Chocolate Whiskey Cake

I know the stores had Christmas holiday supplies at the ready next to the Halloween witches and “fun size” candy bars (really, isn’t “fun size” a much larger candy bar? I digress…), but I can’t really start thinking about the Christmas holidays until after Thanksgiving. So now, if you’re like me, it’s time to contemplate the tasty treats on the baking agenda. There are the classic cookies and such, which are always welcome, but a homemade chocolate cake can be a great centerpiece or a special gift.

This cake by cookbook author Elinor Klivans, which appeared in Real Food, is great for giving as a gift or even mailing to friends and family. Pack it in a pretty tin and the cake is ready for shipping. It also is a good cake to have on hand for holiday drop-ins. Elinor notes that Chocolate Whiskey Cake has the desirable quality of improving in flavor after a day or even two, and whiskey helps preserve it and keep it quite moist. (Irish whiskey, Scotch, or bourbon make the best liquor choices.) She makes this cake in double batches to give as gifts and send happy holiday sweetness.

Tip: The Chocolate Whiskey cake can be frozen for up to two months. It should be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil. Defrost at room temperature with the wrapping on to prevent condensation on the cake. (About 5 hours.) Or, take it out the night before or in the morning if serving it that evening.

Chocolate Whiskey Cake

Serves 12-14

1 ½ c. pitted dates, cut into about ¾-inch pieces
¾ c. whiskey
2 ¼ c. unbleached all-purpose flour
½ c. unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
3 large eggs
2 c. packed light brown sugar
1 c. canola or corn oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ½ c. walnuts, toasted in a 325°F. oven for 10 minutes and coarsely chopped

4 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tsp. vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Carefully oil the inside and center tube of a Bundt pan with a 12-cup capacity. Sprinkle the inside of the pan evenly with flour. Tap out any loose flour and discard it.

Put the dates in a small bowl, pour the whiskey over them, and stir to coat the dates with whiskey. Let sit for 15 minutes or cover and let sit overnight.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar with a mixer at medium speed until fluffy, thick, and lightened in color, about 2 minutes. Decrease the speed to low and mix in the oil and vanilla until blended. Mix in the dates and whiskey. Mix in the flour mixture just to incorporate it. Mix in 1 cup of the walnuts. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 1 hour and 5 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes.

Use a small sharp knife to loosen the cake from the sides and center tube of the pan. Invert cake onto a wire rack; tapping the bottom of the pan several times if it does not release immediately. Remove the pan and cool the cake completely.

Put the chopped chocolate and oil in a heatproof bowl (or the top of a double boiler) and place it over, but not touching, a saucepan of barely simmering water (or use the double boiler). Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Use a small spoon to drizzle the chocolate over the cake, letting it drip down the sides. Scatter the remaining ½ cup of walnuts over the cake. Serve or cover and store at room temperature up to three days.

Nutrition info (per serving) Chocolate Whiskey Cake: CALORIES 522 (212 from fat); FAT 24g (sat. 2g); CHOL 45mg; SODIUM 245mg; CARB 70g; FIBER 4g; PROTEIN 6g

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Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her school-age son, who used to eat beets and Indian food, will one day again think of real food as more than a means to a treat—and later share this with his younger brother.