Aunt Mary Ann’s Four-Layer Whiskey Cake

This towering cake is packed with pecans, currants, coconut, and candied cherries, making it the perfect holiday desert. Oh, and there's whiskey involved, too.

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My Aunt Mary Ann always made this four-layer whiskey cake for my father, a Christmas tradition dating back decades. For most of her life she kept the recipe secret, although she finally decided to share it with the rest of the family a few years ago. The resulting cake will be dense and heavy, like a fruitcake, with a strong whiskey odor and flavor.

Two warnings:

  • 1. Obviously, this is not a particularly healthy dish, so don’t overdo it.
  • 2. Because the whiskey in the cake is not cooked out, the dish is alcoholic, which means you won’t want to serve it to any kiddies (or teetotalers). Still, if you’re looking for an interesting and impressive new dish to serve adults this holiday season, give Aunt Mary Ann’s formerly confidential dessert a try!

Aunt Mary Ann’s Four-Layer Whiskey Cake



  • 1 cup room-temperature butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 1/4 cups sifted flour
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 8 egg whites


  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 cups chopped pecans
  • 2 cups finely chopped, seeded currants
  • 1 3/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 2 cups of finely chopped candied cherries (use a 50/50 mix of red and green to make it extra festive)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup whiskey


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cream butter with electric mixer and gradually add in sugar. Beat mixture until light and fluffy; mix in vanilla.

Still using the electric mixer, slowly add in flour, baking powder, and salt. To keep the batter at a manageable consistency, alternate adding dry ingredients and splashes of milk. Beat batter until smooth.

In another bowl, beat egg whites (set aside egg yolks for the icing) with electric mixer on high until they’re stiff but not totally dry. Fold egg whites into cake batter with a spatula. Batter will be very thick.

Spoon batter evenly into four round, 9-inch, pre-greased baking pans. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean; remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before turning cakes out on wire cooling rack.


While cakes cool, beat egg yolks with a fork and put them in a saucepan with sugar and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes or until sugar is all dissolved and mixture has thickened slightly. Remove from heat and stir in the remaining icing ingredients. Let stand until cool.


Spread cooled icing between cake layers and on top of assembled cake.

Place the iced cake in an airtight container for 3 or 4 days to allow it to flavor before serving.

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