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Gluten-Free Maple Bourbon Cake (Dairy-Free)

Soft, fluffy, and full of pure maple flavor, this gluten-free maple bourbon cake is paired with a cozy whipped maple bourbon frosting. Completed with sweet and salty candied mixed nuts, it’s the perfect treat for any autumn or winter occasion. 

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A gluten-free maple bourbon cake covered in bright white maple bourbon buttercream frosting and topped with warm golden crunchy candied mixed nuts.
A gluten-free maple bourbon cake covered in bright white maple bourbon buttercream frosting and topped with warm golden crunchy candied mixed nuts.

The Best Gluten-Free Maple Bourbon Cake

Made from scratch with the most fluffy and delicate layers, this gluten-free maple cake recipe is simple to make and the perfect way to welcome the cooler days of autumn and winter. Each bite is full of warm maple flavor, hints of subtle smokey bourbon, and the most satisfying sweet and salty mix nut crunch. A match made in cozy yummy confectionary heaven.

What Makes Up A Dairy-Free Maple Cake

Maple Cake Layers – A soft tender crumb made with 100% real pure maple syrup.

Bourbon Frosting – Sweet and smokey, it’s whipped to fluffy perfection. 

Mixed Nuts – Sweet, salty, and crunchy for that extra added “mouthfeel.”

A gluten-free maple bourbon cake covered in bright white maple bourbon buttercream frosting and topped with warm golden crunchy candied mixed nuts.

Maple Cake Ingredients & Substitutions

As always this recipe is gluten-free and dairy-free. That said, I do test each recipe with “regular” ingredients and make notes of alternatives or swaps so that everyone can enjoy it.

Here are a few key ingredients for this cake but make sure you scroll to the bottom recipe card for the complete ingredient list.

Flour: I made this cake with XO Baking gluten-free all-purpose flour blend. If you are not gluten-free, swap the flour with regular all-purpose flour. Note that gluten-free flour blends can vary in weight so I recommend measuring by the cup.

Oil: Use canola or vegetable oil for best results but any neutral-tasting oil will work.

Maple Syrup: The darker the maple syrup the stronger the flavor will be. Note: I do not recommend using pancake syrup.

Eggs: If you are vegan, the eggs can be replaced with liquid egg replacer, applesauce, or aquafaba. Note: the cake will be more dense in texture.

Butter: Becel plant-based bricks are my personal favorite for baking but any brick-style dairy-free, vegan, lactose-free, or regular butter will work. 

Sour Cream: Again, as this is written dairy-free, I used President’s Choice plant-based sour cream. This could be replaced with unsweetened full-fat greek yogurt, plain yogurt, or mayonnaise. Select whatever option best fits your dietary/allergy/lifestyle needs.

Milk: I baked this cake with unsweetened almond milk. Use whatever type of milk that fits your needs. Note: the higher the fat content the better (ie. coconut milk, whole milk, buttermilk, etc.)

Bourbon: I’m not overly knowledgeable about bourbon so after the advice of the liquor store attendant I went with a middle-of-the-road smokey bourbon with a subtle vanilla hint. Any bourbon will work in the recipe though so use what you have/desire. Note: This can also be made alcohol-free by using a bourbon extract or fully omitting the bourbon completely.

Mixed Nuts: While not necessary, the addition of mixed nuts adds a delicious crunch factor. I used a maple bourbon peanuts blend, but any candied nut will work. Omit entirely if there is a nut allergy.

A gluten-free maple bourbon cake covered in bright white maple bourbon buttercream frosting and topped with warm golden crunchy candied mixed nuts.

Step-By-Step Instructions

Here’s how to make this decadent dairy-free and celiac-friendly bourbon maple layer cake recipe. You’ll need a large mixing bowl, a stand mixer or handheld electric one, two 8 or 9-inch round cake pans, a whisk, and a spatula.

1: Make the cake layers by creaming the butter, brown sugar, oil, and maple syrup together on high for 2 minutes. The mixture might separate slightly, but it’s okay.

2: Add in the eggs or egg replacer and mix until they are fully incorporated. Mix in the sour cream until just combined.

3: Measure in the dry ingredients and start to mix on low. With the mixer on low, slowly pour in the milk and bourbon. Scrape the bowl to ensure an even mix.

4: Divide the cake batter into two 8-inch cake pans and bake for approximately 20-25 minutes. Cakes are done baking when the edges pull away from the pan and spring back to the touch. Allow cakes to cool to room temperature.

5: Prepare the frosting by creaming the butter on high speed until smooth and fluffy. This should take approximately 5-10 minutes.

