Kentucky Derby Pie Cupcakes

Kentucky Derby Pie Cupcakes

The close proximity at which the Kentucky Derby and Cinco de Mayo fall in relation to each other means an agonizing array of decisions must be made. For instance, bourbon or tequila? Derby hats or sombreros? Dainty tea cake sandwiches or chips with salsa and guacamole? If all else falls, throw your hands up in the air, feign submission, and enjoy a little bit of everything. I think it’s the right decision.

A couple of years ago, I made a version of the ever-popular Kentucky Derby Pie, which is a riff on a traditional pecan pie. Instead of pecans, walnuts are used, along with a heavy dose of chocolate chips and bourbon. Throw in pie crust and whipped cream, and you have a pretty fantastic dessert that your Derby watch-party guests will be fighting over. This year, I wanted to put a portable spin on the pie and decided to turn it into cupcakes. Cupcakes with a heavy dose of bourbon, of course.

Kentucky Derby Pie Cupcakes

The base for these cupcakes is a butter-bourbon cake batter (sort of like rum cake, but with bourbon instead) that is loaded with chopped walnuts and chocolate chips. Once the cupcakes are baked and cooled, they’re topped off with a vanilla-bourbon buttercream frosting, drizzled with bourbon-butter glaze, then garnished with more chopped walnuts and chocolate chips. If you’d like to ratchet up the bourbon flavor even more, you could brush some bourbon on top of each cupcake when they come out of the oven. (On the flip side, if you’d like to make these without the alcohol, you can simply omit the bourbon in all steps without making any additional adjustments.)

Kentucky Derby Pie Cupcakes

The resulting cupcakes are moist, flavorful and pack a nice bourbon punch. Easier to take to a party and serve than pie, and sure to be loved by all of your Derby-watching friends! Are you planning a Kentucky Derby party for Saturday? If so, what are you serving?

Kentucky Derby Pie Cupcakes

One year ago: Mint Julep Jell-O Shots
Two years ago: Homemade Restaurant Style Salsa
Three years ago: Pecan Sandies and Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread
Four years ago: Three Cheese Beer Bread
Five years ago: Yellow Cake with Chocolate-Hazelnut Filling & Chocolate Frosting
Six years ago: Pepperoni Bread

Kentucky Derby Pie Cupcakes

Yield: 12 to 16 cupcakes

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 18 to 20 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Cupcakes made in the likeness of the famous Kentucky Derby Pie, packed full of walnuts, chocolate chips and... bourbon!


For the Cupcakes:
1½ cups cake flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup semisweet mini chocolate chips
½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
2 tablespoons bourbon
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature

For the Vanilla-Bourbon Frosting:
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2½ cups powdered sugar
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon bourbon

For the Butter-Bourbon Glaze:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon bourbon


1. Make the Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Whisk in the salt, walnuts and chocolate chips; set aside.

3. In a measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk and bourbon; set aside.

4. Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, reduce the speed to low and add the eggs, one at a time, beating each until completely incorporated before adding the next, scraping down the bowl between additions.

5. Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk mixture in two additions, mixing each step until just barely combined. Stop mixing after the last flour addition when there is still a little flour left in the batter. Finish mixing by hand using a rubber spatula.

6. Fill the cupcake liners about ¾ full and baked until light golden brown and a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely.

7. Make the Frosting: Using the wire whisk attachment of your stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl once or twice. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar. Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, add the vanilla and bourbon, mixing until incorporated. Whip at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed.

8. Make the Butter-Bourbon Glaze: Place the butter, sugar and bourbon in a small bowl and microwave for 1 minute, or until the sugar is dissolved. Stir and allow to sit for about 15 minutes so that the glaze thickens slightly.

9. Decorate the Cupcakes: Pipe an even amount of frosting on each of the cupcakes. Drizzle a spoonful of the butter-bourbon glaze over each of the cupcakes and sprinkle with some chopped walnuts and mini chocolate chips. Leftover cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.


  • If you want to make these cupcakes without the alcohol, you can omit the bourbon from the recipe. Replace with 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract in the cake batter and butter glaze.

(Recipe adapted from Hummingbird High)

Share This Post...


54 Responses to “Kentucky Derby Pie Cupcakes”

  1. sara on May 2, 2013 at 12:13 am

    Yes, please! These look amazing and so perfect for Derby Day! :)


  2. Tieghan on May 2, 2013 at 12:13 am

    Holy yum!!! I just made Kentucky Derby Pie Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars with a Bourbon Caramel Sauce, but seriously these looks so good that I think I need to make these as well! My family is in for a whole lot of bourbon! LOL


  3. Shirley on May 2, 2013 at 12:31 am

    Wow. This sounds amazingly good. I had derby pie once, and I think I’d like it even better in cupcake form.


