Looking for a dessert that’s rich, indulgent and full of retro flair? Then this flourless Kahlua cake recipe from 1981 might be just what you’re looking for. The original recipe is from a vintage “Kahlua & Christmas” advertisement, pairing this indulgent chocolate-frosted Kahlua cake with four recipes for Kahlua drinks, including a boozy Kahlua eggnog.

Christmas would be nothing without nostalgia, and when we stumbled across this Reagan-era recipe, we knew we had to put it to the test. It has coffee, Kahlua and chocolate! It’s impossible to say no to that, so we headed straight into the kitchen.

How to Make Flourless Kahlua Chocolate-Almond Cake

To make this Kahlua cake, you first need to separate your eggs into whites and yolks, beat them separately, then fold together into a light, airy batter—much as if you were baking a souffle. After the cake cools completely, it gets brushed with Kahlua straight out of the bottle and covered in a rich frosting that’s spiked with a bit more Kahlua for good measure.


7-1/2 ounces finely ground, unblanched almonds
5 eggs, separated, plus 2 extra yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup Kahlua
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 pound sweet butter
2 teaspoons instant coffee
1/4 cup Kahlua
1/4 cup candied cherries

Tools You’ll Need


Step 1: Preheat the oven

Begin by preheating your oven to 300°F. Trace the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan onto a piece of parchment paper and cut it out with scissors. Grease the bottom and sides of the springform pan, then line the bottom with the parchment circle.

Step 2: Beat the eggs whites and sugar

In a clean metal mixer bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy, then gradually add ¼ cup sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Transfer the egg whites to a clean bowl and set aside.

Step 3: Make the cake batter

Add the egg yolks and the remaining ½ cup sugar to the mixing bowl; beat until they double in size and turn a pale yellow color, then stir in the ground almonds, salt and ¼ cup Kahlua. Gently fold in the beaten egg whites until batter is uniformly colored, then pour into the prepared pan.

Step 4: Time to bake!

Bake the cake for 60-65 minutes. To check if it’s finished, insert a toothpick into the center. If the toothpick comes out clean, remove the cake from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Run a thin paring knife or offset spatula around the outside edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan, then allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Remove the sides of the springform pan, flip the cake upside down, remove the bottom of the pan and peel off the parchment paper. Let the cake cool to room temperature.

Step 5: Make the frosting

In a small bowl, dissolve 2 teaspoons of instant coffee in ¼ cup Kahlua. Melt the chocolate chips either by using a double boiler, or microwaving in 30 second increments in a large bowl. Let the chocolate cool while you cut one stick of cold butter into small pieces.

Gradually stir the butter into the chocolate a few pieces at a time, then add the coffee/Kahlua mixture, and beat well to combine. Chill until spreadable.

Step 6: Frost the cake

Drizzle ¼ cup of Kahlua over the cake, then frost and decorate with cherries.

Here’s What I Thought

This cake might have been seen as the height of home baked luxury back in 1981, but 40 years later, it’s a little bit lacking. That’s not to say it’s not good, though! Nor is it hard to tweak this recipe to make it a winner by today’s standards.

I felt the biggest problem with the original recipe is its use of ground, unblanched almonds, as fibrous almond skins can dry out a cake. In this recipe, where the only liquid comes from the egg whites and yolks, that drying effect is very noticeable. To be fair to the recipe writers, in 1981 finely ground almond flour was not as readily available in supermarkets as it is today. If you’re making this cake, I highly recommend using almond flour, which is made with blanched nuts and is much finer than almonds ground in a home food processor.

A good amount of moisture in the finished cake comes from drizzling Kahlua over the sponge before frosting, but I found that ¼ cup was not enough for two reasons. First, even using real liquor straight from the bottle, this cake was lacking in the flavor department, with only a faint flavor of Kahlua. Second, the cake was too dry. I would recommend drizzling ½ cup of Kahlua over the cake once it cools or, if you’re worried that might be too much alcohol, mixing ¼ cup Kahlua with ¼ cup strong black coffee.

I should note that this cake isn’t very sweet, which was fine by me, as I’m a fan of dark chocolate. However, if prefer your cakes on the sweeter side of things, swap out the semi-sweet chocolate chips for milk chocolate, which will add just enough sugar to balance out the Kahlua flavor.

Can Kids Eat Kahlua Cake?

In a word, no. This cake is drizzled with straight, alcoholic Kahlua and uses more Kahlua in the frosting. Plus the notion that alcohol will “cook off” in the oven is a myth; even if some does dissipate during baking, it won’t be very much. If you’d like to make a version of this cake that is completely free of alcohol, replace the Kahlua with strongly brewed, lightly sweetened black coffee.

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The post This Chocolate Kahlua Cake from 1981 Will Get You in the Holiday Spirit appeared first on Taste of Home.