark and stir to dissolve the powders. Add the bourbon. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

Cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla extract and melted chocolate.

On low speed, beat in a third of the cocoa-bourbon mixture. Then mix in half of the flour mixture, a third of the bourbon, the rest of the flour, and the last third of the bourbon mixture. Mix well after each addition, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Despite the liquid content, the batter will not be thin.

Divide batter among muffin tins and bake in preheated oven for 18-22 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan before removing cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.


Toasted Pecans

  • 1 cup chopped pecan
  • 24 pecans halves

Spread the chopped pecans on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake t 350 degrees for abut 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and fragrant. Set aside to cool. Can be made in advance (or while the oven is preheating for the cupcakes).

Chocolate Ganache

  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp bourbon

Chop the chocolate. Add the bourbon. Heat the cream in a microwave-safe measuring cup until it begins to just bubble around the sides. Pour over the chocolate. Let the mixture sit for one minute before stirring to melt. If there are unmelted bits of chocolate, heat in the microwave for 5-10 second intervals until melted.

Dip the tops of the cupcakes into melted chocolate. Sprinkle chopped pecans over the wet ganache. Let sit until the chocolate firms up a bit.

Vanilla-Bourbon Buttercream

  • 1  cup butter
  • 3 1/2 – 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 3 tbsp bourbon
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • Cream as needed

Cream butter until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes on medium speed in an electric mixer. Add 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar, bourbon, and vanilla. Cream until combined. Add 1 tbsp cream and bourbon to taste. The frosting may look thin or even broken. Add remaining confectioner’s sugar until desired texture and sweetness is reached.

Pipe frosting over solid chocolate ganache and pecans. Top each cupcake with a pecan half.



Bourbon, Pecans, Pie

Miniature Pecan Pies

The experiment: Miniature Pecan Pies

The pie dough: much like me, it’s filled with vodka, recipe found on my last post.

The filling: pecan pie filling made with bourbon and browned butter.

  • 4-5oz pecans (about 1 1/2 cups halved pecans, or 1 cup chopped)
  • 6 tbsp butter, browned
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup corn syrup
  • 3 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread pecans out on a baking sheet. Bake pecans until lightly browned and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Be careful not to over-bake them as they can burn quickly. Once cool, chop with a knife. I like finely chopped, but not completely pulverized, pecans, so I prefer to run my knife through them rather than use a food processor.


While the pecans cool, prepare a 12-cup muffin tin by spraying with cooking spray. Roll out pie dough to 1/4 in thickness. Cut rounds using a 4-inch cookie cutter. Place the dough rounds into the muffin cups and press the dough up the sides. One single pie dough was the perfect amount for all twelve cups.

In a large bowl, whisk the browned butter, both sugars, salt, and corn syrup. Add in the eggs, whisking to combine until the mixture is homogeneous.

Measure out a heaping tablespoon of the chopped pecans and place in the pie dough-lined cups. Top with the filling until it reaches about 3/4 of the way up the sides.


Bake the miniature pies in the preheated 350 degree oven for about 22-25 minutes until the filling is puffed and the edges of the crust are lightly browned. Remove from the oven. Let cool for 10 minutes before removing pies to a cooling rack to cool completely.


The result: Unfortunately, the bourbon/browned butter didn’t stand up to the sweetness of the filling. They were certainly tasty, but I’d like to try cutting back on the sugar/corn syrup to allow some of those warm flavors to come through.

I had filling left over, but a single pie crust worked perfectly for 12 miniature pies. So for next time: two crusts, two cups of pecans, and one recipe of the filling = 24 miniature pies

Apple, blueberry, Bourbon, Fruit, lemon, Pastry, Pie

In 2017 Give Pies a Chance

I am not one to bake pies, but I’ve been asked to bake some for a dear friend’s wedding in June of next year. And I do enjoy a challenge…

I’m using a pie crust recipe that uses vodka. If you haven’t used a similar recipe before, try it. The alcohol is used because ethanol doesn’t react with gluten the way water does. The result is a softer, easier-to-shape pie dough that still retains a tender, flaky consistency once baked.

You can add some flavoring ingredients to the pie dough, but it works best with small amounts of highly flavorful ingredients. When I tried a brown butter/bourbon variant, the crust worked but the flavors didn’t come through at all. I would recommend items like herbs, citrus zest, and extracts.

Pie Dough

  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 20 tbsp butter, sliced and kept chilled

Combine the water and vodka, and place the mixture in the freezer to chill.

In the bowl of a food processor, add 1 1/2 cups of the flour, salt, and sugar. Pulse 3-4 times to mix the ingredients. Add the 20 tbsp of butter (it seems like a lot, I know).


Pulse the butter for a total of about 15 – 20 seconds. The mixture should go from sandy to looking like wet sand with small clumps of dough, like below:


Add the remaining cup of flour and pulse 5 or 6 times to evenly distribute. You may need to use a silicone spatula to break up some of the clumps of dough. Transfer dough to a large bowl. Sprinkle the vodka and water mixture over the dough and use a silicone spatula to stir and fold the dough together.

Divide the dough in two, flatten each into a disc, wrap them in plastic, and refrigerate for up to two days (or freeze for up to two months).


Future Pie Filling Experiments

I will be using the pie crusts in muffin tins to be able to make miniature pies that are easy to transport. I will update posts later with specific results from some of these experiments, but for now here are some ideas.

