Art, Whisky & Cake Contest

Art, Whisky & Cake Contest

Originally Posted on Western Horse Review



A few weeks ago we announced the Art, Whisky & Cake Contest. It was your chance to nominate an up-and-coming artist as Alberta Whisky Cake’s newest Unbridled Spirit selection. It’s been fun working with the Whisky Baker, Kamla McGonigal, and her company’s mission of promoting the western culture, especially in light of the recent flooding devastation in Alberta. The theme fits beautifully with the “unfolding the real West” mission statement of Western Horse Review, and besides, who could resist partnering with such an enthusiastic entrepreneur as Kam.

Check back here for the original post, but the gist of the contest is that each Alberta Whisky Cake comes with an exclusive AWC Unbridled Spirits certificate, which can be presented directly to a select list of AWC artists to receive $35 off of your purchase price, on an individual piece of art valued at $100 or more. Viewers were charged with nominating their favorite artists to be the next Unbridled Spirit. These artists are folks who are involved heavily in the arts, and have not yet become renowned or rewarded for their exceptional dedication to their creative work.

Kam was charged with choosing three finalists, and via this post and Facebook, you get to determine one final Unbridled Spirit winner.

When she wasn’t testing out new recipes in her kitchen, Kam poured over all the nominations and began to make her choices. I could tell she was having a difficult time; given all the amazing talent that had been dished up, choosing three finalists was going to be difficult.

Sometime during the process she wondered in an e-mail to me. . . ” if I should just go with using ALL of these (love them all!)”

No, Kam, you have to choose three. Those are the rules.

So, she did. She picked three artists, and I’m going to show you a piece of each of their work here. In the comment section, go ahead and vote on your favorite. The bonus: all original nominations notes and all votes will go into a hat and we’ll draw a winner for an Alberta Whisky Cake.

I suppose I can’t really vote, but if I could, I would be all over this for that reason alone.

Meet the finalists:

Take Your Eight and Shove It by Karen Coe.

Karen Coe is a Lethbridge, Alberta artist who recently received the distinction of having two of her pieces juried into the prestigious Calgary Stampede Art Auction.

Ranch Branding by Julia Palmer.

Julia Palmer is a photographer and rancher who lives in southern Alberta. Her subject matter is primarily cattle, cowboys and the changing seasons.

Between Classes by Heather Gessell.

Heather Gessell is a fine artist from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan with a focus on pets, horses and vintage cars.

There you have it, three talented western artists.

Visit Western Horse Review to vote for your favorite and be entered to win an Alberta Whisky Cake!

Alberta Whisky Cake Spirited Passion

Alberta Whisky Cake Spirited Passion

Originally Posted on Ginger and Nutmeg

Kamla McGonigal still has her notes from ten years ago when she first envisioned a uniquely Albertan dessert, one that visitors would want to take home and share with others. Her desire was to create a specialty food item like smoked salmon (BC) and maple syrup (Quebec & Ontario) that one immediately associated with the region.

Kamla is a mother, emergency nurse and a beginner drummer living in southern Alberta. There really was no reason to embark on this project in 2003. Her life was busy enough, yet she was fuelled, by this bubbling passion, to create a quality cake. With no family recipe to fall back on, she started from scratch – like all the best cakes.

Kamla McGonigal

Over a period of four years, Kamla collaborated with some partners on the creation. It needed to be an alcohol-based cake, like a fruitcake, to ensure there would be a long shelf life. The recipe ingredients should be as local as possible and Canadian where practical. The process of recipe development, testing notes and corralling input from family and friends as tasters, would culminate on Wednesday evenings with a meeting to compare their findings.

Alberta Whisky Cake

In 2008, Kamla had a tough choice to make, the recipe was close to perfection, but her partners were unable to continue with the project. Drop it or move forward? Kamla describes herself as focused, disciplined, passionate and hard working.

She moved forward.

Alberta Whisky Cake

April 2010, Alberta Whisky Cake (AWC), was officially launched with this mission: ‘to produce a world-class product that every Albertan would be proud to give or receive’.

