Kentucky Bourbon Butter Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Salted Caramel Sauce

Celebrate derby day with an impressive Kentucky Bourbon Butter Cake.  A slight departure from the original Bourbon Butter Cake, this version is layered with cream cheese frosting and salted caramel sauce.

Bourbon Butter Layer Cake on a cake stand with caramel sauce in a jar.


It’s that time in my life where I think that maybe…we can eat cake anytime we want. Cake for breakfast, lunch or dinner, it’s totally acceptable to me now. Cakes drenched in bourbon….also, totally acceptable right now. Bourbon lovers, this is my gift to you. Kentucky Bourbon Butter Cake is like a dream dessert blanketed with cream cheese frosting and drizzled with caramel sauce. Even non-bourbon lovers swoon over this layer cake.



Traditional Kentucky Butter Cake is made in a bundt pan.  But that just seems so plain, this cake desserts layers….layers of buttery cake, caramel sauce,  the pecans, the caramel sauce.  

It’s very much like a pound cake except it doesn’t have the 1:1:1 ration of a traditional pound cake. And a Kentucky Butter Cake recipe calls for a sugary syrup that’s poured over the cake which makes it incredibly moist and tender. I used that same technique for my Bourbon Butter Cake but we use bourbon in that cake soak.

Don’t be intimated with all the swirls and crushed nuts…they’re hiding things.  Like some of the crumb that still peaked through my frosting…even though I put a crumb layer on the cake first.  And the fact that I still haven’t perfected the perfectly smooth top so I added a swirl of caramel sauce.  

overhead view of a Kentucky butter cake with cream cheese frosting and salted caramel with pecan on top.


Make the layer cake by whisking together the dry ingredients. Set aside.

Beat the sugar and butter until fluffy.

Add in the eggs, beating in one at a time.

Whisk the bourbon and cream.

Add the dry ingredients and bourbon mixture to the mixer beating to combine.

Divide the cake batter between two cake pans and bake.

Make the cake soak and brush on the cooled cakes.

Cake soak being brushed on a layer cake with a pastry brush.

Make the frosting and the caramel sauce.

Frost the cake and drizzle with the caramel sauce.

Garnish with pecans.

Chill and serve.

Slice of layer cake being served


You can make the entire cake up to 48 hours in advance and store in the refrigerator up to 30 minutes prior to serving.

Or you can make the cake layers, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 2 months.

Thaw the cake layers at room temperature before assembling the cake according to the instructions.

Slice of Kentucky Bourbon Butter Cake on a white plate.

I also like to make my cream cheese frosting (we use this recipe for just about everything) and the caramel sauce up to a week in advance. It’s fairly simple to pull together but when you plan ahead, this cake is a cinch to whip up.


The best news about this Kentucky Bourbon Butter Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Salted Caramel Sauce is that it tastes ridiculous.  Totally bakery quality but you can take pride knowing you made this two layer cake all on your own.

I credit the rich flavor to the butter used.  Make sure you find the best butter you can, there are several varieties available in most grocery stores these days.  A nice grass fed butter will lend the richest flavor to your cake batter.

Slice of butter cake on a white plate with a bite taken out of it.



If you love baking this Kentucky Bourbon Butter Cake, you will also enjoy making this Funfetti Birthday Cake inspired by MilkBar! But it’s not as hard as it looks. Or try our favorite Carrot Cake….you can’t beat a classic and this uses the same Cream Cheese Frosting.

We also love this Apple Pie Layer Cake for something a little different during the fall and winter months. Layers of cheesecake filling, apple pie and Vanilla cake….I mean, it’s pretty amazing.


Kentucky Bourbon Butter Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Salted Caramel Sauce

A southern classic, this Kentucky Bourbon Butter Cake is a labor of love. It takes some time but you will be rewarded with the most amazingly moist cake ever.
4.75 from 4 votes
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 1 hr 15 mins
Course Cake, Dessert
Cuisine Southern
Servings 16 servings
Calories 804 kcal


For the cake:

  • 3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup Plugra unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1 cup heavy cream at room temperature

For the Cake Soak:

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons bourbon

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 1 cup Plugra unsalted butter room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese softened
  • 4-6 cups powdered sugar

For the Salted Caramel Sauce:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 4 tablespoons Plugra unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans


For the Butter Cake:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place an oven rack in the center position.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and both sugars on medium speed until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, incorporating completely before adding the next one. In a small bowl, whisk together the bourbon and heavy cream. Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture in thirds alternating between the flour mixture and bourbon/cream mixture until everything has been added.
  • Pour the batter into two 9 inch cake pans coated with butter and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

For the Cake Soak:

  • In a small bowl, whisk together the heavy cream and bourbon for the cake soak. Brush the bottom of a cake with 1/2 the soak and then repeat with the remaining layer. (Cake can be made in advance and wrapped in plastic wrap after this point, keep at room temperature for up to 24 hours.)

