gin & tonic cake

This past weekend was my good friend’s 25th birthday, so I knew I had to make her something special. I always try to match cake flavors to things I know the recipient likes, even if it isn’t something that normally goes on cake (i.e. bacon cake, chili cake, and now this, G&T cake!). For her last two birthdays I had made her a coffee flavored cake and a tiramisu cake, so I have pretty well covered her love of all things coffee. Recently, my friend has gotten really into making cocktails (hence my birthday gift for her of a cocktail cookbook!), and there is no alcohol she likes as much as gin! Which gave me an idea – I should make a cake that tastes enough like gin for her to love it, but sweet enough to still be dessert so I won’t hate it! Needless to say, gin doesn’t really rank among my favorite drink components, but I thought it would do a good job of cutting through a sweet cake.

Now, much to my surprise, I was not the first to come up with the idea of a gin cake. In fact, I found multiple recipes on the good old internet for G&T cakes, including ones that required 50-some-odd juniper berries, cause you know, you can find those at your local corner store, and this one which seemed to cover all the essentials. It is a moist cake with that lime flavor no G&T is complete without, and a subtle, but definitely present, bitter gin flavor. I made a few adjustments, baking a two tier cake, swapping out the icing for a gin & lime buttercream frosting, and decorating with lime slices and lime zest, but mostly kept to the recipe. Were I to make it again, I would 1 and 1/2 the glaze, since that made the cake super moist and really contributed to the gin flavor. I would also eliminate the gin from the cake since I think it baked out entirely and double the amount of lime juice and zest to give it a nice limey pop. Below is the new and improved recipe, but the original received a lot of compliments and I think was quite good. It just wasn’t quite as ginny or as limey as it could have been, though you could taste a subtle hint of both.

One side note about sifting powdered sugar for making frosting – I used to be too lazy to do this, but let me tell you that it makes a HUGE difference in producing a nice smooth, creamy frosting. It is totally worth it to sift the powdered sugar to get out all the lumps. I just use a fine mesh sieve to do this, since the sifter gadgets always seem to get clogged on me (hence why I stopped sifting in the first place). In my opinion, the two keys to good buttercream are sifted powdered sugar and really thoroughly beaten butter. Make sure that the butter is nice and soft (I normally microwave a stick until it is a little melted and the inside is soft) and that you let it beat for a while before even thinking of adding the powdered sugar, then maybe let it beat a little longer!

Here is the final version of my gin & tonic cake:

gin & tonic cake


Cake (makes 2 8″ rounds)
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3 Tbs lime zest (zest of 2 limes)
1/3 cup milk
3 Tbs fresh lime juice (juice of 2-3 limes)

Gin Glaze
2 3/4 cups sifted powdered sugar
8 Tbs gin

Gin Buttercream
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
3 Tbs gin
1 Tbs lime juice (juice of 1 lime)

– Preheat oven to 350F and butter 2 8″ round cake pans.

– Combine flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

– Beat butter until creamy, then add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time while beating  until fully combined. Add vanilla and lime zest and again beat until fully combined.

– While mixing on low, add half the dry ingredient mixture, then the lime juice and milk, then the remaining dry ingredients. Do not overmix.

– Divide batter into 2 prepared pans and bake for 35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.

– While cake is cooking make the gin glaze.  To do so, add the gin to the sifted powdered sugar and whisk until smooth.

– Immediately after removing cake from oven (while still in cake pans) make holes in the top of the cake with a fork and pour 1/2 the gin glaze over each cake. Make a lot of holes with the fork as the glaze doesn’t absorb into the cake where there aren’t holes. Try to get the glaze evenly distributed over the cake – I ended up with a ginny center and not much gin on the outside.

– While cake is cooling, make the buttercream frosting. Beat the butter until creamy, then add 1 1/2 cups of the sifted powdered sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the gin, lime juice and remaining powdered sugar until desired consistency is obtained.

– Once the cake layers have completely cooled, remove them from  their cake pans. Stack the cakes with a thin layer of frosting in between the layers. Cover entire cake with frosting and decorate with lime rounds and lime zest. Serve at room temperature or after refrigeration! 

– I added extra gin and juice to my frosting, resulting in a bit more liquidy and more ginny frosting. Since the frosting was a bit liquidy, I poured it over the cooled cake and then put the entire thing in the freezer for 30 minutes to keep the frosting from going everywhere. After freezing I took the picture shown above – the frosting stayed mostly in place!