Alberta Whisky Cakes are made with fresh ingredients from a list of quality suppliers:

1. Highwood Distillers – rye whisky (High River, Alberta)
2. High quality chocolate
3. Canadian maple syrup and walnuts
4. Dairy butter and 100% Canadian canola oil (Canola Harvest)
5. Flour – milled in southern Alberta (Ellison Milling Company)
6. Packaging – a ‘hatbox’ design made using recycled paper and eco-friendly black dye (X-treme Packaging)

Alberta Whisky Cake

Since Kamla launched her company, she has managed to attract the attention of local food media – they always know a good thing when they taste one! Some of the proceeds from AWC are directed to supporting at-risk youth programs and emerging local artists. Artist cards featuring their work and contact information are included in every cake package.

The June 2013 flood was devastating for so many in southern Alberta including Alberta Whisky Cake. The bakery that AWC uses Katie’s Cakery Bakery located in High River was destroyed. At the time of writing, the best-case scenario for the bakery’s resumption of operations was still 4-6 weeks away. The whisky supplier, Highwood Distillers hopes to re-open in October although the date is uncertain, by mid-August they had already logged 30,000 hours of clean-up work. In addition, AWC lost all of its inventory, packaging and even the bundt baking pans.

Alberta Whisky Cake Chocolate

The flood waters have receded, and the hard work of rebuilding is underway, more than ever Kamla believes in her company’s celebration of Alberta’s unique values: solid, bold, rich, authentic and spirited.

Image 12

The delicious maple (The Malted Maple) and chocolate (The Whisky Runner) cakes will be available soon enough. And there may even be new flavours in the future too, such as cocktail inspired Whisky Lime (like a whisky sour) and White Lightening (secret spices – with an aroma to drive you crazy).

To order your own Alberta Whisky Cake or just send Kamla a note click here.

The Art, Cake & Whisky Contest

The Art, Cake & Whisky Contest

Originally posted on Western Horse Review


It took Alberta baker Kamla McGonigal four years to perfect her recipe. The fourth generation Calgary native wanted to use whisky, locally distilled from grain at nearby farms as one of the main ingredients in her delectable cakes. Finally after countless hours over an oven, McGonigal developed one of the best tasting and most unique baked-goods available to those with discerning palates – the Alberta Whisky Cake (AWC).

Which is exactly why we picked her as one of our Artisans of the West (in the food category) in theMarch issue.

But on June 20, disaster struck Alberta Whisky Cake when High River flooded.

This is a picture Kamla sent me on June 24. The shot is of 3rd Ave. The Cakery Bakery, which had been producing Kamla’s cakes, is located on the far left of the photo – it is completely ruined and will have to be refurbished, replaced with new equipment etc. Most of AWC’s  inventory of packaging/printing/labels were stored at the bakery and also destroyed. In addition, Highwood Distillery, which supplied the all-important whisky ingredient, also incurred flood damage.

At that time, Kamla didn’t know when she would be able to supply AWCs again. She had a few dozen in storage, most of which she later donated to a flood fundraising effort. It seemed Alberta was completely out of stock of the unique Alberta Whisky Cakes.

But Kamla is a passionate soul – and determined to get the cakes back into production.

On July 13th, she posted on Alberta Whisky Cakes Facebook page:

“Good morning. I’m headed to the Millarville Farmers Market for the last time this season, with the last of my inventory (until Cakery Bakery is back up & Highwood Distillers rye whisky available again). The kindest thing I can do right now is get AWC bigger & better than ever before – people REALLY want JOBS, not handouts.” ~ Kam

Her farm, west of High River, has a healthy beautiful crop of canola (an important ingredient in the cake) nearly ready to be harvested, and it turns out the Cakery Bakery was covered by insurance, and a rebuilding is in process. It will take 2 to 3 months, and in the meantime, Kamla is using the time to tweak the current product and invent new versions of it. Look for perhaps a fruitcake version, or even, gluten-free in the future of AWC.

