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Baking with Booze

Updated February 18, 2021
Baking with booze—such as bourbon, rum, port and vodka—can add additional flavor, texture and even change the consistency of many baked goods.

Take pie dough for example, adding a splash of vodka produces a super flakey dough and develops less gluten in the dough than water. For tarts and shortbread dough—same thing! Adding a splash of vodka results in deliciously flaky dough.

It’s been indicated that alcohol improves the dining experiences due to how our nose registers its aroma. However, the real reason alcohol is a key player in baking is how it works to help fat and water bind together to improve the flavor perception.

Tips to Try When Adding Booze to Baking

  • When adding liquor to your baking, start with a little and work up to your taste level. Allow enough cooling time to remove the alcohol’s harsh taste.
  • You can substitute alcohol for extracts called for in recipes if you desire. In fact, this could open up a whole new world of flavors to try! Remember, it is ok to experiment in the kitchen.
  • A 2003 USDA study showed that 5 to 85 percent of alcohol will remain in a recipe depending on the cooking time. And since you wouldn’t want to cook that rum cake until it turned to stone, you can guess that there is still some alcohol content in your dessert.
  • A great way to figure out what liquor to use is to consider the flavor and tasting notes of traditional cocktails. For example, rum and bourbon give off nutty and vanilla tasting notes that work well with pie filling, cake mix and cookie dough (much like a vanilla extract). Red wine, port and brandy, on the other hand, add a sweetness that pairs nicely with glazes, chocolate cake and gingerbread.
  • The quality of your alcohol will affect your final product. If your alcohol isn’t something you’d enjoy in a cocktail, it likely will not taste good in your baked treats either.
  • Remember, the alcohol doesn’t always have to be baked out! If you’re looking to add the full flavor of your alcohol, you can incorporate it into your baked goods after they are cooked. An example of this is to add alcohol to a frosting.

Tipsy Frostings

Start with a basic buttercream frosting recipe and add the following mix-ins to give your cakes or cupcakes a sassy kick.

Basic Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 to 8 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk

Mint Julep Frosting: Reduce the milk to 1/4 cup and add 1/4 cup of bourbon. Garnish with fresh, chopped mint leaves.

Coconut Rum Frosting: Reduce the milk to 1/4 cup and add 1/4 cup of coconut rum. Top with shredded, sweetened coconut.

Cosmo Frosting: Reduce the milk to 1/4 cup and add 1/4 cup of cranberry flavored vodka and a dash of red food coloring. Put a pinch of freshly-grated lime zest on top.

Lemon Drop Frosting: Reduce the milk to 1/4 cup and add 1/4 cup of limoncello or lemon-flavored vodka.

Sangria Frosting: Reduce the milk to 1/4 cup and add 2 tablespoons of brandy, 2 tablespoons of fruity red wine, and a dash of red food coloring. Garnish with half a wheel of thinly sliced orange.

Try some more boozy baking this weekend with these great Betty recipes:

Interested in one of these recipes but want to skip the alcohol? Here are some ideas on substituting alcohol in recipes.