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RECIPE: SOUTHERN COCA-COLA CAKE

Sweet. Chocolaty. Indulgent. Get a true taste of down south with this tasty southern classic.


When I found out my friend from California would be driving across the country with his daughter, picking up his mom in Maryland, and heading south for the July 4th weekend, my first thought was: What are we going to eat and drink?!?


(Which if you know anything about the Albanese family, you know is always the first question that comes to mind.)

This was a momentous occasion. Not only because Patrick was making a pretty momentous journey to join my mom, my sister, and I for the holiday weekend, but because it’s one of the first times we’d all be seeing anyone in person outside of our respective pandemic bubbles. Although Georgia was one of the first states to lift shelter-in-place orders and reopen businesses, my family has continued to behave as though quarantine is still required. My mom falls into the high-risk category, so until there’s more evidence that the virus is under control or a vaccine is available, sacrificing social time is a no-brainer. (And now that Coronavirus cases in Georgia have skyrocketed, we clearly made the right decision!) Given that Patrick and his family are also ardent quarantiners, social distancers, and mask wearers, we all felt safe expanding our bubbles and finally enjoying some real life face time with friends!


As the baker in the family, my mind immediately turned to bread and sweets. (Yes, I’m the epitome of southern in many ways.) After all, a proper southern summer gathering requires a proper southern treat, and there’s nothing that fits the bill more than a chocolaty, indulgent, delightfully sweet Coca-Cola cake!


This is one of those desserts that’s meant for a crowd. It’s no fuss in the sense that it’s made in a pan, so there’s nothing fancy about how it’s put together, decorated, or served. It’s a dream dessert for those with a massive sweet tooth like me, and will do its part in giving you a true taste of down south! (It’s definitely on the sweet side, though, so if you don’t like sweet treats this probably isn’t the dessert for you.)


Although there’s Coke in both the batter and the frosting, it doesn’t actually taste like cola – the cola just gives it a different layer of sweetness while adding a bit of a crackle to the frosting. Which is what makes Coca-Cola cake Coca-Cola cake! And unlike most cakes, the frosting goes on this one while it’s still hot, so it seeps into the cake a touch as it forms that dream worthy crust on top.


The best recipe for this cake comes from a gal I once knew, who was gracious enough to share her creation with me many years ago. But Peggy’s recipe is buried somewhere deep inside my storage unit, so the Brown Eyed Baker’s recipe is a wonderful alternative. I’ve never made a dessert of hers that I didn’t like, and this one is no exception (which I’ve adapted just slightly based on my own personal preferences). One day I’ll do a taste comparison between Peggy’s recipe and the Brown Eyed Baker's, but until then, this one will do you just right. After all, if 12-year-old Bella gives it a stamp of approval – who has a more distinguished palate than most people I know – then you know it must be good!


(BE ON THE LOOKOUT: I also baked yeast rolls for the first time and created a signature cocktail for the weekend, both of which I’ll be sharing soon!)


RECIPE: SOUTHERN COCA-COLA CAKE

Adapted from the Brown Eyed Baker


TOOLS

9x13 baking pan (This can also be made as a sheet cake, in which case you would need an 18x13 half sheet pan. It is not recommended to make this cake as a layer cake.)

Large bowl

Small bowl

Saucepan

Whisk

Wooden spoon or large rubber spatula

Measuring cups and spoons


CAKE INGREDIENTS

2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

2 cups granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

12 ounces Coca Cola (Diet Coke should not be substituted)

1 cup unsalted butter (cut into small cubes for quicker melting)

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 large eggs

½ cup buttermilk (unsweetened yogurt may be substituted)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


FROSTING INGREDIENTS

12 ounces Coca Cola (Diet Coke should not be substituted)

½ cup salted butter (cut into small cubes for faster melting)

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Chopped walnuts or pecans, optional


CAKE DIRECTIONS:


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan.


2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.


3. In a small saucepan, combine the cola, butter, and cocoa powder over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Pour into the flour mixture and stir together with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until moistened.


4. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla until nicely blended. Add to the dry ingredients, whisking constantly as you combine.


5. Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.


FROSTING DIRECTIONS:

* Begin the frosting about 15 minutes before the cake is finished baking.


1. In a small saucepan, bring the cola to a boil over high heat and cook until the liquid is reduced to ½ cup, about 15 minutes.


BAKER’S TIP: Keep a measuring cup on hand to measure the liquid as it reduces. It’s important to get this step right, otherwise the icing won’t be as thick as it should be. (That said, runny frosting doesn’t change the taste! It’s still delicious even if you don’t get the consistency quite right.)


2. Stir in the cocoa powder and butter until the butter is melted, then remove from the heat. Add vanilla and mix together.


3. Whisk in powdered sugar about 1 cup at a time until combined and smooth. Pour immediately over the hot cake in an even layer and sprinkle with chopped nuts if desired. A signature part of this southern specialty is the slight crunch or crackle that the frosting gets once cool!


BAKER’S TIP: Should you find that the center of your cake is puffed up in the middle, poke a few holes in it with a toothpick so that when you pour on your frosting, it soaks in a bit on top and doesn’t completely slide off the slope and pool at the cake’s edges.


4. Allow the cake to cool to room temperature before serving. Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream if desired! Cover and store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


PS: Please excuse my unstaged photos! I was more focused on being in the moment with my friends and actually eating this cake than on taking proper photos....I'll update the post with more blogworthy snaps next time I make this treat :)

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