One of the unique aspects of the Alberta Whisky Cake is that each comes with an exclusive AWC Unbridled Spirits certificate. This certificate can be presented directly to a select list of AWC artists to receive $35 off of your purchase price, on an individual piece of art valued at $100 or more. These artists are local people who are involved heavily in the arts, and have not yet become renowned or rewarded for their exceptional dedication to their creative work.

Past recipients have included such artists such as Whitney Wilkie – Whittie Girl Leathers (

Or, Jane Romanishko – Jane Romanishko (

And Neville Palmer – Reflective Eye Photography (

Now the Whisky Baker and Western Horse Review have knotted their tendrils of love for western art and culture together to come up with the Art, Whisky and Cake Contest.

Kamla needs an emerging western artist to showcase when her new set of post-flood AWC’s begin rolling off the production line in a few months and she’s inviting Screen Doors & Saddles and Western Horse Review readers to put forth nominations of your choice.

In the comment section below simply state your nomination of a Canadian emerging western artist. Include the name and if possible, website url, of the artist and a simple line or two detailing why you’d like to nominate this individual. From all of the nominations, Kamla will make a selection of three finalists. These three finalists will be profiled here on Screen Doors & Saddles and onWestern Horse Review Facebook and viewers will have the opportunity to vote and ultimately, choose the next AWC Artist!

In addition, we’ll do a random draw from all of the nominations, and the winner will receive an Alberta Whisky Cake, compliments of Kam. I’m sure it will be one of the first cakes to be pulled from the Cakery Bakery’s ovens once they are up and running again.

It’s possible we might be dubbing the first few as “celebration cakes.” For in a small way, we hope this contest symbolizes the hope we extend toward the people of High River and surrounding areas, many of whom have lost so much and are still struggling, and foster feelings of a brighter future!

As Kamla says, “out of hope comes clarity, energy, focus & optimism!” So, go ahead and nominate your favorite up-and-coming western artist in the comment section below. We’re counting on your support and feedback for this contest.

Fire in the Belly: Kamla Hari McGonigal

Fire in the Belly: Kamla Hari McGonigal

March 27, 2010 By By Sandra Wiebe
Routes Magazine


“The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.” – Elie Wiesel


Breezing through university degrees faster than a speeding bullet, raising two boys, managing a nursing career, and baking specialty cakes all in a single bound, Kamla McGonigal comes across as a modern day superwoman. Yet through it all she still finds time to inspire others to seek their passions and follow their dreams.

Kamla (Kam to family and friends) grew up on a farm west of HighRiver as the second oldest of six children. It was her paternal great grandfather, Harnam Singh Hari, born in northern India, who, over 100 years ago, came to farm in Calgary, then Dewinton. Kamla, now a registered nurse and patient care manager for two urgent care centres in the area, credits a generational strong work ethic for her success. She comes from a family of strong, energetic women, particularly her mother.

Even at age two, Kamla was said to be a very focused child. “Most things just came easy for me,” said Kamla. That is, until she decided to pursue her passion for music, and found her kryptonite. “My struggle in attempting to be a musician is like pushing water up hill. I have to keep reminding myself that everything now easy in life was once hard, usually very hard. Just keep practicing!”

Photographed at the Highwood Distillery whisky storage room. Photo by Neville Palmer.

Photographed at the Highwood Distillery whisky storage room. Photo by Neville Palmer.

When she was young, Kamla fell in love with the drums while watching the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show, then became a fan of Judas Priest, the Doors and AC/DC. “Before drumming, I wasn’t easily intimidated,” she said. “Now I know fear; especially the first few times playing publicly in a band. Yikes! I just felt so exposed; it’s like baring your soul.”

Although she has managed to earn herself a spot as a drummer in a band, Kamla claims to have no talent, just desire and discipline. “I am a true amateur,” she says. “Struggling to learn a new skill is very humbling; it has made me more understanding, compassionate, patient and accepting of others, especially as a nurse and a manager.”

