Martha Stewart Elevates Her Pound Cake With Brandy, And So Should You

Booze shouldn't be sequestered to only beverage glasses and cocktail shakers. When used as an ingredient in baked goods, it can add flavors and complexity that can take a recipe from traditional to innovative.

Celebrity home and lifestyle entrepreneur Martha Stewart apparently agrees, having shared a new boozy bake in a recent Instagram post. The post tempts followers with a photo of a golden brown, textured bundt cake resting on a cake stand.

"I cooked and baked a bit this weekend," Stewart wrote in the caption. "The cake, a dense pound cake scented with lemon, Armagnac, and glazed with a butter sugar Armagnac mix, was well liked with a dollop of vanilla whipped cream."

On her blog, Stewart shared that she made the cake for designer Andy Yu's birthday luncheon. Chef and restaurateur David Burke, who is known for getting creative with ingredients, prepared the rest of the menu, which featured lobster dumplings, burrata salad, and tuna and salmon tartare. Stewart's dessert contribution to the menu shows there can be benefits to baking with liquor.

Booze and baking

So what exactly happens when you bake with booze? Alcohol can add flavor and texture to cakes, pies, and other baked goods. It can also change the consistency, for example, by making a pastry dough flakier or a sponge more moist. According to Betty Crocker, using alcohol in baking can boost flavor by binding fat and water together.

Dessert recipes often incorporate liquor in two ways: adding alcohol prior to baking, which usually results in more subtle notes or adding it after baking in a glaze or icing, for a more prominent, on-the-nose flavor. Stewart seems to have done both.

When baking with liquor, the obvious question is: Can you get a buzz from spiked desserts? It's a common myth that the alcohol gets burned off or diminished in the cooking process, but the reality is more nuanced. According to Taste of Home, it depends on how you're using the booze. For example, a stew with red wine that is simmered on the stove for hours will have a lower alcohol content than a quick flambéed bananas foster.

Stewart's liquor of choice for her pound cake — brandy — is made from wine or other types of fermented fruit juice. It often clocks in at 40 to 50% alcohol by volume, and in baking, it is commonly used for tiramisu and fruit cake recipes. The specific type of brandy Stewart used for her pound cake is Armagnac, which originates from the Gascony region of France and is dubbed by as "Cognac's lesser known cousin." Knowing that, how do you use it to make Stewart's pound cake?

How to make Martha Stewart's pound cake

Unfortunately, Stewart may have freestyled the boozy birthday bake, since there isn't a recipe for lemon and Armagnac-infused pound cake on her website. With a little bit of creativity, though, you can recreate something similar.

Stewart's recipes for Glazed Lemon Pound Cake and Lemon Bundt Cake are similar to the Instagrammed invention, sans the booze. She also demonstrates four different bundt cake recipes in a recent YouTube video and shares some useful tips. For example, poking holes in the bundt cake before you glaze it can help the liquid soak in.

If you choose to adapt any of these recipes to incorporate booze, remember to start small so you don't overwhelm the flavor of your dessert. One simple rule: swap in the same amount of liquor as you would an extract (like vanilla) in a recipe.

And remember to choose liquor you'll actually want to drink. It'll put the leftovers to good use.