Coca-Cola Cake

Imagine the sweetest, chocolatiest, most effervescent cake you can dream up. Make sure it’s moist like a brownie, but fluffy instead of being dense. Add sweet, sort of crystallized icing. Can you picture it? Do you want to just gobble it all up right now? If yes, or if you’re intrigued by the sheer title of the recipe, click through the jump and I shall tell you all about my experiences with Coca-Cola cake.

How I came across this recipe in the first place is a story worth telling, so I’m going to hold off just a little bit more in handing over the goods and the dessert porn. I won’t take long, I promise.

This summer, I went with a group of teens from our church to a homeless mission in eastern Washington, where we volunteered for a little over half a week. (Side note: I was so very proud of my teens for working as hard as they did and all without complaining! They are fantastic young people.) A large chunk of our time was spent sorting through mountains of recyclables so that the various bottles, cans, cardboard boxes, and papers could be recycled accordingly, which was how the mission made enough money to keep providing care and services.

While picking through these massive piles of recyclables, one of my teens ran up to me excitedly, clutching something in her hands. It was a mini accordion file folder with a decorated cover that read “Happiness is Homemade” and contained all kinds of recipes, both handwritten and clipped from newspapers and magazines. Knowing that I enjoy cooking, my teen asked if I wanted it, and of course, I said yes, because frankly, it was a great find and there is no way I could ever say no to her.

Later, I sorted through the recipes, tossing out ones that didn’t appeal to me or were duplicates, etc. One of the recipes was Coca-Cola Cake, and my morbid curiosity got the best of me. (I’m so glad it did.) I set aside the recipe to try out later, and I have got to say, sometimes, curiosity does not kill the cat, it only provides delicious cake. Truth.

Animated gif of Allyson Hannigan on the phone saying "There's cake?! I'm on my way!"
I feel very much the same way about cake, especially this one!

Without further ado, you will need the following ingredients for Coca-Cola Cake:

  • 1 cup Coca-Cola (Pepsi or Dr. Pepper or Root Beer might work as well, but I haven’t tried alternatives yet)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk*
  • 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups of mini marshmallows

*If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, pour 1 tablespoon of vinegar into a 1 cup measuring cup and fill the rest up with milk. The result isn’t exactly buttermilk, per se, but it is a good substitution in baking.

First, preheat your oven to 350°F, then combine cola with buttermilk and set aside. It will foam like crazy, but I think this is part of the beauty of the cake. I’m pretty sure that the cola acts not only as a sweetener/flavorer but also as a leavening agent, but I’m not positive.

With a mixer, beat butter on low speed until creamy. Gradually add sugar and beat until blended. Add eggs and vanilla; blend.

In a separate small bowl, combine flour, cocoa, and baking soda. If you’re anal retentive like me, you’ll whisk to combine to make sure that the dry ingredients end up equally distributed in the batter later on. I’m really not sure if this is a necessary step or a self-made up old wives’ tale. (Probably the latter.)

Alternately add the dry ingredients and the cola/buttermilk to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mix. Beat until just blended. (I think I “overbeat” my batter, but the resulting cake was still delicious and didn’t collapse awkwardly, so don’t freak out over this point.)

At this point, stir in the mini mallows and pour batter into a greased and floured 9″X13″ inch pan. Bake for 30-48 minutes or until the middle of the cake is “set.” The original recipe says to bake 30-35 minutes, but I found that my cake needed the extra time. When I first checked the cake at 30 minutes, the top looked done, but when I jiggled the pan there were batter waves undulating below the surface, so I popped it back in and checked periodically until it was done.

When the cake is done, remove from the oven and cool about 10 minutes. Pour Coca-Cola frosting over the still-warm (not hot!) cake, then garnish with crushed, toasted pecans if desired. (I did not desire.)

For the icing, you’ll have plenty of time to make it while the cake is cooling a bit, so don’t bother making it until the cake is out of the oven. You’ll want the icing still warm so that it pours on the cake easily. You’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup Coca-Cola
  • 3 Tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 (16 oz) package of powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Bring first three ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring until butter melts. Remove from heat. Whisk in powdered sugar and vanilla, then pour over now “cooled” cake.

a delicious chocolatey Coca-Cola cake

You’ll still want to let it set a little before slicing so that the icing isn’t dripping all over and making messy cuts. I cut my pan so that it was 24 pieces, although the recipe says it serves 12. I think the smaller size is adequate because this cake is very, very sweet.

Beyond being so super sweet that I’m surprised my teeth didn’t fall right out of my gums (I jest) there is a lot going for this cake. It’s not a dense cake, although it is very brownie-like. The mini marshmallows rose to the top of the cake batter in baking, so there was also a bit of a toasted marshmallow flavor going on. The icing became sort of crystallized, and all throughout was a subtle flavoring of Coca-Cola.

Over the week, I’ve had multiple taste-testers, and all of the responses were very positive. I think I’ve eaten half of the cake by myself, and it is delicious, ladies. DELICIOUS. This really is the cake that I’ve been dreaming of all my life – no joke! Next time I make it, I’ll probably experiment with a little less sugar, but other than that, I thought it was great!

Since Coca-Cola cakes have been around for quite awhile in the US (1940s), has anyone else tried one or made one? What do you think?

By Dormouse

Bilingual (and a half) white girl who spent thirteen of her formative years in Africa. She is a writer, mentor, coffee drinker, wife, cat owner, language lover, photography dabbler, aspiring speaker, and a lifetime student. She keeps her writing going over at

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