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Smoked Old Fashioned Cake

Smoked Old Fashioned Cocktail Layer Cake

Fluffy and tender brown sugar cake with the flavors of orange and bourbon filled with bourbon bitter cherry preserves and smoked brown butter Swiss meringue buttercream
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Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Assembly 30 mins
Course Dessert
Servings 3 - 8" cakes (or 2 - 8" cakes, torted)


  • 14 ounces (397g) cake flour
  • 14 ounces (397gg) light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 8 oz (226g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 10 ounces (283g) whole milk, room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 ounces (57g) bourbon
  • 3 ounces (85g) canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Bourbon Bitters Cherry Preserves

  • 2 cups (320g) red cherries, pitted and quartered
  • 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
  • tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon
  • 1/4 teaspoon Angostura bitters

Smoked Brown Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • 3 cups (678g) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
  • 9 large (300g) egg whites
  • 2 ½ cups (500g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 7-10 drops (optional) liquid smoke, to taste


Brown Sugar Orange Bourbon Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • Prepare the cake pans. You can use 3-8" pans for a 3 layer cake, or 2 -8" pans, then torte in half, for a 4 layer cake. Brush the bottoms and sides of your cake pans with melted butter. Line the bottoms and sides with parchment paper.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the cake flour, brown sugar, orange zest, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. On low speed, mix for 1 minute to combine.
  • Combine the milk, eggs, bourbon, oil and vanilla extract in medium bowl. Whisk to thoroughly combine.
  • With the mixer still running, add in the softened butter pieces, one or two pieces at a time. Mix until the mixture resembles cornmeal. You should be able to gather a bit in your hand, squeeze and you have a solid piece. This means the butter is evenly distributed.
  • With the mixer still on low, pour in a small amount of the liquid ingredients (about 2/3 cup) and mix until the flour mixture is moistened.
  • Turn the mixer speed to medium (4 or 6) and beat for *two full* minutes. The mixture should be whipped, thick, and lighter in color.
  • Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure everything is properly mixed.
  • With the mixer speed on low, add the remaining wet ingredients in three parts, scraping down the bowl after each addition has been mixed in.
  • Once all the wet ingredients have been incorporated, give the bowl a final scrape and mix with a spatula. Evenly divide the batter among the prepared pans.
  • Bake the layers for 30-40 minutes for 3 pans, 40-50 minutes for 2 pans. Start checking the cake at 30-35 minutes to test for doneness. Cakes are done when a toothpick comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, and the top of the cake feels springy and set when touched.
  • Tap each cake pan firmly against the counter to remove excess steam. If your cakes dome at all, use a clean kitchen towel to gently push the domes down. Cool the cakes for 15 minutes in the pans.
  • Run a palette or butter knife around the cakes in their pans before turning them out to cool completely on cooling racks.
  • Wrap in plastic wrap and chill while preparing the preserves and buttercream.

Bourbon Bitters Cherry Preserves

  • Combine the cherries, sugar, cornstarch, water, and bourbon in a medium saucepan over medium low heat.
  • Use a potato masher or a wooden spoon to crush the cherries just a bit to release the juices and break them up a bit.
  • Let the mixture simmer until thickened and glossy, about 5-7 minutes. 
  • Remove the mixture from the heat, whisk in the bitters and cool completely before using.

Smoked Brown Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • Place 1 ½ cups (3 sticks) butter into a skillet set over medium-low heat. Cook the butter until it gives a nutty aroma, is no longer making popping noises and has turned an amber color.
  • Remove the butter from the heat and let it cool in the pan until lukewarm. Poor the butter into a container and allow to cool completely and re-solidify to room temperature.
  • Weigh out egg whites and granulated sugar together in a non-reactive bowl, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the bowl and place over a pot of simmering (not boiling) water, whisking constantly and gently until temperature reaches 160F. 
  • Using a sieve, strain the egg white sugar mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer.
  • Mix on medium speed with the whisk attachment until the mixture is glossy, reaches stiff peaks and the outside of the bowl is no longer warm. You cannot add butter to the bowl if it is warm or the butter will just melt when added.
  • Once the mixture reaches stiff peaks, switch out the whisk attachment for the paddle attachment and begin mixing on low speed. 
  • Add the softened butter cubes, a couple at a time, until incorporated, followed by the room temperature, solidified brown butter.
  • Now, just let it mix. It might curdle or look lumpy but that’s ok. Keep mixing. This could take some time. The buttercream is ready when it is smooth, satiny and creamy.
  • Keep mixing on low and add the salt, and vanilla. Add liquid smoke, to taste.

Assemble Cake

  • Working with chilled cake layers, use a long serrated knife to remove any doming from your cakes.
  • **(If you baked in 2 pans instead of 3, torte the layers, cutting them evenly in half. You will have four cake layers total. The tops of the cakes will be the center two layers of your cake.)
  • Put one of the cake layers, cut side up onto an 8" cake board or directly onto a cake stand.
  • Spread a thin, even layer of the buttercream on the cake layer with an offset spatula. 
  • Fit a piping bag with a large round tip ( I use an Ateco 808), and fill with smoked brown butter Swiss meringue buttercream.
  • Pipe a dam around the edge of the cake to prevent the cherry preserves from spilling over the sides of the cake.
  • Spread an even, thin layer of cherry preserves on the cake layer over the thin layer of buttercream.
  • Pipe buttercream over the cherry preserves, creating a 1/4" layer of buttercream. Smooth with a spatula.
  • Add the second cake layer and repeat with the cherry preserves and buttercream. Place the third and final layer on top, and frost the outside and top of the cake.
  • *(For 4 layer cakes: Repeat with third and fourth layer on top, and frost the outside and top of the cake.)
  • Decorate with fresh cherries.
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