Bourbon Russian Cake _lowres

Photo by Cynthia L. Nobles -- Guests will go wild for Bourbon Russian Cake, long popular in New Orleans.

Advocate-tested recipe

Bourbon Russian Cake

Makes 1 (9-inch) cake; serves at least 12. Recipe is by Cynthia L. Nobles, who says, “Russian cake supposedly got its start in New Orleans in 1872 when the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia visited New Orleans for Mardi Gras. The story goes that a baker assigned to make sweets for his highness had run short of ingredients. So he mixed pastry scraps with a booze-tinged syrup and pressed the mishmash between two split cake layers, forming a dense patchwork dessert.”

1 box yellow cake mix (plus ingredients for making cake), optional

½ cup white grape, apple or pineapple juice

¼ cup bourbon

2 tbls. grenadine syrup

½ tsp. anise extract, optional

8 cups of ½-inch pieces stale pastries (cakes, doughnuts, cookies, etc., frosting included, but nothing cream-filled)

½ cup seedless raspberry jam

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

3 tbls. half-and-half

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

¼ tsp. almond extract

Multicolored nonpareils

1. If you want plain cake layers on the top and bottom of your cake, bake a cake from a yellow cake mix in 2 round, 9-inch pans. Only one cake layer is required for this recipe; you can use the remaining layer for another purpose.

2. In a large, deep bowl, whisk together grape juice, rum, grenadine and anise extract. Add stale cake, cookie, etc., pieces, and stir gently until liquid is completely absorbed.

3. Oil the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Slice cooled yellow cake in half horizontally and place bottom half inside pan. (Or you can make the cake without the yellow cake halves). Spoon 1?3 of the moistened cake pieces onto bottom of pan or on top of cake half, if using, and press everything down hard and evenly with a wooden spoon. Spread on half of the raspberry jam (1/4 cup). Top with another 1?3 of the moistened cake pieces, press hard again and spread on remaining jam. Top with remaining moistened cake pieces; press hard, and, if using, lay remaining yellow cake half on top. Cover cake with a sheet of plastic wrap, then top with a 9-inch cardboard cake round, a 9-inch cake pan or anything that’s round and flat and fits into the pan. Lay foil-wrapped bricks or canned goods on top of cake and let sit 12-24 hours in the refrigerator.

4. To make icing, combine confectioners’ sugar, butter, half-and-half, vanilla and almond extracts in a large bowl and beat over medium speed of an electric mixer until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Spread icing over cake top and sprinkle top with nonpareils. Remove cake from pan and serve. Store unused cake in the refrigerator. Keeps tightly covered up to a week.