86-Proof Chocolate Cake

This is a moist and dark chocolate cake without frosting that is flavored generously with cognac, bourbon, or rum. It is nice served plain or with ice cream or whipped cream.
Based on a recipe from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, Maida Heatter, Alfred A. Knopf, 1984, p 123.
Prep Time50 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 5 minutes
Cooling Time30 minutes
Course: Desserts - Cakes
Servings: 12 servings
Author: Catherine Christiano


  • plain dry breadcrumbs ground fine
  • 5 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 cups unbleached flour sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup dry instant coffee or espresso
  • boiling water
  • cold water
  • 1/2 cup cognac or bourbon, rum, Scotch whiskey, or Amaretto.
  • 1/2 pound sweet butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs

Optional Serving Suggestions

  • confectioners sugar
  • additional cognac, bourbon, or rum
  • ice cream
  • whipped cream
  • fresh raspberries or strawberries


  • Place oven rack one-third up from bottom and preheat to 325 °F. Gather a 9 inch Bundt pan or tube pan with a 10-cup capacity. Butter pan and dust with fine, plain dry bread crumbs. Invert pan and tap to shake out excess crumbs.
  • In top of double boiler, over hot but not boiling water, melt chocolate while covered. Remove as soon as it is melted and allow to cool slightly.
  • In small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.
  • In 2-cup glass measuring cup add 1/4 cup boiling water. Add instant coffee and stir to dissolve. Add cold water until there is 1 1/2 cups total. Add cognac or other alcohol being used.
  • In large bowl of stand mixer, cream butter. Add vanilla and sugar; beat to mix well. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the melted chocolate; beat until smooth.
  • On low speed, alternately add sifted dry ingredients in three additions with liquid in two additions, scraping bowl with rubber spatula after each addition. Beat until smooth after each addition.
  • Pour into prepared pan. Level top.
  • Bake for 1 hour and 10 - 15 minutes. When tester is inserted into middle of cake it should come out clean and dry. Cool in pan for 15 minutes. Invert onto rack to cool. If using plain tube pan, invert twice, so flat bottom side faces up. If desired, while still very warm, brush with additional alcohol.
  • Before serving, if desired, sprinkle top with confectioners sugar using fine mesh strainer. If desired, serve with ice cream or whipped cream.


Try brushing with some alcohol, otherwise cake is slightly dry. It needs whipped cream or ice cream.
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