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I Call Her 'Bathtub Gin': Gin Cake with Lemon Buttercream + Lime Curd

He knows just how I like my martini - full of alcohol

-Homer Simpson

There are likely only the remaining few that ever had ‘proper’, prohibition-era ‘bathtub gin’ and for those that haven’t, the lore indicates they probably would not want to.

It was probably a decade ago that I was invited to a bar with no address. The text from the host instructed me to knock on the door next to Marvin, a lounge/restaurant in the U Street Corridor of Washington DC. I must have looked a veritable nutter pacing the street looking for this bar. I asked a few passersby if they knew about a bar without an address of which I received the look one gets when caught farting in an elevator. All I saw was an innocuous black door with a gaggle of meters and I thought if I knock on this door and am greeted by a pissed off inhabitant who has had their door knocked on all night by thirsty patrons thinking it was this non-existent bar, I was surely to be kicked in the face. I knocked. I pounded. I was ‘greeted’ by a suit who promptly slammed the door in my face. I would have left had I not smelled liquor and heard laughter. “I can hear you laughing at me” I said to the door. I yelled out a name. Anybody within earshot must have thought I was just kicked out of my apartment. The door reopened and I was led into a dimly lit bar. Natalie Portman was sitting at the bar and everybody looked so chic. I knew by morning word would spread through the gossip portals and this modern speakeasy would be merely a pseudo-secret. It was the first and last time I ever went to The Gibson.

Arguably, a gin + tonic is the most recognized way to drink the spirit, but what if you wanted it and have your cake too? Inspired by a term for prohibition moonshine and a bit of cheeky humor, I Call Her 'Bathtub Gin' is the perfect cake as an adventurous alternative.

I Call Her ‘Bathtub Gin’: Gin Cake with Lemon Buttercream + Lime Curd

The recipe.

Makes a three-layer, 6” cake or a two-layer, 8” cake

Gin | Cake

325 g cake flour

300 g granulated sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

3/4 tsp kosher salt

1 teaspoon juniper berries, crushed

1.5 tablespoons lemon zest

50 mL gin

170 g unsalted butter, room temperature, cubed

150 g egg whites

1 tsp vanilla extraxt

110 mL whole milk

Lemon | Buttercream

240 ml egg whites

400 g granulated sugar

675 g unsalted butter, cubed at room temperature

2 tsp lemon extract

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

1 tsp lemon zest

Lime | Curd

200 g granulated sugar

60 g unsalted butter, cubed

2 large eggs, beaten

1 tablespoon lime zest

180 mL fresh lime zest


Preheat oven to 325 F (165 C).

Spray three 6" round cake pans or two 8” round cake pans with non-stick spray (containing flour). Line the pans with parchment.

Gin Cake | Preparation

  1. In a small bowl, add the egg whites, vanilla, and milk. Stir to combine. Set aside.

  2. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the lemon zest and crushed juniper berries. Mix on low speed to combine.

  3. On low speed, add the butter to the flour mixture one cube at a time. After all the butter has been incorporated the resulting mixture should look sandy. Add the gin and continue to mix on low speed until the ingredients are uniformly moistened. Increase the speed to medium-high and mix for 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

  4. On medium speed, add the egg white mixture in 3 separate additions, mixing for approximately 30 seconds between additions. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl between each addition.

  5. Portion the batter evenly between the cake pans.

Lime Curd | Preparation

  1. Bring 1 to 2 inches of water to a simmer in the bottom of a double boiler. Add the sugar, butter, lime juice, and lime zest in the top of a double boiler. Stirring constantly, heat the mixture until the butter has melted completely.

  2. Whisking constantly, mix 2 tablespoons (in intervals of 1 teaspoon at a time) of the hot lime mixture into the beaten eggs.

  3. Whisking constantly, slowly pour in the egg mixture into the lime mixture.

  4. Cook until the lime curd thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon, typically 20 – 25 minutes.

  5. Cool the lime curd to room temperature before spooning into an air-tight container. Refrigerate.

Lemon Buttercream | Preparation

  1. Place the egg whites and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk by hand until combined.

  2. Place the bowl over a double boiler on the stove at medium-high heat and whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 160 F (71 C). Wipe off any condensate that has formed on the outside of the bowl with a towel.

  3. Place the bowl on a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk the egg white/sugar mixture on high speed (approximately 10 minutes), until it holds medium-stiff peaks.

  4. Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the butter, a few cubes at a time. Once all of the butter has been incorporated, add the vanilla bean paste and lemon extract. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the buttercream is smooth and silky, approximately 5 minutes more.

  5. Stir the lemon zest into the buttercream.

Baking | Final Assembly

  1. Bake at 325 F (165C) until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

  2. Remove from the oven and place the cakes on a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes before turning them out onto a wire rack to fully cool to room temperature.

  3. Once the cakes have cooled to room temperature, place one layer of cake on a cake board. Put the cake board on a cake turntable. Reserve the other layers on a piece of parchment paper while you work on the cake.

  4. Spread an even layer of lemon buttercream. Create a buttercream ‘dam’ by piping (a ½” round tip works well) a ring of buttercream around the edge of the layer of buttercream. Spread a ¼” layer of lime curd inside the buttercream dam. Fill in the dam with lemon buttercream. Top with a second cake round. Repeat the process for the third layer if making a 3-layer, 6” cake. Refrigerate until hardened, approximately 30 minutes.

  5. Spread a crumb coat on the cake with the lemon buttercream. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

  6. Mask the cake completely with the buttercream. Refrigerate until hard, approximately 30 minutes.

Serving | Storage

Serve the cake at room temperature.

The cake can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Allow to come to room temperature before serving, for best results.

The lime curd can be stored in an air-tight container for up to 14 days when stored in the refrigerator.

Cake recipe by The Confection Witch | Photography by The Confection Witch & Icing Troll

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