‘Western Whiskey’ web extra: Tracy Dempsey’s Manhattan Cake

The episode “Western Whiskey” features baker Tracy Dempsey, who has been making pastries in the Valley since 1999. In the episode, she creates a whiskey dessert using Copper City Bourbon. Copper City Bourbon is made by Arizona Distilling Co. and is the first legal spirt distillery in the Phoenix.

Dempsey generously agreed to share the recipe for her Manhattan Cake with our viewers. If you try it, tag @platepourshow on social media to let us know how yours turns out!

The full episode is available online and via the PBS app. See more from season two of “Plate & Pour” here.

The Manhattan Cake

12 ounces unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt
4 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1⁄2 cup ginger ale
1⁄2 cup premium quality cocktail cherries (I used Tillen Farms Bada bing Cherries), stemmed and chopped
Additional butter or pan release for prepping cake pans
6 cherries with stems on for garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Prepare 6 mini bundt cake pans by buttering the cavity of each or using pan release spray. Place
    pans on a sheet pan. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar and salt
    until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, stirring to combine completely. Stir in the flour. Add the
    Ginger ale, stirring to incorporate. Finally, add the cherries.
  4. Divide the batter among the 6 bundt pans. Place the sheet pan with the bundt pans in the
    middle of the pre-heated oven. Bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes, The cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in a cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before inverting the cakes and releasing them from the pans.
  5. Glaze cakes and garnish with a skewered cherry on each.

The Bourbon Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
2-6 tablespoons bourbon

  1. In a small bowl using a whisk combine the powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons of bourbon. Add enough bourbon to make a thick glaze. If it’s too thin, it will drip off of the cake.
  2. To glaze, place a cake top first into the glaze, shake off excess and transfer topside up on to a sheetpan. Allow the glaze to set up or dry.
  3. Cakes may be glazed and stored in an airtight container.

The Bitters Caramel

1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
Juice of 1⁄2 fresh lemon
1⁄2 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons orange bitters

  1. In a non-reactive sauce pan, combine the sugar, water and lemon juice and place over medium- high heat. Cook without stirring until amber. It is okay to swirl the pan to incorporate the amber caramel along the edges. Stirring too soon will result in crystallization and lumps in the finished product. You may want to use a candy thermometer for this as well. When the thermometer registers 320F, remove from the heat. Slowly and very carefully add the heavy cream. The caramel will sputter and bubble. Be careful.
  2. Finally, stir in the bitters. Allow to cool to room temperature before serving. Store any remaining sauce in the refrigerator.

The Orange Sherbet

1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
Juice of 1⁄2 fresh lemon
2 cups whole milk
2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice, strained
1/8 teaspoon vanilla bean powder or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. In a large bowl, whisk the ingredients together.
  2. Refrigerate for about an hour before spinning the sherbet in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s directions. Store in the freezer.

The Vermouth Brittle

1 1⁄2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup water
1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon water
1⁄4 cup sweet vermouth

  1. Lightly oil a half sheet pan. Set aside.
  2. Combine the sugar, corn syrup and water in a large sauce pan. Place over medium-high heat. Clip a candy thermometer to the pan. Cook to 325F.
  3. In a small cup combine the baking soda, water and vermouth. Set aside.
  4. When the candy reaches 325F, turn off the heat and add the baking soda mixture. Stir like crazy.
  5. It will bubble up much like the caramel sauce. Please be careful when working with hot sugar
    and caramel.
  6. Immediately pour the hot candy on to the prepared sheet pan. Use a heat proof spatula to
    spread the brittle in an even layer. Allow the brittle to harden and cool completely before breaking in to irregular pieces.

To serve the dessert, place a soup spoon of the bitters caramel on a dessert plate and shmear it with the back of the spoon. Place a cake off center on the plate. Top with a scoop of the sherbet and garnish with a skewered cherry and pieces of the vermouth brittle. Cheers!

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