Sales soar for Kentucky bourbon cake

Published: Jan. 14, 2011 at 3:47 AM EST|Updated: Jul. 20, 2011 at 2:27 PM EDT
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Matt Mead
Matt Mead
Adam Burckle
Adam Burckle
John Hassmann
John Hassmann

By Connie Leonard - bio | email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It is the little idea that could. Two years ago, the man behind Adam Matthews Cheesecakes and Louisville's Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchens wanted to create a cake special to Kentucky. Finally, a few months ago, the product was ready to debut and it has taken on a life of its own.

It's the Kentucky Woods Bourbon Barrel Cake Louisville businessman Adam Burckle had planned to test it out at local stores and online, but Burckle says in 27 years in business, he's never been so surprised to have so many requests for one product from around the country and the world.

It began as a simple idea from Burckle, Louisville's sweet tooth king.

"We wanted a product totally unique to Kentucky," he told WAVE 3.

Burckle had a family recipe for a brown sugar cake and thought what says the Bluegrass better than good Kentucky bourbon?

"It was more than two years of rigorous research and development," said Matt Mead, Burckle's head baker.

Just talking about it is exhausting for Mead.

"We got close three or four times, then we had a hiccup come up," Mead said.

The problem - there was too much bourbon.

"In order to get it approved, so we could get it across state lines without becoming bourbon runners," said Mead laughing, "we had to cut back and come up with a whole new idea."

Burckle found a bourbon chemist who discovered a secret ingredient to allow the alcohol to bake out and just enough bourbon flavor to stay in. Butter, sugar and the secret mixture of three premium bourbons is then steamed for hours.

"When it comes out, it's so pure and so smooth, it's amazing," said Burckle of the result.

They added chocolate, and topped it off with caramel, walnuts and maple syrup and put it in a signature handmade wood box.

In late August, the Kentucky Woods Bourbon Barrel Cake was ready for local retailers like "A Taste of Kentucky.

"We're just thrilled to have it," said John Hassmann, president of Taste of Kentucky about of the cake.

Hassmann says when he put out samples, customers ate it up and they couldn't keep it the product in stock.

"It just took on a life of its own," said Hassmann, who remembered the first sales were surprisingly fast. "It's very seldom that we get products that have such fast acceptance."

Local stores went through 30 to 40 cases a day during the holidays.

"It's the fastest roll out of any product we've ever had in our 27 year history," Burckle said.

Then, Burckle said sales representatives from national chains like Sam's Club and Publix began requesting the cakes and Burckle had trouble keeping up.

"We've never ever seen anything like this and it is setting records wherever it goes," he said.

Burckle then got a call from Walmart in Japan, where they have 600 grocery stores and they have one of the biggest grocery chains in the nation. Japan is a huge market for bourbon and Burckle said the cake became the company's first international product.

"I truly am amazed every day I wake up, how successful it's been," said Burckle.

Burckle says the cake, which retails for $25, sold out in all of Publix 1,200 supermarkets in three days and set a record with Sam's Club as the highest selling cake ever. Now Burckle is still trying to figure out how to keep up with all the new orders.

In case you are wondering, the three bourbons used in the cake are a secret.

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