In order to learn new songs, Kamla listens to music over and over for hours, every Saturday morning. At one time, the ritual also included baking ‘Whisky Cakes’ – another passion she aims to perfect.

Three years ago, with a couple of business partners, Kamla set out to produce a unique, first class gift that would represent the unbridled spirit of the West. “I wanted it to be the ‘Bernard Callebaut’ of cake.” Kamla envisioned the cakes as one of the three things tourists would take home from Canada: B.C. salmon, maple syrup and the ‘Alberta Whisky Cake’.

Today, she works with grand ambition; her goal not yet fully materialized. The cakes will provide an avenue for supporting young people interested in artistic and cultural activities. Presently, every cake package contains a frame-ready card with an image that showcases the work of a local amateur artist, (paintings, photography, airbrush, sculpture, jewelry, leather tooling, etc.). Eventually, Kamla hopes to also include samples from local musical artists as part of each cake purchase.

“I feel privileged to have met some of the most amazing young people lately, who are making our world a better place, and with such passion and confidence,” She notes “I feel honored to promote their work.”

Kamla also dreams of one day opening a youth centre. “Youth who are not academically inclined can fall through the cracks (of society); they could use a safe, enriching, and fun place to go. I call it the grassroots of health care.” Even now, her basement is packed two nights a week with young musicians, including her own two sons, playing, writing and recording music.

Kamla seeks to encourage young people to reach their potential, to boost self-esteem through their art forms. “I realize how much skill it takes and how truly gifted, unappreciated and unsupported many musicians are.”

While Kamla says she feels blessed to be in great health, and have the energy that comes with that, she is otherwise humbled by her gifts of leadership and inspiration. “I’m nothing special. We all do as much as we can. I just use my abilities to help others be productive and recognized for what they do.”

The Alberta Whisky Cake is made from many local ingredients:

Premium High River Distillery whisky

Ellison Flour, Lethbridge

Canola oil (a true 100% Canadian product)

Maplewood boxes, made in DeWinton

A local bakery is now baking the cakes, but Kamla still gets up early to ‘meditate on the skins’.


Alberta Whisky Cake

Alberta Whisky Cake

Canadian Whisky  by   Davin de Kergommeaux.

September 22, 2012


No, Canadian Whisky Dot Org is not transmogrifying into a food blog. It’s just that when people are having fun with their whisky it can only help others discover the hidden joys of Canadian whisky itself.

Sometimes we whisky lovers can be a little overly earnest about our drams. So yes, soon it’s back to the serious connoisseur stuff we all love, and the oh-so-easy-on-your-wallet Canadian sipping whiskies. In the mean time, join me while I introduce Kam McGonigal and her Highwood-infused Alberta Whisky cakes.

Packed to travel and sealed for freshness, the Alberta Whisky Cake is a unique way for travelers to remember visiting Alberta. The essences of Highwood whisky and Canadian maple syrup pair naturally, with the subtle whisky complementing the scrumptious woody elements of the syrup itself.

Several years ago, Kamila McGonigal and a couple of business partners set out to produce a unique, high quality gift that would represent the unbridled spirit of the West. That’s their slogan, “The Unbridled Spirit of the West.” They set their sights high, positioning their whisky cakes as one of three things travelers would take home from Canada. The others? B.C. salmon and maple syrup.

Kam recommends pairing the cake with a sip of White Owl Spiced whisky allowing the not-so-subtle vanilla and butterscotch of the whisky and cake to mingle in traces of cloves and oak. And I’d add a presentation suggestion. Just as you are about to serve it, sprinkle the cake lightly with fresh icing sugar.

Carefully sealed in plastic, the cake was as moist and fresh as the day it was baked. Still, this did not keep gusts of maple-filled bakery air from bursting into the room as soon as the outer box was opened, an inviting prediction of what was to come.

Sliced and served, the malted maple cake felt firm and moist on the palate, while exuding sweet, rich maple-caramels and vanillas. Slightly woody and herbal elements of maple syrup, (or oak) whispered very softly of the Highwood whisky used in the recipe. There were no overt whisky notes.

