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For a sweet, decadent, and easy dessert, it’s tough to beat an old-fashioned Kentucky butter cake! The rich buttermilk pound cake stays moist and flavorful, thanks to a butter-bourbon glaze that soaks into the warm cake and coats the top like a crispy shell. A perfectly simple Southern treat!

Close up shot of easy Kentucky butter cake on a white plate
Table of Contents
  1. Why is it called butter cake?
  2. Ingredients
  3. How to Make Buttermilk at Home
  4. How to Make Kentucky Butter Cake
  5. Serving Suggestions
  6. Preparation and Storage
  7. Recipe Variations
  8. Tips for the Best Kentucky Butter Cake Recipe
  9. Kentucky Butter Cake Recipe

What could possibly make a classic buttermilk pound cake any better? How about a touch of bourbon and even more butter?! Introducing this recipe for Kentucky butter cake — an easy, made-from-scratch dessert that’s soaked in a rich bourbon-spiked butter sauce.

The taste of the liquor isn’t overpowering at all; however, it gives the cake that hint of extra-special flavor, and soaks into the dense, tender crumb for a moist cake that’s truly decadent. It has that crisp exterior and soft, buttery crumb that we all know and love, maintaining the dense pound cake texture without feeling dry or crumbly. It’s simple dessert perfection!

Slice of Kentucky butter cake on a white plate

Why is it called butter cake?

This cake gets its name because butter is one of the most prominent ingredients in both the batter and the glaze. A butter cake typically includes basic ingredients like butter, sugar, eggs, flour, and leavening agents such as baking powder or baking soda. It is one of the most traditional and well-loved cakes in American baking. The touch of Kentucky bourbon adds a bit of Southern goodness to this particular recipe!

Kentucky butter cake on a serving platter on a table

Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for an easy Kentucky butter cake. As always, specific measurements and step-by-step baking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Cake flour: such as Swans Down brand. The cake flour (rather than all-purpose flour) gives the cake a more tender crumb, and an extra-light, extra-fluffy texture.
  • Baking powder and baking soda: the leavening agents that help the cake rise.
  • Salt: to balance the sweetness and enhance the other flavors in the cake.
  • Butter: for rich flavor and moist texture.
  • Granulated sugar: for just the right amount of sweetness.
  • Eggs: give the cake structure and lift.
  • Buttermilk: adds moisture and richness to the batter, and the acid in the buttermilk yields a cake with a tender crumb.
  • Bourbon: adds a hint of Kentucky goodness to both the cake and the glaze, without overpowering the dish. It’s just enough, but not too strong.
  • Pure vanilla extract: for rich, warm flavor.
Kentucky butter cake batter in bowl

What does buttermilk do in cake?

The buttermilk is a key ingredient in this recipe, as it serves many important purposes. First, the buttermilk gives the cake a slightly tangy, rich, and buttery flavor that you can’t achieve with regular milk. Additionally, the acid in the buttermilk reacts with the leavening agents to help the cake rise, giving it a light, fluffy texture and a tender cake crumb. If you’re in a pinch and you don’t have buttermilk in your fridge, you can substitute with a “homemade buttermilk” instead.

Poking holes in cake

How to Make Buttermilk at Home

Again, my preference is always thick, rich, whole buttermilk. That said, if it’s an emergency and you just don’t have any buttermilk on hand, you can make 1 cup of homemade buttermilk by using regular milk and either lemon juice or white vinegar. To do so, pour 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice or 1 tablespoon of white vinegar into a large measuring cup. Add just enough whole milk to equal 1 cup. Give it a stir, let it sit for about 5 minutes, and then use in the recipe as directed.

Pouring bourbon glaze on cake

How to Make Kentucky Butter Cake

This Kentucky butter pound cake comes together easily with just a handful of simple ingredients. I’ve included the detailed instructions in the recipe card at the bottom of the post, but here’s the quick version:

  1. Mix together the batter in a large mixing bowl with a stand mixer.
  2. Bake the cake in a Bundt cake pan or tube pan.
  3. Boil the butter glaze in a small saucepan on the stovetop.
  4. Poke holes in the warm cake with a wooden skewer.
  5. Pour half of the glaze into the holes, allowing it to soak into all of the little nooks and crannies in the cake.
  6. Invert the cake onto a serving platter. Drizzle with the remaining glaze.
  7. Allow the cake to cool completely on a wire cooling rack and the glaze to set. Slice and serve!
Square side shot of Kentucky butter cake on a cake stand

Serving Suggestions

Kentucky butter cake is absolutely delicious served plain. The glaze adds the perfect finishing touch, although you can certainly include a dusting of powdered sugar if you like. Garnish individual slices with fresh berries like strawberries and blueberries (or other fresh fruit), and a dollop of whipped cream. You can never go wrong with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, too.