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Slowly add the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until completely incorporated. Once the frosting has reached a stable consistency, turn the mixer to med-high and beat for 2 minutes or until the frosting is fluffy and light in color. Transfer to an airtight container and store for up to 24 hours at room temperature if not using immediately.

For the Salted Caramel Sauce:

  • In a medium saucepan, mix together the sugar and water. Bring the mixture to a boil over med-high heat. Continue boiling until amber in color, approximately 2-3 minutes. Carefully stir in the butter and remove from the heat. VERY carefully add the heavy cream and salt. (It will bubble up violently.) Allow the caramel to cool to room temperature before using.

To assemble the cake:

  • Place one layer on a cake plate or serving platter. Spread two tablespoons of caramel sauce over the bottom layer and then spread 1/2 cup of the frosting over the caramel. Top the frosting layer with the remaining cake layer and spread 1/2 cup of frosting over the top layer. Add a thin layer of frosting to the sides and place in the refrigerator for 10-20 minutes to allow the frosting to set. Remove from the refrigerator and, using all but 1 cup of frosting, frost the entire cake with an off-set spatula creating a smooth surface all the way around.
  • Carefully press the pecans around the bottom half of the cake.
  • Pour 1/2 cup caramel sauce into a zip top bag and snip off one corner. Drizzle the sauce on top of the cake being careful to stay one inch from the side of the cake.
  • Add the remaining frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a 1M cake tip (open star) and pipe the frosting around the top edge of the cake. Allow the cake to chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
  • Bring the cake to room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.


The cake layers can be made up to 2 days in advance and wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. Store at room temperature.
To freeze cake layers, wrap in plastic wrap and then in foil. Freeze for up to 2 months.


Serving: 0gCalories: 804kcalCarbohydrates: 87gProtein: 7gFat: 48gSaturated Fat: 27gCholesterol: 171mgSodium: 334mgPotassium: 149mgFiber: 1gSugar: 68gVitamin A: 1495IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 72mgIron: 1mg
Keyword bourbon, cake
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

49 comments on “Kentucky Bourbon Butter Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Salted Caramel Sauce”

  1. I love this idea for a cake! I also would love to go to the Kentucky Derby someday – just to say I did it!

  2. Holy cow! This cake looks awesome and I know it would taste that way too, especially since you used Plugra butter! Love how creamy and flavorful that butter is, and it makes everything else taste that way too! Wish I could make this cake right now (but I have to run out to buy ingredients first!) 🙂

  3. You had me at bourbon and butter!

  4. Wow – what.a.cake! This looks amazing!

  5. What a stunning cake! I really appreciate that as the cake refused to cooperate as you decorated it, you made it even more gorgeous in the process. REAL butter is the only way. For cakes and for life.

  6. This is such a pretty cake and it sounds so delicious! Perfect for Derby Day!

  7. I like big hats too but I’ve never been to Kentucky or seen the Kentucky derby! How fun though and how enticing this cake is!

  8. A gorgeous tribute to the big event! I’ve never been and don’t follow horse racing. But somehow we seem to watch it every year and pick a horse and have a great time doing it!

  9. I have issues to with a cake cooperating. Your cake is just lovely and that salted caramel sauce, oh my word!!

  10. You had me at bourbon. Just wow, I’d love a slice (okay two)

  11. Wow, what a showstopper of a cake! Your decorating skills are impeccable!

  12. Hello!
    I am making the cake for a former co-worker who managed to escape the place where we both used to work. She is from Kentucky so I thought this would be the perfect cake. There is one point of confusion for me. For the cake, it says 1 cup butter but it does not say room temperature, as it does with the butter listed for the frosting. Does this mean the butter for the cake is cold butter? It’s pretty difficult to beat cold butter and sugar into a fluffy consistency as the directions say. Is it really cold butter or should the directions have said room temperature butter? Please let me know. Many thanks!

