I recently met up with a couple of cherished family friends (who are worth their weight in gold, just so you know) to exchange gifts and chat and just generally catch up on all of our lives. I gave them this mocha fudge and this peanut butter fudge, which were received with much joy. (Angels wept.) They told me about a cake they’ve been eating the dickens out of lately – the weirdest cake I’d ever heard of! It’s called Coca-Cola cake because the batter and the icing have Coke in them – the batter alone has a full cup of the bubbly stuff. It sounded like it would be a sticky mess to me, but I decided to look into it anyway. People raved about its moist texture in blog posts, and I thought, why not try something weird once in a while? (This doesn’t count as weird. It’s beautiful, plain and simple.)
After researching a lot of Coca-Cola cake recipes, I combined two of the most promising recipes and set to work. Making the batter was quite interesting in and of itself. Would the Coke make the batter fizzy? As it turns out, it did not. The fizz dissipated with all the stirring that accompanies mixing cake batter. Part of me was disappointed, actually; fizzy cake batter would have been cool. It didn’t taste very strongly of Coke, either, though a Coke taste was faintly there. I was glad I used Mexican Coke, because it still uses actual sugar in its recipe rather than high fructose corn syrup and thusly tastes a lot better than Stateside Coke. I didn’t want the batter tasting of what the FDA tried to gild as “corn sugar.”
Even with Mexican Coke, the batter didn’t taste too promising, actually, but I popped it into the oven and set to work on the icing. The icing is a Coke-spiked chocolate glaze which must be poured while still warm over the cake when it comes out of the oven. Though I don’t normally like nuts in chocolate, I added the 1 cup of nuts called for by both of the recipes I was using. I nonetheless went rogue in my own way, using chopped walnuts rather than pecans as directed. I tasted the icing, and found it to be overwhelmingly sweet. Ho-hum. I dutifully poured the hot icing over the hot cake, waited for it to cool, and cut myself a piece – because I have to admit that at this point, I was dying to know what a cake with Coke in it would taste like.
In a word, nirvana.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is one of the biggest shocks I’ve ever had in my ten years of baking. Something magical happens to the batter while it is baking, and when it comes out, it no longer tastes remotely like Coke. It is simply a moist chocolate wonder. It was a bit sweet for me, and the chocolate flavour was mild, so next time I shall cut out 1/2 cup of sugar and add 1/4 cup cocoa; and then this shall be the best chocolate cake recipe I’ve ever tried. (This one is also one of the best ever, though its texture is more dense while this Coca-Cola cake is much more light and fluffy.) The icing, which is powerfully sweet by itself, soaks into the cake and suddenly makes sense to the palate. That’s the best I can describe it: When cake and icing meet, the twain shall not be overpoweringly sweet. This cake and this icing were made for each other. Together, they make perfect, perfect sense.
Next time I make this, I shall poke the cake all over with a skewer before pouring the icing onto the cake. I feel deep in my soul that this will make the cake happy.
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Yield: One 9×13″ sheet cake
For the cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup Coca-Cola (ensure there is a full cup after the fizz has died down)
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups small marshmallows
For the icing:
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
3 TBS cocoa powder
6 TBS Coca-Cola (ensure that there are 6 TBS after the fizz has died down)
16 oz. powdered sugar
1 TBS vanilla extract
1 cup chopped nuts, optional
powdered sugar or cocoa powder for sprinkling atop the cooled cake, optional
For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Spray a 9×13″ pan liberally with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, and baking soda. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine buttermilk, vegetable oil, and Coca-Cola. Set aside.
Beat butter and sugar until creamy and pale, about three minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and blend well, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture alternately, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and blending in each addition only until incorporated. Do not overbeat batter. Stir in marshmallows.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30 – 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. The cake will sink a little in the middle; this is normal. Immediately pour the hot icing (see below) over the hot cake.
For the icing:
About 10 minutes before the cake is done baking, begin making the icing. Place the powdered sugar in a large bowl and set aside. In a 2 quart saucepan, combine butter, cocoa powder, and Coca-Cola. Bring to a boil and boil for about 30 seconds, then pour the boiling mixture over the powdered sugar and whisk until completely combined. Whisk in the vanilla and the nuts, if using.
When the cake comes out of the oven, immediately pour the still-hot icing over the hot cake, taking care to evenly distribute the icing. The cake will sink a little in the middle, so the icing will tend to pool there. The icing will still soak into the entire cake, including the raised edges.
Let cake cool completely on a wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or cocoa powder before serving, if you wish.