6: Add in the icing sugar and salt and mix until combined. Turn up to high and allow to cream until fluffy and smooth.

7: Reduce the maple syrup and bourbon by half in a heavy-bottomed pot on the stovetop. This should take approximately 5 minutes. Add to the prepared buttercream and mix until combined.

8: Stack, fill, frost, and chill the cake. Decorate it as you please. Enjoy!

A gluten-free maple bourbon cake covered in bright white maple bourbon buttercream frosting and topped with warm golden crunchy candied mixed nuts.

Gluten-Free Maple Cake Assembly Success Tips

Stacking a layer cake can feel a bit scary. But, as they say, slow and steady wins the race. Let’s set you up for gluten-free maple cake success with a few tips and tricks.

Fully Cooled Cake Layers: Even if a tiny bit warm, layers will slip when warm. Ensure that each cake layer is fully cooled if not even a bit chilled. I will even work with semi-frozen cake layers if I have to bake them a few days before stacking.

Leveled Cake Layers: Flat and level cake layers will sit far easier than crooked ones. I use this super easy cake tool to ensure each cake layer is perfectly level.

Keep the Cake Chilled: If at any point you begin to feel the cake slip or the frosting is too soft to work with, pop the cake and the frosting back into the fridge to chill. Remember, don’t rush it. Take your time.

A gluten-free maple bourbon cake covered in bright white maple bourbon buttercream frosting and topped with warm golden crunchy candied mixed nuts.

How To Decorate An Allergy-Friendly Maple Bourbon Cake

“As you desire” is often how I refer to cake decoration. It’s not that I don’t want you to make the same cake as I did, it’s simply that I don’t want you to feel like you *have* to make the same cake.

We all have an inner cake artist and I always want to encourage you to let it shine. That said, I quickly break down this gluten-free and lactose-free maple bourbon cake decor for you.

First: Crumb-coat the cake and allow it to chill for 20 minutes. See the above section for stacking tips and tricks.

Second: Put a final “beauty” coat of frosting on the cake and smooth the sides and top with a smoother or offset spatula. I used a fun cake comb to create the subtle texture of the cake.

Third: Using a piping bag fitted with a Wilton 1m piping tip, pipe a rope border around the top edge of the cake.

Fourth: Top with chopped mixed candied nuts. Enjoy!

Pro Tip: Allow the cake to come to room temperature for 20-30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Storing and Freezing Instructions

This cake can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 7 days. It can also be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months. 

Remove the cake layers from the freezer approximately 1 hour before you plan to stack and decorate and allow them to thaw slightly at room temperature.

Pro Tip: If you want to bake the cake layers a few days in advance, you most certainly can. Allow the layers to cool, cover them tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze until you a ready to stack and decorate the cake.

A gluten-free maple bourbon cake covered in bright white maple bourbon buttercream frosting and topped with warm golden crunchy candied mixed nuts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible to make this alcohol-free?

Yes, absolutely. An alcohol-free version of this maple bourbon cake is possible and just as yummy. Here’s how:

Replace the ¼ cup of bourbon in the maple cake with milk and add 1 teaspoon of bourbon extract. For the frosting, omit the bourbon and again, replace it with 1 teaspoon of bourbon extract. 

I adore using this pure bourbon extract for baking. It has a wonderful smooth smokey flavor without any alcohol.

Alternatively, the bourbon can be completely omitted and the cake enjoyed as a fully scrumptious maple treat. Replace the bourbon in the cake with milk and omit the bourbon in the frosting.

Can this be made into cupcakes?

Yes, it absolutely can. The full recipe will make approximately 24 cupcakes or you could half it for 12 cupcakes. 

What other pans can I use?

This can be baked in a 9×13 cake pan (it won’t need as much frosting though), three 6-inch rounds, or two 9-inch pans. Note that the baking time will change.

Why does my cake have a gummy texture?

Unfortunately, not all gluten-free flour blends are created equal. I prefer to bake with XO Baking, Kinnikinnick, and GF Jules as I find they bake light and fluffy for gluten-free. Bob’s Red Mill and King Arthur, while widely available, tend to sink and have a dense more gritty gummy texture. 

Note: Gluten-free cakes also tend to have a higher ratio of liquid ingredients so they typically need to bake longer than their “regular” cake counterparts.

How do I know when it’s done baking?

You will know the cake is baked when the edges are naturally pulling away from the cake pan, the top springs back when gently pressed, and a toothpick will come out of the center clean or with a few crumbs on it but not batter.

If the cake does not show these signs of being properly baked, allow it to continue baking for several more minutes and re-check.

