Rating: 2 stars
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This is not your grandmother’s frugally seasoned, well-mannered spice cake. With its undercurrent of strong coffee and a healthy splash of whiskey, this luscious, deeply spiced cake has the all swagger of Cowboy George, our neighbor and partner in crime during our days living on a ranch in the Texas countryside.Back then, I used to leave baked goods in George’s pick-up truck as small thank yous for his help in, say, loading the horse trailer for a trip to the vet, or rounding up goats after they’d escaped. Of all the treats I made, this cake best represents George’s spirit animal. The double dose of chocolate (cocoa powder plus chips) is enhanced by a concerto of gingerbread spices—cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves, plus black pepper, which tilt this fragrant cake from delicate to audacious with their lingering warmth.I’ve made dozens of variations of this recipe over the years, because it’s simple to whisk together, everyone loves it, and leftovers put a song in your heart at breakfast (pass the coffee; don’t judge). I find that larger discs of chocolate sink to the bottom and create a fudgy base. There are worse things in life than a fudgy base, but I prefer using mini chips that remain suspended in the batter and dissolve during baking to create an exceptionally moist, ultra-rich texture. For an even deeper chocolate flavor, swap in 1/2 cup cocoa noir or black cocoa (the kind used to make Oreos)—one whiff and you’ll be transported to elementary school.When it comes to serving, my favorite finish is the easiest—a dusting of cocoa powder. But no one will complain if you serve fat wedges partnered with clouds of lightly sweetened whipped cream. And need I suggest a nip of your favorite single-barrel bourbon on the side? Cowboy George (and more than likely your grandmother) would approve.


Credit: Jennifer Causey

Recipe Summary test

15 mins
1 hr 25 mins
8 to 10


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Preheat oven to 325°F with oven rack in center of oven. Generously grease (with butter) a 10-inch round springform cake pan and dust with 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, tapping out excess. 

  • Combine coffee, butter, whiskey, and remaining 3/4 cup cocoa in a medium saucepan, and cook over medium-low, whisking occasionally, until butter is melted, about 2 minutes. Whisk in sugars until dissolved, about 1 minute. Remove from heat; transfer mixture to a large bowl, and set aside to let cool, about 20 minutes.

  • While coffee mixture cools, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, and cloves in a medium bowl. In a separate small bowl, whisk together eggs and vanilla.

  • Gradually whisk egg mixture into cooled coffee mixture until combined. Add flour mixture, and whisk just until smooth and no dry ingredients are visible (do not overmix). Stir in chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan; place pan on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out mostly clean, 50 minutes to 1 hour.

  • Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack. Using the tip of a knife, loosen cake from pan, and remove outer ring. Use 2 metal spatulas to transfer cake to a serving platter. Just before serving, dust cake with additional cocoa powder.