A dram of White Owl Spiced whisky complemented the vanilla sweetness as Kam had suggested, but with black coffee this maple whisky cake simply screamed “maple-walnut smoothie.”

The chocolate version is a contender for the creamiest chocolate cake ever made. For those familiar with Quebec’s Vachon cakes, this was a grown-up rendition of Mae West or Joe Louis without the dipping chocolate. Creamy moist and so chocolaty sweet, it’s probably best to start with a small slice (or a shot of insulin). Again, the whisky notes, if present, were very subtle.

Black coffee and chocolate marry well, and in this pairing the coffee delivered a satisfying post-prandial delicacy. However, it was with White Owl Spiced that the whisky runner chocolate really became an indulgence. Suddenly, it echoed Black Forest cake in a whisky and dessert pairing with each element building on the other. Among the combinations, this, by far, was my dessert of choice.

Alberta Whisky Cakes are available in two flavours – Malted Maple and Whisky Runner Chocolate.

Suggested retail price is $35.00 for a 12-slice cake and $60.00 for one that serves 24 slices.


A Spirited Concept

A Spirited Concept

Kamla McGonigal’s whisky cakes share her love for the province

Gwendolyn Richards, Calgary Herald
Published: Saturday, April 23, 2011

A fourth-generation Albertan, Kamla McGonigal takes pride in her roots.

And she’s found an unusual way of sharing the love she has for the province she calls home.

She’s put it into a pair of cakes.


Chocolate flavoured Alberta Whisky Cake created by Calgary’s Kamla McGonigal as seen in her home Wednesday March 2, 2011.

McGonigal, an emergency room nurse in Calgary, came up with the Alberta Whisky Cake concept about eight years ago after realizing she wanted to create a unique way to represent her home.

She wanted, she says, to express through the cakes what Alberta is to her: solid, authentic, rich, bold.

“We’re very spirited,” she says.

As are the Alberta Whisky Cakes.

Whisky goes in the batter and then cooked cakes are soaked with a glaze made from the liquor.

(Canadian whisky has no E because that’s how the Scottish – who predominantly settled in Canada – spell it; the Irish, who settled in the U.S. in greater numbers use the E, which is why south of the border it’s spelled differently.)


The smell emanating from the black hexagonal boxes containing the chocolate and maple-walnut cakes is unmistakable.

And mouth-watering.

“This is an experience, right from the aroma,” McGonigal says.

The Bundt-shaped cakes are moist, rich and full of flavour.

The final recipe took a long time to perfect, with McGonigal spending every Saturday making two cakes to present to her testers – friends and family tasked with trying out varying versions.

“Is this the best cake you’ve ever eaten?” she would ask. And she kept recreating and refining until the answer was yes.

As part of the process, she ordered liquor-based cakes from all over the world.

“I’m thorough with my research,” she says, laughing.

“I wanted to make them a world-class product every Albertan would be proud of.”

McGonigal’s grandparents made the move to Calgary from northern India, farming land where Chinook Centre now sits; she now lives a few kilometres away from her family’s former homestead, but she was raised on a ranch west of High River where her parents still make their home.

Like McGonigal, the cakes are grounded in Alberta.

Her aim was to make them as local as possible, down to the packaging and labels.

The whisky comes from the Highwood distillery in High River; the flour from Lethbridge; they’re baked in a Calgary bakery. (The maple syrup is also Canadian.)

And yet they have universal appeal.

The cakes – heat sealed after baking to keep them fresh and moist – can be shipped anywhere in the world.

One of McGonigal’s first online orders went to Ottawa; she now ships to every province.

And one customer ordered 16 cakes, sending them all off to Scotland.

The medium cakes, which serve about 12 people, go for $35.

Large cakes serve 24 and retail for $60.

They can be purchased online at or by calling 403-256-1888.

McGonigal also sells them at the Millarville Farmer’s Market all summer and at Christmas.

The market launches for the season on June 11 and will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Saturday.