Gin & Tonic Cake / Cupcakes
My friend Emma turned 30 last weekend! She has some pretty special besties who planned an amazing surprise cabaret showcase house party, so, of course - any excuse to bake. I was informed that her favorite libation was gin, and asked could I make a Gin & Tonic cake. Well…I hadn’t before…so of course! Some quick internet research later, I landed on a recipe to play with, both in cupcake and cake form.
I knew that I didn’t want to waste gin on the cake component since alcohol usually bakes off in the oven, but soaking the cake after it baked in a Gin & Tonic mixture made sure the flavor was definitely present. And, an American Buttercream* frosting heavily doused in gin didn’t hurt either. So - a lime tonic buttermilk cake, with a G&T soak, and gin frosting - it was fantastic! I’ll give you a baseline for the amount of gin for the frosting, but from there you definitely want to add it to taste. And be careful of getting a little tipsy as you taste and add - I definitely did (sorry not sorry).
*Check out my breakdown of different types of Buttercream frostings
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker
MAKES 26 cupcakes or 3-layer 6” cake
3 cups AP flour (360g)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter
2 cups sugar (400g)
zest & juice of 3 limes
1/4 cup tonic
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup Gin
1/4 cup Tonic
4 sticks butter, room temperature
4.5 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup - 1 cup Gin
3 cupcake trays & liners OR 3 6” cake pans
cupcake liners OR cake goop & silicone brush
offset spatula (for cake)
pastry bag & tip of your choosing
Heat the oven to 325F.
If making cupcakes, line 2 trays and a few extra molds with cupcake liners. If making a cake, brush cake goop liberally and evenly on the bottom and up the sides of 3 6” cake pans.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together 360g AP flour (3c), 1TB baking powder, and 1/2tsp salt.
Using the stand mixer and beater attachment, beat 2 sticks of butter and 400g sugar (2c) on medium high for 5 minutes until smooth and fluffy.
Add 4 eggs, one at a time, mixing on medium ~15 seconds after each to incorporate fully. After the last, mix on medium then high for a total of 30 seconds until fully combined.
Add the zest and juice of 3 limes and 1/4c tonic water, and mix on medium low until combined - the mixture will look curdled, and that’s okay.
At this point you’re going to add your flour mixture and 1c buttermilk alternately - 1/3 flour mix, 1/2c buttermilk, 1/3 flour mix, 1/2c buttermilk, and finishing with the rest of the flour. It doesn’t have to be exact, but mix in each fully before the next. By the end of adding everything your mixture should no longer look curdled, but look like a more familiar cake batter texture.
If making cupcakes, scoop about a 1/4c batter into each liner - they should be about 2/3 full, and the batch of batter should make about 26 cupcakes. Bake 20-25 minutes, until the tops spring back against your finger. Let cool in the trays 10-15 minutes, then poke each cupcake with a toothpick all around, and almost to the bottom - I did this about 40-50 times for each cupcake. Brush on a 1/2c mixture of gin & tonic onto the cupcakes (I brushed each cupcake 2-3 times, and there was a little of the mixture left at the end). It’s okay if the cupcakes don’t soak up all of it and there’s a little liquid left on top; it will soak in eventually. Let cool completely in the tray before removing.
If making cake layers, evenly divide the batter between the cake-gooped pans (use a scale for perfection!), and smooth the batter even with an offset spatula. Bake 20-25 minutes, using my tips on how to tell when my cake layers are done.
Let cool in the cake pans 15 minutes, then turn out onto cooling racks and cool until room temperature. If you’ve made your cake layers in advance of when you actually want to put the cake together, at this point you can wrap them in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil (more easily done without breaking them if they’ve been chilled in the fridge for an hour or two), and freeze them until you’re ready to use them. If you’re going to put it together now, I still recommend chilling them in the fridge or freezer for an hour or two so they’re easier to handle and level - you can even put them in to chill when they’re not quite down to room temperature, that’s okay.
Once chilled, level your cake layers one at a time - take a long serrated bread knife and put it against the side of the cake where the highest part of the edge is. Brace your elbow against your waist so that the knife is going to be stable and stay in the same place, and turn the cake, not the knife, to level the cake. If the knife stays in the same spot it will level the top off. This is much easier with a turntable - check out my favorite cake tools!
Brush each cake layer (cut side) liberally with 1/3 of your 1/2 cup Gin & Tonic mixture.
To make the frosting, beat 4 sticks of *room temperature* butter until totally smooth. Room temperature is important - read tip #7 here on how to take butter from refrigerated to room temp in 20 seconds.
Sift 4.5 cups of powdered sugar, and add it to the butter 1/2c at a time, mixing fully after each addition (always start on low so you don’t get powdered sugar everywhere!)
Throw in a pinch of salt, then add 1/4c of gin and mix until fully combined. Taste, and if you want to add more gin, add it 1-2TB at a time, tasting after each addition. Add until it’s as boozy as you want it to be, then - frost away!