Black and Gold Graduation Cake

Black & Gold Graduation Cake

A perfect graduation cake for a college grad! 

So I do a lot of recipe testing, which makes for a lot of leftover 'test cakes.' These are generally cakes that I don’t know what to do with after I’ve taken the video and pictures…so I’ve been taking them to work with me! 

This one - flavored with espresso, chocolate liqueur, and bourbon - got RAVE reviews from all of my co-workers, and I had several requests for it in subsequent cake orders….including this college graduation cake! Recipe’s below! Happy baking! 

Recipe modifications for an 'under 21' version –

To make an alcohol-free version, omit the liqueurs and replace with buttermilk and add 2 Tablespoons of vanilla extract! 
Replace the bourbon in the frosting with vanilla extract. 


What if I've never added a drip to a cake before?
  • Don't stress! It's easier than you probably think it is! 🙂 
  • My biggest tips - make sure you measure your chocolate and heavy cream accurately. Too much/little of either may affect your drip consistency. 
  • Make sure you try a test drip first! Don't pour the ganache over your whole cake until you're confident in the consistency of your ganache. 
  • I loved this YouTube tutorial by Sugar&Sparrow when I was new to cake drips! 
“How do I store this cake?”
  • Before serving, I prefer storing cakes in cake boxes – they help keep the cake from drying out without any plastic wrap touching the sides of the cake and potentially messing up the decorations! I place cakes in the fridge if storing overnight but allow them to come to room temperature before serving.

  • On a cover any remaining cake well after serving to keep it from drying out - it will keep at room temperature for 2-3 days or in the fridge for 3-5 days. 

(Disclosure: As an Amazon associate I may earn from qualifying purchases, and my posts often contain affiliate links. If you click a link and make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you!) 

Don't forget to pin this recipe for later!

Black Gold Grad cake pinterest pin

Black & Gold Graduation Cake

Have a college graduation coming up...? Making a gorgeous tiered Black and Gold graduation cake is easier than you think!
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time37 minutes
Decorating time50 minutes
Total Time1 hour 57 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Black and Gold Graduation Cake, College Graduation cake, Graduation Cake, Large graduation cake, Tiered Graduation Cake
Servings: 24 servings
Calories: 745kcal
Author: Sarah H



Graduation Cake Layers

  • 4 ⅞ cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 3 ¾ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 ½ cup unsalted butter (or 3 sticks room temperature)
  • 9 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk (room temperature)
  • ½ cup espresso (I used my favorite instant espresso)
  • ½ cup chocolate liqueur (or crème de cacao)
  • ¼ cup Bourbon (I used Eagle Rare)
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Bourbon Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

  • 12 ounces cream cheese (one and a half packages, softened)
  • 1 1/2 cups butter (three sticks, softened)
  • 9 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons bourbon
  • 1/4 t. salt (if using unsalted butter)
  • ¾ cup Cocoa powder (save & add later; for cake filling)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons chocolate liqueur (save & add later; for cake filling)

Cake Drizzle & Filling (optional but recommended)

  • 2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons bourbon
  • ¼ cup espresso
  • ½ cup chocolate liqueur (or crème de cacao)
  • ½ cup chocolate chips

Cake Drip & Decorations


Graduation Cake Layers

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare three 8-inch cake pans and two six-inch cake pans with baker's floured cooking spray, or grease and line with parchment rounds.
  • Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined. Mix chunks of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture looks crumbly.
  • Pour in eggs and mix on low until just incorporated.  Mix in the buttermilk, espresso, crème de cacao, and bourbon in two installments, on a low speed. Add in vanilla and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds.
  • Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans (I find a kitchen scale helpful for this part – I ended up with about 690g in my large pans and about 450 in my smaller ones). This guarantees your layers will bake to be the same height.
  • Bake for 34-37 minutes, (or until a skewer comes out clean). Allow cake layers to cool for 10-15 minutes on a wire cooling rack before removing from pans – it helps to run an offset spatula or knife around the perimeter of the pan first. Cool completely before frosting. Set in the fridge or freezer to accelerate the cooling process if desired. (This is a great time to make your frosting!)
  • Once the layers have fully cooled, they can be leveled and any caramelized bits can be trimmed from the sides / top of the cake using a serrated knife if desired. Be sure the layers are completely cooled or chilled before trimming. If you try to trim the layers while they’re still warm, they will crumble apart.