A gluten-free maple bourbon cake covered in bright white maple bourbon buttercream frosting and topped with warm golden crunchy candied mixed nuts.

The Best Gluten-Free Maple Bourbon Layer Cake

A morsel of sweet and smokey, this tender gluten-free maple bourbon cake is a delicious combo of warm maple, smokey bourdon, and sweet and salty crunch in every bite. Perfect for any cozy autumn or winter occasion.

Make sure you tag me on social media @cakedbykatie and leave me a star rating and review below if you make it. Can’t wait to see it!

More Decadent Gluten-Free Cake Recipes

Here are a few other amazingly yummy cake recipes that I know you’ll enjoy:

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A gluten-free maple bourbon cake covered in bright white maple bourbon buttercream frosting and topped with warm golden crunchy candied mixed nuts.

Gluten-Free Maple Bourbon Cake (Dairy-Free)


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  • Author: Katie Stymiest
  • Total Time: 1 Hour 20 Minutes
  • Yield: 14 Servings 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

Fluffy layers of maple cake made with 100% real pure maple syrup and covered in the most decadent drool-worthy whipped maple bourbon frosting. This easy gluten-free maple bourbon cake is perfect for a deliciously cozy sweet treat.


Ingredients

Units Scale

Maple Cake

  • 2 1/4 cups (270g) gluten-free flour 1:1 baking blend
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup (113g) dairy-free salted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100g) brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 cup (250ml) pure maple syrup
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (170g) dairy-free sour cream, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) dairy-free milk, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) bourbon *see FAQs for alcohol-free version

Maple Bourbon Buttercream

  • 2 cups (454g) dairy-free salted butter, room temperature
  • 6 cups (720g) powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup (250ml) pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) bourbon *see FAQs for alcohol-free version

Filling

  • 1/2 cup mixed candied nuts, chopped
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • optional: additional bourbon for cake soak
  • optional: additional mixed nuts for decor

Instructions

Maple Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and prepare two 8-inch round cake pans with non-stick baking spray and parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer or large mixing bowl with electrics beaters, cream the butter, sugar, oil, and maple syrup together on high speed for 2 minutes. It’s okay if the mixture appears to have separated.
  3. Add in the eggs and mix until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed.
  4. Add in the sour cream and mix until just combined.
  5. Measure in the flour, baking powder, and salt and begin to mix on low.
  6. With the mixer on low, slowly pour in the milk and bourbon (or bourbon extract) and mix until just combined.
  7. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans and bake for approximately 2o-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pans for 5 minutes before inverting on a wire rack to fully cool.

Bourbon Buttercream

  1. In a stand mixer or large mixing bowl with electric beaters, cream the butter on high speed for 5-10 minutes or until light and fluffy.
  2. Add in the powdered sugar and salt and mix on low until combined.
  3. Combine the maple syrup and bourbon in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and, while whisking occasionally, allow the mixture to simmer and reduce by half. This should take approximately 5 minutes. Note that the mixture will bubble and foam up considerably.
  4. Remove from the heat once reduced by approximately half and slowly pour it into the buttercream. Turn the mixer up to high and allow it to beat for 5 minutes. Place the frosting in the fridge to chill until ready to use.

Cake Assembly

  1. Level each fully cooled cake layer if need be and brush on a bit of bourbon if desired. Place one layer down on a cake board, plate, or turntable with a dollop of buttercream.
  2. Top with approximately 1 ½ cups of buttercream and spread evenly. Sprinkle on the mixed candied nuts and gently press down. Pour on the maple syrup.
  3. Top with the remaining cake layer and spread a thin layer of buttercream (this is called a crumb coat) around the entire cake and place in the refrigerator to chill for 15 minutes.
  4. Spread another layer of buttercream around the entire cake and smooth the edges with an offset spatula, cake smoother, or cake comb.
  5. Decorate as you please. I used a Wilton 1M piping tip to pipe a classic rope border around the top edge of the cake and sprinkle on additional chopped mixed candied nuts for decor. Enjoy!
  6. Leftover cake should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 6 months.

Notes

*This can be made alcohol free. See the above FAQ section for instructions.

  • Prep Time: 60 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 Minutes
  • Category: Cakes
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

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6 Comments

  1. The most delicious maple bourbon cake got rave reviews from everyone at Christmas Eve dinner. I made my own candied pecans and put very generous amounts between the layers and on top. Did not do gluten and dairy free and it still came out perfect

  2. So happy with this recipe! Made it with regular flour butter etc and swapped whole fat yogurt (did not have sour cream). Used goat milk. Perfect texture and do not need icing. Thank you!

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