  4. Averie @ Averie Cooks on May 2, 2013 at 12:38 am

    Butter-bourbon cake batter AND glaze – and Vanilla-Bourbon Frosting.
    Talk about wanting to lick the bowl and beaters! And have lots of cupcakes. Loving these and wanting one right now!


  5. Laura (Tutti Dolci) on May 2, 2013 at 1:56 am

    Love these cupcakes, especially the glaze to finish them off!


  6. Ellen on May 2, 2013 at 3:42 am

    Chocolate, butter and bourbon? The holy trinity.


  7. Tracey on May 2, 2013 at 7:57 am

    These are awesome, what a great combo of flavors! Shane and I will definitely be watching the Derby on Saturday and I just might need to make these cupcakes to make things a little more festive!


  8. Jessica @ Portuguese Girl Cooks on May 2, 2013 at 8:05 am

    These cupcakes look fantastic! I love how moist the cake looks. I definitely wouldn’t mind one right now :)


  9. Rayna on May 2, 2013 at 8:32 am

    How can you go wrong with alcohol, frosting and chocolate? These are a must make’


  10. Holly @ EatGreatBEGreat on May 2, 2013 at 8:36 am

    Wow…this cupcakes sound so yummy and your pics are great!


  11. Leah | So, How's It Taste? on May 2, 2013 at 8:52 am

    Holy cow! This has to be the best dessert I have ever seen. Totally making this one!


  12. Eva @ Eva Bakes on May 2, 2013 at 9:01 am

    Boozy cupcakes are awesome!


  13. Ellen @ The Baking Bluenoser on May 2, 2013 at 9:09 am

    Mmm those look tasty! And anything smothered in bourbon is sure to be a good time, right? :)


  14. miss messy on May 2, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Alcoholic cupcakes! My favourite. These sound super!


  15. Stephanie @ Girl Versus Dough on May 2, 2013 at 9:51 am

    I’m going to eat some tacos and then devour one or five of these bourbon-y cupcakes. It’s going to be the BEST DAY EVER.


  16. Jodi @ My Sugar Coated Life on May 2, 2013 at 10:13 am

    I love the idea of pie combined with cupcakes. These look grand!


  17. Courtney @ Pizzazzerie on May 2, 2013 at 10:17 am

    Oh I just love Derby anything and these cupcakes look DIVINE! And your photography? Amazing!


  18. Marcie @ flavor the moments on May 2, 2013 at 10:21 am

    That’s one perfect looking cupcake! I’ve never had Kentucky Derby anything, but looks like I need to. YUM.


  19. marie @ little kitchie on May 2, 2013 at 10:34 am

    These are adorable and look SO delicious! For the past three years, I’ve gone to a Derby/Cinco party – Derby de Mayo! :)


  20. Alice on May 2, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Any suggestions on converting this into a cake? What size cake do you think?


    • Michelle on May 2nd, 2013 at 2:51 pm

      Hi Alice, You would want to double the recipe and then make it into a 9×13, 8″ or 9″ layer, or a Bundt cake.


      • Alice on May 6th, 2013 at 1:53 pm

        I ended up making the cupcakes and they were fantastic! Every time I make one of your desserts I think “this is the best thing I’ve ever made” and this was no exception. Thank you.
        I wonder if you could do a square pan with single recipe?


        • Michelle on May 7th, 2013 at 12:14 am

          Hi Alice, I’m so glad you enjoyed them! I do think you could do a single recipe in an 8″ or 9″ square baking pan. Good idea!


  21. Pamela @ Brooklyn Farm Girl on May 2, 2013 at 11:19 am

    I don’t watch the Kentucky Derby, but that won’t stop me from enjoying these Kentucky Derby cupcakes!


  22. steph@stephsbitebybite on May 2, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    I watching horses race means I get to eat these then I want to watch them race it out every day!


  23. Mia on May 2, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    So cute! Unfortunately, I’m allergic to nuts, so you made the decision for me. Another batch of margarita cupcakes (+tequila) it is! I will be donning a big hat and going to watch the Derby at a tapas bar (though that makes me feel like I should wear a sombrero…do they wear sombreros in Spain? Ugh…back to the confusion).


  24. Tracy | Peanut Butter and Onion on May 2, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    The flavor overload is blowing my mind


  25. Tonyette on May 2, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    Michelle, if you feel someone “shaking her fist” at you from, uh, the southeast (had to think for a minute there! LOL!), it’s ME in Baltimore! Just when I go, “I’ve gotta STOP trying ALL the yummy things I see on these food blogs” you post something ELSE that makes me wanna try it! Darn you…and all the others who I read and then GOTTA have! Darn you!! These WILL be made and soon! (PS I don’t even bake with alcohol, but these I gotta try! Uh…probably should have the baby first, though! So…alcohol-free the first time around!) *still shaking my fist*


  26. Meagan @ Scarletta Bakes on May 2, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    Love these cupcakes! Perfectly festive and I LOVE the idea of baking bourbon into the batter!


