“Every time I step into a bourbon distillery, it always smells like fresh banana leaves to me,” says Nokee Bucayu, executive chef at the Wiltshire at the Speed and Wiltshire Pantry and Bakery in Louisville, Kentucky. Filipino-born Bucayu moved to Kentucky when she was ten and is always exploring ways to combine the two cultures in her culinary creations. Her stack cake, made with alternating layers of moist sorghum-pandan banana cake and banana butter and topped with whipped cream and a brown-butter-bourbon caramel, blends Filipino and Southern flavors into one boozy, decadent treat.
“I thought the stack cake was the perfect dish to get a Filipino makeover because the fruit butter is the highlight,” Bucayu says. “This cake combines the deep flavors of bourbon and sorghum with banana and pandan and creates a beautiful symphony of flavors and unexpected surprises.”
Bucayu’s passion for cooking began at an early age, when she helped her Lola (grandma) make traditional foods like ube halaya and rice cakes in the Philippines. After moving to the United States, she turned to Filipino food to remedy her homesickness. As she learned more about Southern cuisine, she discovered similarities between the two. “There’s a lot of frying and braising, both use a lot of pork, both are born out of necessity and preservation, both come from a mixture of cultures, and both are comforting, memory-inducing, and made best by your Grandma/Lola,” she says.
Chef Nokee Bucayu is the executive chef of Wiltshire at the Speed and Wiltshire Pantry and Bakery on Main, both in Louisville, Kentucky. In 2022, she competed in the Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championship Gingerbread Showdown, winning the dessert baking challenge component with her bourbon pecan pie. She was also named Best Pastry Chef by the American Culinary Federation Kentucky Chapter in 2019.