Pecan Pie:

  • Browned Butter
  • Toasted pecans
  • Bourbon

Strawberry Kiwi:

  • Strawberry filling
  • Sliced fresh kiwi
  • Strawberry jam bottom

Lemon Blueberry:

  • Blueberry filling
  • Lemon Curd
  • Lemon zest pie crust

Apple Sage Cheddar:

  • Cheddar top crust
  • Apple Cinnamon Filling
  • Sage bottom Crust


Bourbon, Cake, Cereal

Breakfast of Champions Cake


For a close friend’s wedding next June, I’ve offered to bake pies and cakes. I’m still building up my comfort-level with pies, so those posts will come later. For now, I’m thinking we’ll have a couple small-but-tall cakes to contrast the size and shape of the pies. I’m leaning towards three 6-inch tall, 3-layer cakes.

I also thought I could get away with some fun flavor combinations, like cereal and bourbon. What a weird combo, right? But it works quite well in the form of cake, and it adds a certain youthful, brash quality to a wedding.

Breakfast of Champions Cake

Cereal Milk

yield: about 1 1/4 cups cereal milk

  • 2 1/2 cups unsweetened cornflake cereal (I used Wheaties)
  • 2 cups cold whole milk
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spread cereal over a baking sheet lined with parchment, and bake until lightly toasted, about 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature before continuing.

Transfer cereal to a large bowl and pour milk over. Let steep for 20 minutes at room temperature. Strain milk, pressing cereal to release its starchy goodness. Add brown sugar and salt, stirring to dissolve. Store in a mason jar in the refrigerator. This can be made two days in advance.

Cereal Milk Cake

yield: three 6-inch layers

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 six-ounce container of vanilla yogurt
  • 1 cup cereal milk, divided
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1  cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 4 eggs

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and prepare three 6-inch pans: first, coat them in a light layer of butter, and then dust the pans in flour.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In another large bowl, combine the yogurt, 3/4 cup cereal milk, melted butter, both sugars, and vanilla. Whisk until homogenous. Mix in the eggs, one at a time just until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix until it comes together. Divide the batter evenly amongst the three pans and bake for a total of 25-28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Rotate the pans halfway through to ensure even baking.

Let the cakes cool in their pans for about 10-15 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Once cool, use a bread knife to slice off the very top of each layer to create even layers (feel free to nibble on these tasty bits). Spread the remaining 1/4 cup milk over the layers, about 1 tbsp each.

img_20161028_160309Cereal Milk-Bourbon Buttercream

yield: more than enough to frost the outside of the cake as well, but I was going for a certain aesthetic.

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 4 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 3 tbsp bourbon
  • 1/4 cup cereal milk

Cream the butter until it’s light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes on medium speed. Add 3 cups of the confectioner’s sugar and continue creaming until light. Add the bourbon all at once and mix to combine. Add the cereal milk and mix. The frosting may be a bit thin at this stage; that’s perfectly fine. Add the remaining confectioner’s sugar a half cup at a time to get the frosting to a smooth and creamy consistency.



One layer of cake, frost with buttercream, 1/2 cup cereal, another cake layer, frosting, 1/2 cup cereal, final cake layer, frosting all over. I made those tasty toppers in the style of Rice Krispie Treats, but with Wheaties and a little extra marshmallow to give them a coated-in-milk look.


Apple, Bourbon, Cocktail

Bourbon for Apples

Make use of my recent Apple Shrub recipe with this delicious cocktail.


Bourbon for Apples Cocktail

  • 2 oz bourbon*
  • 1.5 oz Applejack or Apple-flavored brandy
  • 2 oz Tart Apple Shrub
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup, optional but a must if you prefer a sweeter cocktail
  • splash club soda

Combine all ingredients except the club soda in a cocktail mixer – or if you’re like me, a mason jar – with 3 ice cubes. Shake thoroughly. Pour into a glass. Top with club soda. Enjoy at the end of a long Monday in Autumn.

*As a Kentuckian, don’t get me started on bourbon or you’re in for a long conversation. For cocktails though, I stick with Four Roses Yellow Label. Jim Beam is a good close second. Other bourbons may be tastier, but their flavor isn’t fully appreciated in a cocktail; Yellow Label and Beam have just the right quality-to-price ratio for my taste.

Apple, Bourbon, Cocktail

“We want… a SHRUBBERY!”

green-appleAlong with speakeasies, shrubs are making a big comeback on the local bar scene. I was recently in Ann Arbor, Michigan where I had the pleasure of visiting The Last Word. Featuring an impressive cocktail menu highlighting a slew of signature cocktails and providing original twists on classic recipes, this place was amazing. It would not be hard for anyone to find a favorite drink there.

Shrubs are, at their most basic,  a drinking vinegar. The following recipe is a great addition to your home bar especially during this time of year: an apple shrub reflects the autumn season quite deliciously. It pairs with applejack brandy and bourbon for a tasty, tart cocktail that will impress you and your friends.

Also, props to you if you got the Monty Python reference in the title.

Tart Apple Shrub

  • 3 granny smith apples, shredded
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar

Combine shredded apples, vinegar, and brown sugar in a container with a lid. Stir thoroughly and place in your refrigerator for anywhere from 4-5 days. Stir once a day or so.

img_20161013_151257By day 5, you should have a wonderful appley concoction. Strain the liquid, using clean hands to press all of the juice from the shredded apple. Place in a jar and keep in the fridge to use in your cocktails.


Once bottled, it pairs well with a variety of liquors. In the mason jar below is a very special concoction the recipe of which I will be posting about next.