I suggest making the cake layers a day ahead of assembly. Stack them between sheets of parchment and cover them in plastic wrap. The next day the cakes will be soft and the crumb will be well set. Sorghum syrup can be found at specialty stores and online (see blog post for links). Prepared spiced apple butter is used in this recipe, and can be found in the jams and jellies section at the grocery store.
1walnut sized lump of red ready-made rolled fondant
Wax seal stampI used “M” initial for Maker’s Mark
Make the cake layers: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease three 9-inch round cake pans with flour-based baking spray (or grease pans and line bottoms with parchment). Apply Bake Even Cake Strips to the outside of the pans if you have them.
Beat together butter and brown sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the sorghum and beat until incorporated. Scrape down bowl with a spatula. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.
Whisk together flour, salt and baking soda in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the sour cream and bourbon. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture in 3 additions, with the mixer on low speed, alternating with sour cream mixture and starting and ending with flour mixture. Scrape down the mixing bowl with a large rubber spatula and turn the batter over several times to ensure all of the ingredients are well incorporated.
Divide batter between pans (this works out to be about 1 1/2 cups per pan). Bake until golden and cakes spring back when pressed in their centers, about 21-27 minutes. Let cakes cool in pans for 5 minutes. The cakes should pull away from the sides of the pan. Invert cakes, remove pans and let cool completely on a wire rack. Level the cakes if needed (you may skip this part if your Bake Even Cake Strips worked correctly).
Make the simple syrup: In a microwave-safe bowl combine the water and sugar. Cook at 100% power for 1 minute 30 seconds. Stir well until the sugar is completely melted (you can also make this on the stove top in a saucepan over medium-high heat if you don’t have a microwave). Add bourbon; drizzle on/brush syrup over cake layers. Use as much or as little of the syrup as desired (I had 1/4 cup left over).
Make the vanilla bourbon frosting: Cream the butter until smooth in an electric mixer on high speed. Add the sugar and beat on low speed until incorporated, then on high speed until fluffy. Add the sorghum and vanilla bean paste. Beat on high speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl and turn the frosting over a few times to ensure all the ingredients are incorporated. Beat in the bourbon; whip for 1 minute.
Thinly spread 3 tablespoons of the apple butter on a cake layer. Place the cake layer on a cake stand. Top with a generous 1/2 cup of vanilla bourbon frosting; top cake layer with a second cake layer. Spread the remaining 3 tablespoons apple butter on top of the second cake layer, top with generous 1/2 cup of frosting. Place final cake layer on top. Cover the cake with a thin layer of frosting (crumb coat) and refrigerate until firm. (Be sure to cover remaining frosting with a damp paper towel to prevent drying.) Cover chilled cake with a final smooth layer of frosting. Chill the cake again in the refrigerator while you prepare the red ganache. Transfer remaining frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large closed star tip.
Make the red ganache: In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the chopped red candy and heavy cream. Place in the microwave and heat at 100% power at 30 second intervals, stirring well between heating (about 1 minute total cook time). Alternatively, you may use a saucepan on the stovetop over medium-low heat.
Let ganache cool until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes at room temperature. Remove the cake from the refrigerator. Gently and slowly, spoon a small amount of ganache over the edge of the cake allowing it to flow over the sides in drippy fashion (some of the ganache will drip off of the cake, so place it on a surface you don’t mind getting drippy – read: not your finest table linens). Cover any bare spots on top of the cake by spooning on red ganache. You may not have to use all of the ganache.
Use the piping bag of reserved frosting to pipe swirls of frosting around the top edge of the cake.
Make the wax seal décors: Knead the rolled fondant until it is well pliable and not sticky (knead in a tiny amount of powdered sugar if it remains sticky). Roll into 6 marble-sized balls and flatten each ball with the wax stamp. If the fondant sticks to the wax seal, gently pull it off to reveal the design. Allow the fondant seals to dry until firm, about 15 minutes. Place the seals upright and alternately on every other frosting swirl on top of the cake. Dust the entire cake lightly with the ground cinnamon.
The alcohol component does a wonderful job of preserving the cake at room temperature, but I chose to store the cake in the refrigerator overnight because of the apple butter filling. Wrap the cake well or store in an airtight cake keeper after it is cut. Always bring to room temperature before serving.
Keyword black vanilla fondant, bourbon balls, vanilla bourbon frosting