  27. Leah on May 2, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    I have never had Kentucky Derby pie, but those cupcakes look delicious! But I’m under 18, so I’m not sure if it’s legal for me to cook with alcohol or not. Regardless, I would love to make these because they look awesome!!


  28. Tracy {pale yellow} on May 2, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    Bourbon, chocolate, and walnuts – sounds like a recipe for success!


  29. Alley @ Alley's Recipe Book on May 2, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    Oh my, these look delicious! Too bad I am not much of a big hat wearing, horse race watching type of girl… more of a tacos and margaritas girl. I might still make these some time, just not for the Derby. :)


  30. Brenda @ SweetSimpleStuff on May 3, 2013 at 12:23 am

    Someday I will go to the Derby. This year I will stay home and have chips, guacamole, margaritas and Kentucky Derby Pie Cupcakes 😉 Thank you for sharing!


  31. MadSCAR on May 3, 2013 at 3:46 am

    Iiii this looks amazing! I love it thanks :)


  32. Rosie @ Blueberry Kitchen on May 3, 2013 at 5:50 am

    These look amazing! I love the sound of the healthy amount of bourbon in them and that frosting with the butter glaze looks divine!


  33. Dina on May 3, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    they sound delish!


  34. Holly on May 3, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    Just made a double batch of these. Used up the rest of my husbands Jack Daniels..uh-oh!! Though once he gets a taste of these I’m sure he won’t mind!!
    Thanks for the great recipe!


  35. Kari@Loaves n Dishes on May 3, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    Love that fluffy mound of frosting with the drippy glaze!


  36. Steph in Lex on May 4, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    Thank you so much for this recipe! Gigi’s Cupcakes makes this and buying them there gets pretty expensive…I was hoping to find a recipe somewhere and you never disappoint!


  37. Laura Dembowski on May 4, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    These look totally amazing! As if the cupcakes and frosting aren’t enough, the glaze takes it totally over the top.


  38. Laura on May 24, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    Another amazing boozy cupcake! I used Makers and they turned out just fantastic. Usually it’s my girlfriends who love cupcakes, but these alcohol filled treats make grown men lose their minds. Thanks for the great recipe!!


  39. ana on June 28, 2013 at 3:15 am

    Delicious recipe! I’ve tried this one with Lékué’s MinuteCake and are a good way to present to your friends and family. Have a look:


  40. Christina on July 3, 2013 at 8:27 am

    I made these last night. Oh. MY. Gosh! I don’t even like Bourbon but my husband does and it was his birthday. Seriously some of the best cupcakes I’ve ever made (besides your Red Velvet cupcakes). I omitted the Bourbon from the frosting only because my daughter was eating them. I also substituted the walnuts for 1/2 cup chopped pumpkin seeds. I know that’s weird but my daughter has a nut allergy and those provided that nutty crunch. Thanks so much again for another fabulous recipe!


  41. Nat on November 4, 2013 at 3:24 am

    My boyfriend is getting a batch of these to bring to work on Melbourne Cup day – The race that stops a nation! They’re in the oven right now! How’s that for a translation! – An American in Australia


  42. Sterling Gent on December 23, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    Oh my! I love bourbon and baking. These just may be my Christmas Eve treat!


  43. Margaret Smith on January 3, 2014 at 11:12 am

    Can I leave out the bourbon? I’m don’t really like it, but these cupcakes are certainly on my to do list!


    • Michelle on January 3rd, 2014 at 11:55 pm

      Hi Margaret, Yes, you could omit the bourbon if you’d like.


  44. Krislyn on April 30, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    Can you substitute a cake mix but still have the bourbon, chocolate chips, and walnuts? If so, what should I use?


    • Michelle on May 1st, 2014 at 1:32 pm

      Hi Krislyn, I’m sure you could. For a full box mix, I would double the quantities above.


      • Krislyn on May 1st, 2014 at 9:10 pm

        What should I omit from the recipe since I am using a cake mix?


        • Michelle on May 12th, 2014 at 9:51 am

          The only things you should add are the bourbon and chocolate chips.


  45. Barbie on November 4, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    This is exactly what im looking for!!! Considering making this as a sheet cake… any suggestions or changes I should consider?


  46. Kira on March 22, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    Ok so I know this was posted awhile ago-but when I look for a recipe I like to see comments of people who’ve actually made it and not just people saying these look good. Not only are these surprisingly easy-they are DELICIOUS! I don’t even like bourbon, and I’m already thinking about making them again later this week. The reciple did make exactly a dozen for me though, so if you were planning on having just slightly more…I would be a little more generous in your measurements.


  47. Kathy on March 24, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    I made these yesterday, and they are SOOOO GOOD!


Leave a Comment

(Your comment may need to be approved before it will appear on the site. Thanks for your patience! If it is your first time commenting you may want to review the Comment Guidelines.)