    • Hi Rikki,

      The butter should also be room temperature for the cake batter. I’ll go back and make the change. Thank you so much for asking!

      • Thanks Kellie,

        I am now assembling the cake. The directions say “play one layer on a cake plate or serving platter.” Should the side of the cake that was soaked be the side on the platter or should it be facing up so that the soaked side is also the side getting the caramel sauce? Same question for the second layer. Should the second layer have the soaked side of the cake facing up or should it be facing down so that it is the center of the cake? If you answer quick, I’ll be albe to do this right and get to my party today!

        Thanks so much,

        • I hope I’ve responded in time….I placed my cake layers soaked side up, but really…I don’t think it would matter if you didn’t do it that way. I like to have the bottom of my layers facing up because I seem to have more luck keeping the cake even. Have fun at the party and I hope everyone loves the cake!

          • Making this fantastic recipe TODAY for a KY Derby party I’m going to! I had the same question about the “cake soak”….so glad I found the answer. Yum, the batter was to DIE for! I’m sure this will be a keeper of a recipe! Thanks so much for sharing!

          • Thank you so much, Susan! I hope you love it as much as I do!

  13. Do you think these could be done as bite size with some pumpkin?

    • Hi Stephanie….that’s a bit of a stumper. 🙂 I think I would add about a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice (which I have a recipe on my site, just search pumpkin spice) to the cake batter just to get that spice flavor. And you could add a bit of pumpkin to the cream cheese frosting but because I haven’t tested the recipe I’m not sure how much you should use to be sure it sets up.

  14. I know this would change the recipe and name, but I cannot have alcohol at all (due to an illness that terrible reactions even with mouthwash since it has alcohol in it). Is there any other suggestion that I could soak this cake in other than alcohol, or would you just skip this part all together. Thanks for the response. I have made just plain butter cake….but this looks even more amazing.

  15. My soak is not soaking into the cake, it’s just sitting on top. I cooled the cake layers as directed but it’s not going in. Is anyone else having this problem?

    • You can try to poke a few holes in the cake with a skewer or chop stick. This will definitely help the soak get into the cake. Sorry it wasn’t working for you last night!

  16. I screwed up, I refrigerated the cakes after the soak and before assembling. They were tightly wrapped in Saran Wrap. They feel hard as a Rick now. Any chance the assembly process will moisten them up? You know, caramel sauce, icing…

  17. I made this last night and served it up the guys in my husband’s band. This was one of the best cakes I’ve ever made. Top five for sure…and I’ve made a lot of cakes! They loved it, I loved it, my kids loved it. Great recipe and I’ll be making this one again for sure. Thank you for sharing!

  18. Can this cake be used with Hennessy also can it be done in three layers

  19. This looks yummy! I am going to make this cake as a treat for my husband but likely with a couple low fat modifications. I imported the recipe into My Fitness Pal so I would have it readily available but before modifications and it calculated the calories per serving at well over what you show… in fact after the modifications, it still came in at over 2000, which is a substantial difference. I will definitely still make this cake, but will do so with eyes open in terms of intake for that day 🙂

  20. I am in the process of baking the cake now and noticed that your instructions say to add eggs one at a time but your ingredients do not list how many.  

  21. Husband requested Bourbon cake for his 50th Birthday… and he absolutely loved this! ❤️ 
    Was a bit of a chore to make, for I have no patience in the kitchen. But I did it and it was a huge success. Will be making this again for the next big event! Thank you! 

    • Hi Becky! Thanks so much for the comment….it does take some patience to make and I have to be in the mood but it’s definitely one of the most rewarding desserts I’ve ever made. So glad he loved it!

  22. I am making this beautiful cake for my bourbon loving husband’s birthday. Thank you so much for the detailed directions! I can’t wait to taste it!!

  23. Does it make a difference what kind of Bourbon is used? A Rye or Wheat?

  24. Hi there, 
    This sounds amazing and would like to make this for my bourbon loving boyfriends birthday coming up.  Is it ok to freeze the layers instead of refrigerating them?  I’ve done this with other cakes and it’s turned out fine.  Just wanted to be sure 🙂 

  25. Can you use Irish Whiskey instead of Bourbon?

  26. Making the cake now. Do you use all of the soak?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.