Coffee Cake Friday: Kentucky Bourbon Cake, Gluten-Free

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA (Not the best photo, but check out the patches of bourbon the cake is infused with)

First, I want to let you know that dAhub finally got a job! Hooray! His new company is wonderful and seems like a perfect fit. He really enjoys his work there and they seem like a dynamic and fun company. Phew. This is such a load off of our minds, I can’t even tell you. We are settling into our new routine (which is like our old routine except for the fact that I now have the house to myself during most of the day. This is very helpful when you’re writing a book!)

The other big thing that happened to us is that one of our chickens, Lulu, developed a life-threatening respiratory infection a couple of a weeks ago. We have been pretty lucky with our chickens–mostly they are fine and healthy and if they do get sick, I haven’t noticed. (Except for the chicken in our old flock who had avian malaria–that was weird). Anyway, one day I kept hearing a sound like a child’s squeaky toy in the back yard. I went out to see what was going on and I noticed that Lulu was sneezing. If you have never heard a chicken sneeze, you are missing out–it’s actually quite cute. The cute part got lost on me when I realized that I could hear her wheezing. It was so loud that it sounded like she was moaning. And she was just kind of standing in one part of the yard, sneezing and wheezing.

I quickly did a search on the various chicken sites to see if there was any useful info. When I couldn’t find anything, I called the vet. We have a wonderful vet in town who only works with birds and reptiles. We don’t need to call her very often, but when we do, we know our girls are in good hands. So, I called the vet office, explained the situation, and let them listen to Lulu’s wheezing. They said to bring her in ASAP and they would check her between appointments. So, I dug out the cat carrier we use for the chickens, lined it with a towel, and went out to get Lulu. Lulu, even though she was sick, was not keen on being caught (none of them are–they hate being held even though they will put up with it if we insist). As I chased her, she ran and wheezed. It broke my heart. I finally got her, put her in the carrier and took her to the vet.

As soon as we got there, the vet came and got Lulu and said she were going to give her oxygen while they checked her out. Poor thing. And, in case you’re wondering, no–they didn’t put an oxygen mask on her beak. They put her into a box that had oxygen pumped in–like an oxygen tent. Then vet came out and said that they’d like to do a series of tests, and keep her overnight. And by keeping her overnight, it meant that the vet was going to take her home to keep her under observation. Now, that’s service! I OK’d everything and went to the front counter to handle the paperwork.

One of the many wonderful things about this vet office is that they have a small bird (a cockatiel, I think) named Billy who hangs out around the front counter and is the office mascot. He’s very pretty and isn’t afraid of people. He just kind of hops around the desk and does his own thing. I reached over to grab a business card from the card holder and Billy raised his plumage and made a motion like he was going to go over and get one for me. I then looked and saw that he had nibbled around the edges of all of the cards. Of course. He considered those *his* cards. He wasn’t that keen that I took one. That totally cracked me up. Anyway, I got a card, took care of business, and left.

The next day, they called to say that Lulu was much better but that she had a respiratory infection and was on antibiotics. They said that they were pleased and surprised because they thought she wouldn’t live through the night. I was so relieved to hear she was better. They asked me to come in and get a lesson from the vet on how to give antibiotic shots. Ack. Usually, I am not a good person around this. I am fine with getting a shot if I need one, but giving one?  Nope. In fact, when I was in high school, our biology teacher had an experiment where we were all assigned a baby chick and we had to inject them with hormones to change the sex of the chick. I begged to get a control chick so I didn’t have to inject it. And fast forward to now, where the Universe apparently decided that I needed to learn how to give a shot to a chicken.

As it turned out, the shots weren’t that bad. The shots were injected into Lulu’s breast muscle, which apparently has very few nerve endings. I had to give three shots a day (antibiotics plus pain relievers) and she didn’t even flinch–thank goodness. dAhub was impressed the first time he saw me give a shot–Lulu didn’t do anything. She just stood there as if nothing had happened. The vet also showed me how to give a chicken massage if I wanted to treat Lulu. Apparently, they love to be massaged up under the wings, where the wing meets the body. I did that each day after her shot. I also gave her grapes–she loves grapes and so those were her after-shot-treats (kind of like a lollipop that a kids gets after the doctor).

The other thing we had to do was to keep her inside for a few days–we were going through a cold snap and it was too cold for a sick chicken to be outside. She needed to be inside to not aggravate the infection. So, on the way home from the vet, I stopped at the nearest PetCo and got a large dog kennel. We set that up in the living room, lined with a towel and containing her water and food.  We called it Lulu’s Chicken Recovery Unit. I think at first she was confused at what was going on and why she was in the weird kennel, but after a day or two she seemed to like it. We chatted with her while she was in there and I covered the holes with a sheet at night so the lights wouldn’t bother her (chickens are used to going to sleep when it’s dark and waking up when it’s light). She only bawked one morning (which was really weird–having chicken bawking inside of the house).