Bourbon Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar alternating with bourbon until frosting reaches desired consistency. Add salt if needed and beat until well combined.
  • Reserve 1 cup of frosting and mix in cocoa powder and chocolate liqueur to obtain a spreadable consistency – this will be your cake filling.


  • Place a smear of frosting on your large cake circle (to keep the cake from sliding while you decorate it) and center your large first cake layer in the center of the circle.
  • (To add a bit more flavor to the cake layers, I used a squeeze bottle to infuse each one with a mix of vanilla, bourbon, espresso, crème de cacao, and chocolate liqueur. Optional but recommended!)
  • Pipe a small border of frosting around the outer edge of the layer, and spread a layer of chocolate filling in the middle. Add a sprinkle of chocolate chips if desired. Add your next cake layer on top. Repeat the process with your remaining cake layers.
  • Next, repeat the same process with your smaller cardboard circle and cake layers. Of note – if your circles aren’t pre-center-punched, be sure to grab a dowel or straw and make your own hole in the exact center of the circle! This will allow you to center the tier on the base tier later on.
  • Now you're ready to crumb-coat . If you're unfamiliar with crumb-coating, it's just what it sounds like – spreading a thin layer of frosting over the entire outside of the cake to keep crumbs out of your final layer.
  • Once your crumb coat has set (this takes about 5-10 minutes in the fridge), add your final layer of frosting and smooth. I like to use an offset spatula and bench scraper for this part. For my larger tier, I was able to smooth the frosting fairly well free-handed, but I struggled getting the sides smooth on my smaller one. Trimming my smaller cake layers slightly smaller than my cake circle and using the cardboard as a guide worked well!
  • Place both tiers into the fridge for about 20 minutes to set the frosting and get the cake cold enough to set the white chocolate ganache decoration.

Okaaaay. The stacking process!

  • I watched a few tutorials before I started, but ‘How to Make a Tiered Cake’ by Chelsweets was my favorite. To place cake dowels (to ensure the top tier doesn't crush the lower one, as well as keep it centered), it helps to have a ruler handy!
  • Push dowels/straws down into the base tier just over one inch from the cake edge, placing them evenly at quarter intervals around the cake. Place your last, tallest straw or dowel into the exact center of the cake, making sure to keep it straight up as you press down.
  • Now you’re ready – center the hole in the bottom of your top tier cake circle over the tallest dowel and let the top tier gently down onto the base tier. The dowel will poke into the center of the top tier to hold it in place.
  • Pat yourself on the back; you did it! I found that my cardboard cake circle showed more than I was happy with, so I piped some extra frosting onto the base of the top tier to hide it.

Candy Melt Drip

  • Place heavy cream and candy melts in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave on 50% power in 30-second intervals until smooth, stirring in between. Divide into two bowls and add black gel color to one.
  • Allow candy melt mixtures to cool to a moderate temperature – they should feel slightly warm and still be fairly liquid. Transfer each to a squeeze bottle or small piping bag (or use a spoon).
  • Slowly drizzle candy melt mixture around the upper edge of your cake, pausing every inch or so to let more fall in a drip down the side of the cake. Alternate black and white every few drips. Return cake to the fridge or freezer to set the drips.
  • Once the drips have set, pour some lustre dust & water or some gold paint into a small glass or container (I used a shot glass). Use your paintbrush and cover the white drips with gold.


  • Place your cake topper on top – and step back and admire your amaaazing cake! Enjoy!



(Please note nutrition information is an estimate, and may not be exactly accurate.) 


Serving: 1slice | Calories: 745kcal | Carbohydrates: 102g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 38g

Did you make this Black & Gold Graduation Cake? 

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3 thoughts on “Black & Gold Graduation Cake

  1. Hi. You mention oil in the directions but no oil in the ingredients. Is there oil in this cake?

    1. Hi Jessica! I apologize; I played with a couple versions of this cake before deciding I liked whole eggs better than egg whites and oil. As long as you use whole eggs there’s no oil in the recipe, and I’ll update the instructions. Sorry for the confusion!

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