Bourbon Banana Stack Cake

A Louisville chef unites her favorite Filipino and Kentucky flavors

Photo: Nokee Bucayu

“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.

photo: Isabel Wilkerson

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. 


  • Bourbon Banana Stack Cake


    • 3 cups all-purpose flour

    • ½ tsp. baking soda

    • ½ tsp. salt

    • 1 cup granulated sugar

    • 1 cup dark brown sugar

    • 1 cup unsalted butter

    • 2 eggs

    • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

    • 2 tsp. pandan extract

    • 1½ cup buttermilk

    • 2 cups mashed banana


    • ½ cup unsalted butter

    • 1 cup sugar

    • 10 ripe bananas, mashed

    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

    • 1 tsp. salt

    • 2 tbsp. bourbon


    • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter

    • ½ cup granulated sugar

    • 1 cup heavy cream

    • 2 tbsp. bourbon

    • Salt to taste


  1. Make the cake layers: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray three 9-inch round pans with nonstick spray and set aside. In a small bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt, granulated sugar, and brown sugar). In a separate bowl, use a mixer to cream butter and sugar together until fully incorporated. Add eggs one at a time, being careful to make sure they are completely blended into the butter before adding another. Add in the extracts. Then, add one cup of the dry mix into the butter/sugar mixture followed by a ½ cup of buttermilk. Repeat. Once all the dry ingredients and buttermilk have been added, fold in the mashed bananas.

  2. Divide mix into the 9-inch pans. It will be thinner than typical cake batters. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Cool.

  3. Make the banana butter: In a small saucepan on medium heat, add sugar and cook until it reaches a medium caramel color. Add butter and stir. When the butter and sugar are incorporated, add mashed banana, vanilla, and salt.  Whisk together—be careful, it will steam! Add bourbon.

  4. Turn heat down to low and cook down for another 5-10 minutes, depending on how juicy your bananas are.

  5. Make the bourbon caramel: In a small saucepan on medium heat, add sugar and cook until it reaches a medium caramel color. Add butter and stir. When the butter and sugar are incorporated, add heavy cream, vanilla, and salt. Whisk together (again, be careful of the steam). Add bourbon.

  6. Assemble: Let the cakes and the banana butter cool completely. Use an offset spatula to put a thick layer of banana butter on the first cake layer, covering it completely. Add the second stack and repeat. Pour/drizzle the caramel on top of the last cake. Serve with whipped cream.