During the day, I put her in the Exercise Room (the bathroom) so she could walk around without making a huge mess all over the house. (Chickens are birds–they poop often and anywhere. It’s crazy) After about three days in the kennel, I then put her outside to be with the other chickens during the day. The vet warned us that there might be some pecking order issues. As you probably know, chickens have an actual pecking order.  The top chicken pecks all of the other chickens to keep them in line.  And the last chicken in the order can even get pecked to death if they are too weak.  So, when I took Lulu out the first day, I stuck around to see what would happen.  Billina came over and tried to peck Lulu–but Lulu was having none of it and pecked back.  Then Rosie (our oldest and most cranky chicken) chased Lulu and gave her a nip on the tail feathers.  And that was it.  I brought Lulu in each evening for the duration of the her shots to sleep in her Recovery Unit.  It was very sweet–she got used to coming in each night, so when the other chickens went into the coop, Lulu came to the back door to wait for me to let her in.

(Healthy Lulu)

(Healthy Lulu)

After seven days, she recovered completely and has returned to her chicken life in the back yard.  I think she was a bit confused for a couple of days–she would come to the back door at night to be let in–and couldn’t figure out why Girlfriend would chase her into the coop.  I think she liked the warm house and the nice treats in the Recovery Unit. :)  But, now that is a distant memory and she is back with her chicken flock (as opposed to her human flock).

In the midst of all of this, I got the hankering to make a coffee cake.  I think I was more stressed out than I realized.  As you know, I am a huge fan of coffee cakes.  During the Lulu process,  a pal of mine wrote on Facebook that she had made a bourbon buttermilk coffee cake that she said “was out of this world.” My interest was immediately piqued. Bourbon? Awesome. I had that.  Buttermilk? Check. I also have tons of that because of book recipe testing.   I did a bit of research and found out that the recipe she used is from one of my favorite books, Vintage Cakes, by Julie Richardson.

I looked it up and the recipe is the Kentucky Bourbon Cake. It’s a simple-to-make cake that is quite boozy. It turns out that it is probably most suited to adults (at least in my household). I adapted it, baked it, and I served it for dessert.   Girlfriend took one bite, spit it out, and said it tasted “gross” because of the alcohol (I love that she thinks this way, 😉 ). Most of the alcohol in the cake burns off during the baking and cooking process, but the glaze contains bourbon and the bourbon taste is very strong. Needless to say, dAhub loves it–he is a whiskey fan! Delish! One thing to note: distilled alcohol, no matter what grain it’s made from, is gluten-free.  The gluten protein is too big to get through the distillation process.  The one caveat: be sure that there is no “mash” added back in after the distillation process.  The mash does contain gluten.

I’ve discovered that this cake is great sliced, slightly toasted, and then slathered with butter. Extremely decadent, but we treated ourselves after the time we had with Lulu.

Kentucky Bourbon Cake, Gluten-Free
-adapted from Vintage Cakes, by Julie Richardson


For the cake
3 cups (420 g) Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour mix
1 1/2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (60 ml) bourbon
1 cup (235 ml) buttermilk, at room temperature
1 cup (2 sticks; 230 g) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups (300 g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed (105 g) dark brown sugar
4 extra-large eggs, room temperature
extra butter and tapioca flour for the pan

For the glaze
6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) bourbon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C/Gas Mark 4.  Grease and flour a 10 cup Bundt or tube pan.

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a small bowl, stir together the bourbon and buttermilk.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and the two sugars on medium-high speed until very fluffy (about 5 minutes–yes, 5 minutes). Stop to scrape down the sides every so often. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition to combine and then beat on medium high for 1 minute.

Add the flour mixture and bourbon-buttermilk mixture alternately in small amounts, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat on low after each addition to combine. After the final addition, beat to combine and then remove bowl from mixer and use a large spoon or metal spatula to mix to make sure you get all of the flour that has settled to the bottom of the bowl.

Scrape into the prepared pan and smooth top. Bake at 350 degrees F for 55 minutes or so–until a tester comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, make the glaze. Combine butter, sugar, and bourbon in a small pan over low heat until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Whisk to combine.  Remove from heat.

Remove the cake from the oven and place pan on a cooling rack. Leave cake in the pan. While it is still hot, poke holes all over the top with a skewer. Slowly pour three-quarters of the glaze over the top, allowing it to sink into the cake. Save the remaining glaze.

Let cake cool for 30 minutes and then flip it out onto a serving plate (it may be a little hard to get it out because of the liquid from the glaze). Using a pastry brush, brush the top of the cake with the remaining glaze (it seems like a lot but it will sink into the cake). If the glaze has thickened too much to brush, reheat it over low heat.

