Last new years eve, I decided that I was going to try to see how much alcohol I could fit in a cake. The idea I started with was an extrapolation of your classic jello shot: It looks like a normal dessert, but really its not just water thats gelled, there is a bit of ethanol hiding in there too, and boy do you get drunk off of it.
My go-to, base-everything-off-of frosting is this recipe that was in one of my mom’s cooking magazines when I was little. I don’t really know the specifics of the original recipe, but I do know that it called for one cup of milk to be thickened with 5TBS of flour, then beaten with one cup of fat and one cup of powdered sugar. This is a very versatile recipe for me: I can come up with all sorts of interesting frostings by knowing that as long as I have one cup of water-based “stuff” that has been thickened to “thick pudding” consistency somehow, then whip it up with a cup of whatever solid fat (margarine, shortening, sometimes I even throw some melted chocolate in), and about 130 g of sugar, I will get a structurally successful, fluffy as heck, frosting.
Last year’s booze cake was an attempt to provide the cup of thickened water based “stuff” as well as the sugar by using a vegan jello shot kind of thing. It worked pretty well.
This year’s cake had higher ambitions. I had plans to attend a new years party at Jess’s, and it was going to be SO vegan. I decided to skip the vegan jello mix this time, and wanted to find out if I could use pregelatinized starch to thicken my rum without having to cook it and lose valuable alcohol in the process. For some reason, the grocery store did not carry straight-up pregelatinized starch, but they did have Jell-o brand instant pudding, and upon close inspection of the ingredients list, I found that it was vegan. So I decided to use that.
The cake layers
In the past, if I was making a cake for an important occasion, often I would jump at the chance to get some experimenting done while I was at it. However, I have come to realize that my cake-veganizing method must be off somehow, because I kept ending up with hard, dense cakes and having no choice but to serve them for the special event. NO MORE!, I decided. The thing is, vegan cake recipes are really good, and so I figure that unless I want to make a cake specifically for the purpose of experimentation, then I should probably stick with a good, reliable, vegan cake recipe. For this years booze cake, I decided to go with a tried and true Kitteekake, because if there is one person I trust when it comes to cake (or…anything else, now that I think about it), it is Kittee. I printed out her chocolate cake recipe, and because it was for booze cake and a “fancy dessert” party, I made a few adjustments accordingly. I found out that making flavor adjustments on a vegan recipe is much more fun and satisfying than making veganization adjustments. Here are the changes I made:
- Instead of the 2 cups of cold water, I used one 12 oz bottle of stout beer mixed with 1/2 cup of water. (Its booze cake! How could I NOT add stout?)
- I used extra dark cocoa powder instead of regular
- I added one cup (122g) of finely chopped, then toasted, hazelnuts to the dry ingredient mixture.
- I cut the amount of vinegar called for down to 1 teaspoon, to allow for the acidity of the stout.
The hazelnuts and stout gave it a very deep flavor. I can’t believe I’ve never put chopped nuts into cake batter before! Not only was it beautiful seeing the light flecks of the nuts against the dark cake, but I really like the crunch they provided. It smelled amazingly hazelnutty when this cake was in the oven, too. Sure enough, Kittee’s cake-genius came through and I ended up with a high-rising, tender, moist, and perfect cake structure and texture. THANK YOU KITTEE! The altered recipe gave me two perfectly sized 8″ layers, which I cut in half to make four 1/2 inch thick layers.
The Good Part (The booze frosting)
(I used a double recipe for my four-layer cake)
(I ended up just using the Bacardi, not the Monarch.)
- 2 large (155g each) packages Jell-o brand instant vanilla pudding mix
- Slightly more than 1/2 C 151 proof rum (100g)
- Slightly less than 1/2 C unsweetened soymilk (122g)
- 1/2 C raspberry jam (153g)
- Juice of one lemon (51g)
- 1 C (2 sticks, ) Earth Balance brand buttery sticks (Don’t use the spread, its too soft.)
- 1 drop ( 2g) liquid soy lecithin
- Combine Instant pudding mix, Rum, Soymilk, Jam, and Lemon juice. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and has thickened. It should look like this:
- In a large mixing bowl, using a stand mixer or a hand held beater, cream the margarine with the lecithin until the lecithin has fully incorporated into the fat and the mixture has no lumps.
- Add the thickened rum mixture, a spoonful at a time, and beating well between additions, until all of it has been added. Scrape the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl often.
- Continue beating the frosting until it becomes fluffy.
- Store the frosting at room temperature until it is time to frost the cake. If the frosting begins to separate, beat in a drop more soy lecithin until the emulsion comes back together.
Putting the cake together:
I frosted this cake in a pretty normal fashion. Each layer got brushed heavily with a mixture of raspberry jam and rum, then received a layer of the (probably about 30 proof) frosting. The tops and sides were finished off with more frosting and the sides of the cake got crusted with more of the chopped toasted hazelnuts. I piped a shell border on the top of the cake,then threw some chocolate curls onto my shells. The remaining raspberry jam that was left in the jam jar after I took out what I needed for the frosting got softened in the microwave, then poured into the cavity created by the frosting shells and coaxed into place with a spatula.
My friend Rory was in town for our vegan new years party, and I would like to thank her for making chocolate curls, writing down ingredient measurements, giving helpful “cake person” advise (as I am not really a cake person), eating the leftover booze frosting since I had to drive to the party, as well as holding the cake on the way there so it didn’t go splat even though we were kind of driving on a half flat tire and risked a blow out a little bit. Rory, I am ever-thankful!
Here are some more pictures:
Thanks, guys. I have another post about some brioche I made coming really soon, so stay tuned! (the thing is, its 4 AM and I’d rather sleep at this point than ramble about gluten and shortening)
Goodnight, Enjoy your booze cake!
PS: It was at least 20 proof. There were at least two cups of 151 proof rum in the whole cake, once you counted the rum brushed on the layers. We were seriously using champagne as a chaser for the cake. Seriously. I definitely accomplished my goal of fitting as much alcohol as possible into a cake without compromising its stuctural integrity. I think next year, I will tone it down, and use about half the rum.
PPS: It would work to use one cup of any 80 proof liquor instead of the half cup of 151 and half cup of soymilk in the frosting recipe. If you decreased the ethanol content significantly though, I think you might end up needing much less instant pudding mix to achieve the correct consistency.
PPPS: If I made this frosting again, I would probably skip the jam and lemon juice (which I added to keep the raspberry pigments from turning blue), and just use a third cup of powdered sugar or something. Or raspberry (or whatever other) flavored syrup would be even better.