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Kentucky Butter Cake
things you’ll need: butter and more butter, flour, sugar and more sugar, buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, baking powder and baking soda, salt, a chopstick or spoon handle for poking, baking spray, and a bundt pan
I made several bundt cakes for a backyard concert event and wanted one that was “neutral” so I had a great time scrolling through bundt cakes and saw this one come up everywhere, figured it must be good and I was not disappointed. Recipes here, here, and behind the paywall here.
incidentally vegetarian, skip entirely for vegan or gluten-free and make other delicious things instead.
If you google Kentucky Butter Cake, you get the same recipe from a bunch of different sites, because it’s all based on the original by Nell Lewis of Platte City, Missouri who entered it in the 1963 Pillsbury bake-off. It lost to the Hungry Boys' Casserole, so obviously, you kinda want to try that one too.
Imagine a super rich and buttery vanilla cake… now pour butter on it, then poke holes and pour butter into those holes too, then picture yourself in a Flashdance-based montage and just pour butter all over yourself too while the hook to “Feels Good” by Tony! Toni! Toné! plays in the background.
Snap out of the fantasy and weigh out some ingredients, because you weigh ingredients when baking because you bake now (look at you!).
This recipe is not hard or else you would not be making it, so let the 90s RnB shuffle while you revel in the newfound baking confidence that leads you to say things like “this recipe is not hard.”
This cake is so not hard that one recipe just says “combine all the cake ingredients and beat for 3 minutes” but you have developed “techniques” and “preferences” and “skills” and can’t possibly believe that dump and combine would be enough (it probably would).
Cream 2 sticks of butter (1c/225g) with sugar (400g). Add 4 eggs, one at a time, until JUST combined.
In a separate bowl, mix flour (385g), with baking powder (1tsp), baking soda (1/2tsp), and salt (1tsp).
In a wet measure, mix 1 cup of buttermilk with some vanilla extract (2tsp).
Mix 1/3 of the flour mix into the creamed butter, then half of the vanilla buttermilk, then another 1/3 of flour, the other half of buttermilk, then the last third of flour. Make sure to mix until just combined (don’t overmix) and stop between stages to scrape the sides and bottom.
Boom, that’s the cake. Pour the batter into the prepped Bundt pan and bake at 325 for 60-70 minutes until the cake tester comes out clean. You know the drill because you’re a f*ing baker now. (Whaaaaaaat!?)
Here’s where this cake becomes vaguely pornographically good. When the cake is ALMOST done, combine more butter (5-6 Tablespoons or 75g) with more sugar (3/4 cups or 150g) with more vanilla (2 teaspoons) and heat until the butter is just melted. The sugar will not dissolve and that’s ok.
Now, when the cake is done and still hot, take a chopstick and poke holes through the cake. Be an agent of chaos, randomly poking everywhere, or take a lot of pleasure in carefully spacing and planning each individual poke. Once you’ve poked all your pokes, pour warm butter all over the poked cake surface and just let it sit for several hours until all the way cool.
If you want, reserve a little butter sauce and paint it on the outside of the cake after you turn it out. If you really want, do what Nell used to do and mix ½ cup of light rum in the butter sauce before you pour it over the poked cake.
Once you take your first bite, roll the RnB montage cuz “I feel it all in my bones. I feel it all in my feet. I feel it all in my heart. I feel it all in my soul. And you know: It feels good.”
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