During the last few weeks of my brief relocation to Atlanta, I craved Coca-Cola cake. Not because I saw it on a menu or because somebody mentioned it, but because you can’t travel an entire block in Atlanta without seeing some sort of reminder that it’s the home of Coke, and my mind heads off in unpredictable directions when it gets a prompt.
Atlanta, the home of Coke, leads to Coca-Cola cake. Why not?
I remember eating Coca-Cola cake on a pretty regular basis when I was a kid. It’s pretty easy to throw together, and since you bake it in and serve it from the same pan, the presentation is simple, too.
I’ve had a copy of Classic Cooking with Coca-Cola for years, apparently always meaning to make this cake, but I got very confused when I tried to look up the recipe. I found three recipes for chocolate cakes containing Coke, but none of them called for the 13-by-9-inch pan that I specifically remembered. Online, Southern Living linked to a recipe that called for a good bit more sugar than the one in my book (not that I’m trying to make a low-sugar cake, because LOL low-sugar cake, but I didn’t want a chocolate cake in which the sugar overwhelmed the chocolate). Finally, I flipped through my copy of The Mississippi Cookbook, figuring that the Southern classic would surely hold the recipe I was looking for. I found that the sugar-cocoa ratio in its version was even more unappealing than the one in the online recipe.
Other than the sugar discrepancy, the online recipe’s ingredient list was nearly identical to one of the recipes in Classic Cooking with Coca-Cola, AND the online recipe gave me instructions for baking in a 13-by-9-inch pan instead of a sheet pan, so I figured my baking time would be about the same. And it was.
As I remembered, the cake was at its best the day after I made it. As the icing sits overnight, it hardens into a fudgy topping — not quote a hard coating, but not a soft frosting, either.
Admittedly, this cake was not the ambrosial concoction I remember from my childhood, but it was quite delicious. I think cake, like sandwiches and salads, is simply one of those treats that always taste better when somebody makes them for you.
One regular can of Coke is enough to make the batter and the icing, provided you don’t drink the leftover soda while the cake is baking. I’m not judging, either way. And seeing as I have NEVER purchased a carton of buttermilk, I always have to use the standard substitution: 1 tbsp. white vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup milk. I also understand you can use yogurt or buttermilk powder.
Start making the icing a couple of minutes after the cake comes out of the oven. You’ll want to pour it on top of the cake after the cake has cooled off for about 10 minutes. Also, the original recipe indicated that the pecans in the icing were optional, and pecans are SO not optional for this cake. In fact, I might try to work some pecans into the batter AND the icing next time.
- 2 cups plain unsifted flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 sticks butter
- 3 tbsp. cocoa
- 1 cup Coca-Cola
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
Grease and flour a 13-by-9-inch pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Sift the flour and sugar into a large mixing bowl. (Note: I didn’t sift anything because I kind of hate to sift. I had to mash down a few flour pellets in the batter with my stirring spatula, but that was the only consequence.)
In a saucepan, bring the butter, cocoa and Coca-Cola to a boil. Pour this mixture over the flour and sugar and stir until the batter is mixed thoroughly. Stir in the buttermilk, eggs, baking soda, vanilla and marshmallows; mix well.
The batter will be extremely thin, and the marshmallows will float to the top. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan, and move the floating marshmallows around until they’re spread out reasonably evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes. (Note: None of the recipes I consulted tell you how to tell that this cake is done, which was a little scary because the batter is so weirdly thin. The toothpick test worked, though. After 35 minutes, the toothpick came out with a few moist crumbs on it.)
Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack, then pour the icing on top. It should spread itself out pretty evenly over the cake. Let the iced cake sit for at least an hour to let the icing firm up a little before you cut it, or risk scraping icing run-off out of the bottom of the pan with a spoon (which, really, is not such a terrible thing).
- 1 stick butter
- 3 tbsp. cocoa
- 6 or 7 tbsp. Coca-Cola
- 1 box powdered sugar
- 1 cup chopped pecans
In a saucepan, heat the butter, Coca-Cola and cocoa until everything is melted and mixed together. Pour over the powdered sugar and mix well. (Note: I broke out the mixer for this.)