Bite of kentucky butter cake on a white plate

Preparation and Storage

  • The Kentucky butter bundt cake will stay fresh when covered at room temperature for 4-5 days — it does not need to be refrigerated. To extend the life of your cake, wrap it tightly and store it in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • How to Store the Cake: For the refrigerator or countertop, you can just wrap the cake tightly with plastic wrap. For the freezer, I recommend a layer of plastic wrap, followed by another layer of aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn.
  • The cake is best when prepared 1 day in advance. The flavors come together and it gets more moist as it rests!
Close up shot of sliced Kentucky butter cake

Recipe Variations

  • Swap out the cake flour for all-purpose flour. While the cake flour yields a more tender, delicate crumb, the all-purpose flour will work fine, too.
  • Use rum in lieu of the bourbon.
  • Kentucky Butter Cake in Loaf Pan: If you don’t have a Bundt pan or a tube pan, you can use 2 (8 ½ x 4 ½-inch) loaf pans. Alternatively, cut the ingredients in half to make just 1 loaf cake.
  • If using unsalted butter, add an extra ½ teaspoon salt to the batter, and a pinch of salt to the glaze as well. The salt balances the sweetness in the cake.
Square front shot of Kentucky butter cake on a table

Tips for the Best Kentucky Butter Cake Recipe

  • Grease the pan really well and then coat with flour, or use a nonstick baking spray.
  • Properly measure the flour by spooning the flour into the cup and lightly leveling with the straight edge of a knife. Packing the measuring cup too tightly and using too much flour will result in a dry cake.
  • Make sure that all of your ingredients are at room temperature so that they blend together smoothly, resulting in a pound cake with maximum volume.
  • Cream the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy, at least 3-4 minutes. Whipping this air into the batter will help the cake rise during baking.
Front shot of a sliced Kentucky butter cake on a wooden cake stand

More Pound Cake Recipes to Try

Square side shot of Kentucky butter cake on a cake stand

Kentucky Butter Cake

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Cooling Time 30 minutes
Total: 1 hour 50 minutes
Servings 12 slices
Calories 556 kcal
For a sweet, decadent, and easy dessert, it's tough to beat an old-fashioned Kentucky butter cake!

Ingredients
  

CAKE

GLAZE

Instructions

BAKE THE CAKE

  • Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease and flour a Bundt pan or tube pan; set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk or sift together the cake flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
    Sifting dry ingredients
  • In the large bowl of a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment to cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
    Mixing batter in stand mixer
  • In a small bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk, bourbon, and vanilla extract.
    Whisking buttermilk mixture
  • Add about ⅓ of the flour mixture to the butter and sugar; beat on low speed just until incorporated. Mix in ½ of the buttermilk mixture. Add another ⅓ of the dry ingredients; beat on low speed until combined. Mix in the remaining buttermilk mixture, and then the remaining flour mixture. Beat on low speed just until the ingredients combine.
    Kentucky butter cake batter in bowl
  • Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Tap gently on the counter a couple of time to release any big air bubbles.
    Buttermilk pound cake in bundt pan before baking
  • Bake for 60-75 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. My cakes are done in just 60 minutes, so check your cake early.
  • Leave the cake in the pan and let cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes.

MAKE THE GLAZE

  • Combine the sugar, butter, and water in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking or stirring often, until the mixture is smooth, about 5-6 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in the bourbon and vanilla extract.

GLAZE THE CAKE

  • While the cake is still in the pan, use a long wooden stick to poke holes all over.
    Poking holes in cake
  • Gradually pour about ½ of the glaze over the cake, allowing time for the glaze to soak into the holes.
    Process shot showing how to make kentucky butter cake recipe from scratch
  • Invert the cake onto a serving tray. Drizzle the remaining glaze over top.
    Pouring bourbon glaze on cake
  • Let the cake cool completely and the glaze set before slicing and serving.
    Close up shot of easy Kentucky butter cake on a white plate

Notes

  • Grease the pan really well and then coat with flour, or use a nonstick baking spray.
  • Properly measure the flour by spooning the flour into the cup and lightly leveling with the straight edge of a knife. Packing the measuring cup too tightly and using too much flour will result in a dry cake.
  • Make sure that all of your ingredients are at room temperature so that they blend together smoothly, resulting in a pound cake with maximum volume.
  • Cream the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy, at least 3-4 minutes. Whipping this air into the batter will help the cake rise during baking.
  • Recipe adapted from Recipes from Miss Daisy’s cookbook.

Nutrition

Serving: 1sliceCalories: 556kcalCarbohydrates: 74gProtein: 6gFat: 26gSaturated Fat: 16gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 118mgSodium: 465mgPotassium: 123mgFiber: 1gSugar: 51gVitamin A: 822IUCalcium: 58mgIron: 1mg
Keyword: easy kentucky butter cake, kentucky butter cake, kentucky butter cake recipe
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, Southern
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

  1. Kay says:

    Hi Blair,
    This cake looks wonderful, can’t wait to try it. I do not have a bundt or tube cake pan, could I bake it in a 9 X 13 cake pan? Would the bake time remain the same?

    I love your site and have used several of your recipes. ALL have been great!

    1. The Seasoned Mom says:

      Hi Kay,
      Thank you so much! We haven’t tested this recipe with a cake pan, but it should work! Just be sure to leave about 1/2 – 1/4 inch of space for the cake to expand. Also, adjust the baking time, and check on it every 10-15 minutes as it’s likely to bake much faster in a cake pan.