Whiskey and chocolate cake are two of my favorite things in life. Plus they pair perfectly together! Yes, whiskey and chocolate cake make a great pairing. To prove my point and find out the best whiskey to pair with chocolate cake, I threw a Whiskey and Chocolate Cake Pairing Party last weekend.
Here are all the details, plus tips for recreating it.
Whiskey and Chocolate Cake Pairing Party
It all started with an Instagram contest. Miraculously I won a cake from ECBG Cake + Pastry Studio, a Chicago bakery known for its creatively delicious pastries. Eee! I scrolled through ECBG’s instagram and realized a cake this awesome deserves a party. And what’s a party without some whiskey? So an afternoon of whiskey and cake was born.
Whiskey and Cake Pairing Party Parameters
I had three goals for the Whiskey and Chocolate Cake Pairing Party: one, obviously, to hang out with friends and eat cake. Two, to show people whiskey and cake actually pair together. And finally, to introduce friends to the wide range of whiskey and find out which type of whiskey paired best with cake.
My go-to whiskey and cake pairing has always been bourbon and chocolate cake, but I wanted to not-so-scientifically see if another type of whiskey would pair better.
What to Drink for the Whiskey Tasting
So we tasted the main categories of whiskey with chocolate cake: bourbon, rye, scotch and a blend of the three. Each whiskey had to be a good representation of each type (no creative ryes or spicy bourbons) and affordable if my friends decided to buy the bottles later.
As the new President of Women Who Whiskey’s Chicago Chapter, lately I’ve been drinking some mighty fine whiskeys and meeting some mighty fine whiskey connoisseurs. I talked to several brand ambassadors and whiskey experts for advice on bottles that were easily approachable, well-liked, affordable and good representations of their type.
I settled on Michter’s US*1 for Bourbon, Lot 40 for Rye, Glendronach 12 for Scotch and High West Campfire for the blend (more on why below).
Whiskey and Cake Pairing Party Time
I sent out invitations (emailed by Paperless Post) and surprisingly 8 friends agreed to spend their Sunday drinking whiskey and eating cake with me. I taught a little about each type of whiskey, plus the history and background of each bottle.
Here’s what we tasted — and more importantly — what we thought.
1. Michter’s US*1 Bourbon and Chocolate Cake
We started with the sweet side of whiskey: bourbon. Michter’s traces its heritage back to the first distillery in America back in 1753. It’s truly small batch — made with less than two dozen barrels so imperfections cannot be blended out. (Most large distilleries use hundreds or even thousands of barrels blended together.)
Michter’s US*1 Bourbon ($45) has the classic bourbon flavors: vanilla, caramel, slightly sweet with traces of oakiness. Other classic bourbons to try: Old Forester Bourbon ($40), Buffalo Trace ($22), Four Roses Small Batch ($30).
To compare a typical bourbon versus a high-corn whiskey, a few of us also tasted Whiskey Acres Bourbon, made with 75% corn and heavy on the corn flavor.
2. Lot 40 Rye and Chocolate Cake
Next we went spicy. Lot 40 ($35) is a Canadian rye that encompasses the best flavors of rye: strong rye spiciness, black pepper mixed with dried fruits, and vanilla. It’s one of the few ryes using 100% rye and aged longer than 3 years. (It’s actually aged for 7-8!) It’s from the Hiram Walker Distillery, established in 1858, on the Canadian border near Detroit. I was recently introduced to Lot 40 and it’s changing my mind about ryes. It might even turn me into a rye drinker!
3. Glendronach 12 Scotch and Chocolate Cake
Glendronach was the second distillery to apply for a whiskey license in Scotland in 1826. The Highland single malt is aged for 12 years in Spanish Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso sherry casks, giving it a slightly sweet and warm oak flavor. Hints of spice, raisins, and chocolate round out the taste that finishes with a nice nutty, smokiness. Glendronach 12 ($50) is one of my new discoveries and favorite bottles at the moment.
A lot of people associate peaty flavors with scotch, even though it’s limited to the Islay region. To compare Highland vs. Islay scotch, a few of us tried Laphroaig 10 ($40), a notoriously peaty single malt. I’m a big Laphroaig fan, but the vanilla, seaweed, pepper and medicinal flavors can be overpowering for some. Surprisingly, a few friends actually picked it as their favorite!
4. High West Campfire (Blend) and Chocolate Cake
We finished with a blend of each type of whiskey we’d just tried. High West Campfire ($65) is the world’s only blend of bourbon, rye and scotch — and one of my favorite whiskeys. Not only is it from my home state (Utah shoutout!), I love the way the three types of whiskey blend together to create a journey through whiskey in one sip. It starts floral and fruity with butterscotch flavors, moves to spicy nutmeg and cinnamon, then finishes with a light smoke and woodiness.
What whiskey paired best with Chocolate Cake?
After we learned about each whiskey and paired them with chocolate cake, we took a vote. The overall favorite whiskey (by itself) was Michter’s bourbon, with Glendronach Scotch the runner-up. The favorite whiskey and cake pairing was the High West Campfire with chocolate cake, with the Glendronach and cake pairing a close second.
It seemed like the Scotches held up to the cake the best, with the smokiness balancing out the rich sweetness of cake. Even I abandoned my usual bourbon and cake companionship and voted for High West and Glendronach for my favorite whiskey cake pairing!
How to Throw a Whiskey and Cake Pairing Party
First figure out how many people to invite. This determines everything else! My biggest hurdle was glasses; I wanted each person to have three glasses at once so my party had to be very small (9 people total).
Second, decide what you’re serving. My party was inspired by ECBG’s cake and the focus was pairing it with different whiskeys. You could pair different cakes and the same whiskey, do a linear whiskey tasting or different whiskey brands. The possibilities are endless!
What you need for a whiskey and cake pairing party
Each guest needs several glasses. I used white wine glasses (although Glencairn glasses would have been better) but plastic tasting glasses like this would work as a cheaper option. Each guest needs bottled water to cleanse their pallet, plus a tasting mat and pens for taking notes. (Free printable versions are available here and here, but I designed my own. Email me if you want it!) I supplied water droppers (with Evian) to add water to the whiskey, but that’s optional.
Don’t forget something to measure the whiskey with! Serve each guest ½ ounce or 1 ounce per whiskey. Limit your whiskeys to 5 or 6 bottles, otherwise palate fatigue sets in and it’s too hard to determine the taste differences. (Again, we tried Michter’s Bourbon, Lot 40 Rye, Glendronach Scotch and High West Campfire, plus Whiskey Acres Bourbon and Laphroaig Scotch for other comparisons.)
The whiskey and chocolate cake pairing party was fun and informative, plus a great excuse to get friends together. What other pairings have you done (or are curious about)? I’d love to know in the comments. I think my next class will be scotch and cheese. Better start my “research!” :)
Disclaimer :: Lot40 and Glendronach graciously gifted us bottles for this party. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. • Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and I may receive a commission from them. Thank you for supporting the companies that support Random Acts of Kelliness.