Crack open a can and make this Coca Cola Cake! Soft, chocolatey cake meets rich, fudgy icing in this classic southern dessert made with a not-so-secret ingredient. Scroll down to the recipe for a how-to video!
The Best Coca Cola Cake
If the idea of pouring soda into cake batter doesn’t sit right with you, let me ease your mind.
Southerners have been making soda cakes like this Coca Cola cake since the early 1950s. At that time, busy home bakers loved the versatility of the bubbly beverage; not only did it provide sweetness and moisture, but it also acted as a leavening agent, adding lift and air. Using soda saved time and money, and it made some seriously crowd-pleasing desserts.
It’s worth noting that the cola in this cake is not overwhelming; instead, it imparts a very subtle flavor that complements the chocolate beautifully. It’s like a lighter (in texture, not in calories), less chocolatey version of my devil’s food cake that’s both moist and flavorful. To finish, it’s topped with a thick layer of soft, just-set icing (like the one on my Texas sheet cake) that is one of my favorites.
Let’s get started!
What You Need
Making Coca Cola cake isn’t complicated, and neither are the ingredients! You’ll most likely have most these on hand already.
- Coca Cola. As mentioned above, cola adds a subtle flavor in addition to lift. It also adds acid, which balances the sweetness of the cake and the icing. If you don’t have cola, you could try substituting another dark soda, like root beer or Dr. Pepper.
- Butter. Between the cake and the icing, we need a lot of butter. While I often love to use a blend of butter and oil, I found it wasn’t necessary in today’s recipe and even weighed down the crumb too much. Skip the oil, you’ll still have a moist and very flavorful cake!
- Cocoa powder. Use plain, unsweetened/natural cocoa powder to give this cake its chocolate flavor. Do not use Dutch-processed cocoa; not only are the chemical properties different but Dutch-processed also has a more intense chocolate flavor that will overwhelm the cake and completely bully the already light cola flavor!
- Flour. Since we’re using cocoa powder and cornstarch in this recipe, stick with all-purpose flour. Cake flour likely won’t hold up properly with those two light ingredients.
- Sugar. We don’t need as much sugar as we would in your average cake recipe since we’re getting a fair bit from the cola. However, we do need to add some to achieve a tender, moist (and perfectly sweetened) cake. While I played around with using a blend of brown and white sugar, I ultimately settled on just granulated sugar, to better let the cola flavors shine.
- Baking soda and powder. When using acidic ingredients (cola, cocoa powder, and sour cream here!) it’s often necessary to use both baking soda and baking powder for proper rise.
- Sour cream. This adds moisture and fat, which ultimately enhances flavor. Full-fat plain Greek yogurt would also work here.
SAM’S NOTE: Traditional recipes like this Coca Cola cake have been passed down through generations, with each making their own modifications to suit their tastes. I’ve done the same with my recipe, omitting the marshmallows and pecans that appeared in the classic recipe, in order to let the cola flavor shine. The end result is a simple but standout chocolate cake that I think you’ll love. Side note: if you’re looking for chocolate cake that does include marshmallows and pecans, I suggest you try my Mississippi Mud Cake.
Remember, this is just an overview of some of the ingredients used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Coca Cola Cake
- Combine cola, butter, and cocoa powder in saucepan and heat until butter has melted and the mixture comes to a boil. The ingredients may be separated and it might not look pretty, but don’t panic! Things will come together a bit later on.
- Remove from heat and cool for several minutes before pouring into to dry ingredients.
- Add remaining wet ingredients and mix well until smooth and combined. With this cake, there’s a low-risk of over-mixing the batter and it’s more important to ensure that the ingredients are well-combined and the batter is smooth.
- Pour batter (it will be thin) into prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs.
Making the Frosting
- Reduce cola over stove until you have roughly ⅓ to ½ cup. This step is important, we cook out much of the water and concentrate the cola flavor.
- Add butter and salt and cook until the butter melts. Remove from heat and whisk in cocoa powder (adding the cocoa to a warm liquid “blooms” it, helping to really bring out the rich chocolate flavors!).
- Add powdered sugar and whisk again until completely lump free.
- Immediately pour over warm cake. Allow Coca Cola cake and frosting to cool before serving… or be impatient like I am and scoop it out by the messy, fudgy, hot spoonful and slap some vanilla ice cream on top!
SAM’S TIP: This cake pairs perfectly with vanilla ice cream or homemade whipped cream.
Frequently Asked Questions
This cake is chocolatey, but with a crumb that’s a bit less intense and less fudgy than my chocolate cake. As with most Coca Cola cakes, the cola taste itself is understated, but it adds a unique flavor that you’ll be able to distinguish when you try it.
Yes! While I like it as is, you can certainly add a cup or so of chopped pecans or walnuts immediately after frosting. Just sprinkle them overtop! If you add them directly into the cake batter they may sink to the bottom.
I don’t see why not! Cherry, orange, or vanilla would all be worth a try. If you do try this, definitely let me know how it turns out in the comments.
More Southern Recipes You Might Like
Let’s bake together! I’ll be walking you through all the steps in my written recipe and video below! If you try this recipe, be sure to tag me on Instagram, and you can also find me on YouTube and Facebook
Coca Cola Cake
- 12 oz Coca Cola 1 ½ cups (354ml)
- 1 cup unsalted butter (226g), cubed
- ½ cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (50g) see note
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (250g)
- 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar (350g)
- 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup sour cream (190g)
- 2 large eggs lightly beaten. room temperature preferred
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 12 oz Coca Cola 1 ½ cups (354ml)
- ½ cup unsalted butter cut into pieces (113g)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3 Tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder
- 4 cups powdered sugar (500g)
- Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and spray a 9×13” (23x33cm) baking pan with baking spray.
- Combine 12 oz cola, butter, and cocoa powder in a medium-sized saucepan and heat over medium-heat until butter has melted (the mixture may separate in the saucepan, that is OK). Bring to a boil, stirring frequently then remove from heat and allow to cool while you prepare your dry ingredients.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
- Pour cola mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until smooth.
- Add sour cream, eggs, and vanilla extract and stir again until the batter is smooth.
- Pour batter into prepared 9×13 (23x33cm) baking pan and transfer to 350F (175C) oven. Bake for 28-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs or clean. Baking time given is for a metal baking pan, glass or ceramic will take longer to bake (approximately 35-38 minutes).
- While cake is in the oven or is cooling you can prepare the frosting.
- Pour cola into a clean medium-sized saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until it has reduced in volume so that it is between ⅓ and ½ cup (79-118ml). You will need to carefully pour the cola into a heatproof liquid measuring cup to check if it has been reduced enough.
- Once cola has been reduced enough, add butter and salt and continue to cook over medium/low heat until the butter is melted (if the mixture looks a bit separated this is fine, it will come together in the next step).
- Remove from heat and add cocoa powder, whisking until smooth.
- Add powdered sugar and whisk again until frosting is smooth and lump free and immediately pour/spread over warm cake.
- Allow cake to cool and frosting to set before slicing and serving. This cake is great served by itself or with vanilla ice cream!