At the beginning of the summer, I was in OKC at a conference with colleagues. Because of a scheduling FUBAR, I was in one hotel and my teachers were in another. (They were at the swanky Crowne Plaza; I was at the Holiday Inn. I sacrificed.)
Besides spending all day together at this three day institute, we also spent many meals together. I hate picking restaurants for a group. It is nerve racking and I hate to disappoint a crowd. You never know what the tastes of the group will be, how adventurous they are, what they consider fine dining, etc. I was more than thrilled when they reported they had overheard a conversation in their hotel elevator lauding the praises of Whiskey Cake.
Whiskey Cake is a Plano restaurant that recently transplanted a franchise in Oklahoma City. I “yelped” it and found rave reviews. I was a little skeptical, though, because it was located smack-dab in a mall parking lot.
We arrived and everyone was more than pleased. I settled in with a cocktail, a Bee Sting (tequila, grapefruit, lime, agave and jalapeno).
We then ordered the Fire Roasted Shishitos. No one else had ever had these so I described them as buttery, melt-in-your-mouth sauted peppers with one caveat: you may be playing Russian roulette. Some will be mild and some might be hot.
We then ordered. I had my eye on the club sandwich but everyone else ordered the burgers. The burgers were fantastic and that will be what I will order next time. (The most petite and tiniest person in attendance ordered the OMG Burger—brisket burger, beer battered onion rings, roasted criminis, muenster, grain mustard, red chili mayo, lettuce, tomato, challah bun—and ate the entire thing.)
The pièce de résistance of the meal was the dessert, the restaurant’s signature Whiskey Cake. Luckily we only ordered one (and a seasonal banana cream cheesecake).
The cake itself was enough for all six of us to share. It was so delicious that I immediately searched for a recipe (found here). We could not put our finger on the main ingredient of the cake itself. Answer: it is dates. One of the teachers went home that next weekend and made it, deeming it truly authentic and delicious.
On the July Fourth weekend, I found time to make it as well.
This is Chef John Franke’s recipe; I just halved it and detailed the instructions a bit. My goodness, but we didn’t need the giant-sized servings here. Here is the recipe in four parts. First make the cake, then make the toffee, whiskey sauce, and spiced pecans. Finally, present it all on a plate.
Whiskey Cake in Four Parts
1. Make the Whiskey Cake:
1 c. dates, pitted and chopped
½ t. baking soda
1 c. boiling hot water
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 extra large egg
½ c. + 6 T. self rising flour
2 T. Turbinado sugar
Softened salted butter to prepare pan
Place the dates, baking soda, and boiling water in a bowl. Allow to sit for 15-20 minutes to soften the dates. Then, run the mixture through food processor for 2 minutes to make a paste.
In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, place butter and sugar on a medium speed and mix until smooth (about 1 minute). Add egg and mix 1 minute more. Use a rubber spatula to clean sides. Add the date paste and fold in with a rubber spatula. Carefully mix in flour.
Prepare an 8×8” pan with the softened butter and sprinkle on the Turbinado sugar. Shake the pan to spread out the sugar on bottom and all sides.
Pour the batter into pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. When finished, allow to cool at room temperature for 20 minutes. Flip out onto a paper lined tray. Leave at room temperature to cool completely. Once cool, wrap in plastic wrap and keep stored at room temperature or enjoy right away.
To serve, cut cake in 9 pieces. Poke several holes in each piece, top with 2 oz. of warm toffee sauce (see recipe below). Place in a 500 degree oven on a oven proof tray or plate for 4-5 minutes until toffee is bubbling and cake is warmed throughout.
Pour 2 oz. of bourbon sauce (see recipe below) on the plate, top with warmed cake slice, top that with spiced pecans (see recipe below). Finish with some whipped cream. Enjoy!
2. Make the Whiskey Sauce:
½ c. heavy cream
2 T. granulated sugar, divided
Yolk of one large egg
1 t. Irish whiskey
1 t. vanilla extract
Bring heavy cream, 1 T. sugar to a simmer in a small sauce pot.
In a mixing bowl, whisk the remaining T. of sugar and egg until foamy.
Temper half of the heavy cream into the mixing bowl, mix, and return mixture to pot of cream
Continue to cook over medium heat until thick.
Add whiskey and vanilla extract.
Remove from heat and strain through a sieve into a container and place in an ice bath to cool.
Once cold, cover and place in the refrigerator until needed.
3. Make the Toffee Sauce:
4 T. unsalted butter
½ lb.brown sugar
1 c. heavy cream
1 T. Whiskey
½ T. Vanilla Extract
Place butter in a heavy 1 quart sauce pan and melt over a medium flame. Add brown sugar cook over medium high heat for 10 minutes. Stir often with a heat proof rubber spatula to ensure cooking evenly. Carefully drizzle in cream, stirring constantly, and allow to cook for an additional 7 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat, add bourbon and vanilla and stir.
Transfer to a container and place on ice to cool or use immediately.
Once cold, place in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat before using.
4. Make the Spiced Pecans:
½ lb. pecan halves
1 t. water
4 T. maple syrup
¼ t. kosher salt
¼ t. black pepper
¼ t. cayenne pepper
Whisk together the water, syrup, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Add pecans and toss together. Place pecan mixture on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and toast at 350 degrees for about 10-12 minutes. Stir halfway through the cooking process.
As soon as they are removed from the oven, scrap the pecans off the pan to avoid sticking once cooled. Let cool completely. Store in an airtight plastic container at room temperature.
The pecans are delicious and I would make them on their own anytime. (I used them to top my recently posted Spinach Salad with Sweet Peas, Strawberries, and Balsamic-Maple Vinaigrette.)
I would definitely return to Whiskey Cake, a farm-to-table restaurant in OKC and I will also seek out the Plano venue when we are in Texas. (I had the vocational agriculture teacher in tow at this conference and he had fun asking our waitress where they sourced the mussels after she explained to us all that all the ingredients came from local sources.)
Even though the cake is a multi-step process, I would also revisit the recipe. The steps can obviously be done well ahead of time and the dessert can be assembled with each component before serving. The next time I make it, though, I think I will leave the cake in the pan, poke holes in it and dump the toffee on top to soak in. I plan on taking this cake to work when school starts and I think that is the only way to do it and travel. When I get to the office, I will have the whiskey sauce available on the side.
Check out my review on Yelp!