Store, loosely covered, at room temperature for about 3 days.



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  1. Lisa M says

    Hi Jeanne,

    My cocktail choice of the this summer has been a “Dark and Stormy” – dark rum, ginger beer, and fresh lime – yum!
    I turned your bourbon cake into a a “dark and stormy” cake – subbed dark rum for the bourbon, added the grated zest of two limes, and a generous dose of ginger – 1 1/2 tsp. powdered and approx. 1/8 cup very finely diced candied ginger tossed with a couple of tbsp. of the flour mix folded in a the end. Instead of buttermilk I juiced the limes, added whole milk to measure 1 cup and let it sit for a few minutes to sour. After glazing I sprinkled the top with finely diced candied ginger and some sugared lime zest. Totally awesome. I took it in to work for a “Moody Monday” treat and everyone loved it!

  2. Viola Gary says

    Jen, your site is very well presented and I would like to discuss some business with you. It has to do with starting my own flour business. Can I email you or call you?

    About your family of chickens. That is soo cute and special. I too am happy that she pulled thru. You take very good care of them. And that is special.

    Hope to hear from you soon.
    Viola Gary

  3. Ruby Hylton says

    Dear Jeanne,
    This bourbon cake is fantastic! I showed the recipe to my grandsons and they asked me to make it. They are the young men that said I could not make the chocolate chip cookies anymore as they were the best they had ever had (gluten or gluten free). They couldn’t stop eating them. They did change their minds after a few weeks and asked me to make them again. About the cake – one grandson asked me how did I make the cake so good and perfect. I told him I had a very good recipe from the same person who perfected the cookies. One grandson is a CIA trained chef and we are always surrounded by friend chefs. I was a good baker before they went gluten free and with your help I am becoming a good gluten free baker. They also liked the sandwich bread more than any other they have had.
    I missed your invitation to be one of your testers. If you have any openings please let me know. I am still looking for an English muffin recipe that pleases me.
    Thank you for making me look like a star in the kitchen.

    Ruby Hylton

  4. says

    Glad to hear Healthy Lulu is feeling better and back in the chicken coop! Bet Lulu does miss the snacks and sweet treats ;)) will try Kentucky Burbon Cake Looks Delicious and mouth watering!!

  5. Marie Jensen says

    Congrats to your hubby on his new job! I just love your website, your stories and especially your GF flour mixture! I have used several from different websites but yours is the best I have found and the most versatile (and doesn’t have a lot of complicated, hard to find flours). I sometimes spend a lot of my weekend baking since I found your website (which is good and bad). Baking makes me feel good and relaxes me. When I find a new recipe that sounds good I can’t hardly wait to try it out. I might be interested in helping you try out your new recipes for your new book.
    Thanks for all you do and take care of those chickens!!!
    Marie Jensen

  6. Nikol says

    Oh Jeanne, so glad to hear Lulu is all better. I lost my little Maisey girl (chicken) this winter, so sad :(. It’s weird how attached we get to chicken, who knew? Anyway happy for you and excited to try this cake!!!

  7. Linda J-H says

    So glad to hear Lulu is recovered. It sounds like you mother your chicks like I baby our dogs. Really great story.

  8. Jo says

    Hi Jeanne – I love the Lulu saga and am so glad to hear that she pulled through, thanks to your expert care. I jump through all the hoops for my animals too, so I can relate.
    Bourbon is not one of our favorites, but there’s no reason this couldn’t be changed over to a rum cake is there? Back in my gluten days I used to bake a pretty tasty rum cake with pecans. I’ll let you know how it works!

  9. kirsty says

    Hi – love your site! and i saw this cake recipe but doesn’t bourbon contain gluten?

    I know half of it is corn, but the rest is typically a combo of grains — or,…if there is a gluten-free bourbon, can you tell us which brand please?

    thanks much!

    • says

      Kirsty: The beautiful thing about distilled alcohol (like whiskey, which bourbon is a version of) is that gluten is too big to get through the distillation process. So, even alcohols distilled from gluten-containing grains are gluten-free unless the producer mixes some of the mash back in (which seems to be rare). So, imbibe away!

  10. Marjy says

    I’m glad Lulu is doing better, but OMG! You have a chicken named Billina and it makes my Baum-loving heart happy! Also, congrats to the Hubs.

    • says

      Marjy! LOL! I know! Girlfriend was a massive Wizard of Oz fan when she was younger–we lived and breathed WoO for a few years there. So, of course we needed to name one of our chickens Billina! And thank you so much for your good wishes for dAhub–we are just thrilled!

  11. says

    Wow, I am glad you caught Lulu’s illness in time and that she is all right! Birds can have such tetchy systems. Your sharing her adventures in the house and her thinking she was coming in at night when her shots were done were quite amusing. :)

    And the cake sounds marvellous!

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