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Chocolate Cola Cake: chocolate cola cake with a chocolate cola glaze and vanilla buttercream.
A Southern Tradition
I’m so excited to finally share with you my Chocolate Cola Cake! I hate to admit it, but until recently, this is a cake I didn’t know existed. Well, that’s not entirely true. What I knew to be “Cola Cake” was a box mix cake with a can of soda added to it. Ha! Definitely not a real Cola Cake, as I’ve learned.
So what is a true Southern Cola Cake? Well, there are a lot of theories about how this cake originated: some say this cake stems from sugar rationing during World War II. Because sugar was being rationed during the war, bakers couldn’t use as much in their baking. The Coca-Cola Company, however, was exempt from the rationing, so their soda still had lots of sugar! Because of this, bakers would use Coca-Cola in their cakes for the added sweetness.
Others would argue that Cola Cake became popular because Coca-Cola was trying to expand their brand in other markets, so they started publishing recipes with their soda as a main ingredient.
Either way, this cake became a staple across America and is known for its rich, sweet flavor.
Chocolate Cola Cake
I also learned that this classic Southern cake has a slight hint of chocolate flavor (similar to a red velvet), and is topped with a frosting that feels a bit more like a glaze. It doesn’t really set like a buttercream, which is why you’ve probably only seen this cake in a sheet pan.
You may have also seen or tried this cake with mini marshmallows in the cake or pecans spread across the top. I, of course, am not using nuts and turned this into a layered cake. I also omitted the marshmallows because I knew my added vanilla buttercream would make this cake nice and sweet on it’s own.
Notes About This Cake
- It’s best to make the glaze a day or two ahead of when you want to assemble the cake. This gives the glaze time to thicken a bit.
- You’ll want to level your cakes or at least trim a bit off the top so the glaze can soak into the cake layers.
- Always remember to use fresh baking powder (nothing over 6 months old) to get a good rise out of your cake.
- Don’t over-mix the cake batter. Over-mixing your batter will cause it to sink in the oven.
- Keep an eye on your cake layers toward the end of baking. Remember, the cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out with a few moist crumbs on it.
Chocolate Cola Cake
Chocolate cola cake with chocolate cola glaze and a vanilla buttercream.
Prep Time 2 hrs
Cook Time 35 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 35 mins
For the Cake
- 2 1/2 cups (500 g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter
- 1 cup 8 oz. Coca-Cola not diet
- 1/4 cup (29.5 g) unsweetened cocoa powder not dark
- 4 large or extra large eggs room temperature
- 1 cup (240 g) buttermilk room temperature
- 3 cups (360 g) all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons (36 g) baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.8 g) salt
- 1 tsp (4.2 g) vanilla
For the Glaze
- 1 cup 8 oz. Coca-Cola
- 1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup (59 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 4 cups (500 g) powdered sugar measured and then sifted
- 1 teaspoon (4.2 g) vanilla extract
For the Buttercream
- 2 cups (452 g) unsalted butter chilled (I take the butter out of the fridge 30 minutes before I make my frosting)
- 6 cups (750 g) powdered sugar measured and then sifted
- 3-4 tablespoons (43-57g) heavy whipping cream
- 2 teaspoons (8.4 g) vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- *This buttercream recipe makes enough to fill and cover your cake. If you want to add additional piping, you’ll want to make an extra 1/2 batch.
For the cake
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare three 8-inch or four 6-inch round baking pans by spraying each pan with nonstick spray, lining the bottom with parchment paper and spraying again. Set aside.
- In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine well. Set aside.
- In a medium-size sauce pan, combine the sugar, cola, and butter over medium heat. Stir until the mixture is smooth and the sugar has dissolved completely.
- While stirring the cola mixture vigorously (so your eggs don't scramble), gradually add the eggs, one at a time.
- Once your eggs are full incorporated, add the buttermilk and vanilla to the wet ingredients and stir well.
- With your mixer on low speed, gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Combine until no streaks of the dry mixture remain, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and stir again for about 10 to 20 seconds. Do not over-mix your batter. Over-mixing your batter will cause it to sink when it's baking.
- Using a kitchen scale, divide batter evenly among your pans (about 18 to 20 ounces of batter in each of the 8-inch pans, 15 ounces in each of the 6-inch pans), spreading evenly with a small offset palette knife.
- Bake for about 23 to 25 minutes. Check cake at 20 minutes and then set the timer for 2 to 3 minute intervals if the cake needs to bake longer. You're looking for a few moist crumbs to come out on the toothpick when inserted into the center of the cake.
- Let the cake layers cool on racks for 10 minutes before inverting onto greased wire racks. Gently turn the cakes back up so the tops are up and cool completely.
- Once the cakes are cooled completely, level the tops slightly to allow the glaze to soak into the cake.
- Wrap each cake layer with plastic wrap and chill in freezer for at least an hour before using. The cake layers can be stored for up to a few days wrapped once in plastic wrap and frozen. To store longer than a few days, wrap twice in plastic wrap, then in foil, and seal in a zip-lock bag.
- Take the cake layers out of the fridge about an hour prior to assembly. You can wait to add the glaze to the layers until they've thawed a bit.
For the Glaze
- In a medium-size saucepan, over medium heat, combine the butter, cola and cocoa powder. Stir until well-combined.
- Take the mixture off the heat and combine with the powdered sugar. Mix until no clumps remain.
- This will be a thinner consistency than buttercream. I think it's best to make this ahead of time so it has a little time to thicken. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
For the Buttercream
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter for about 2 minutes. This will soften the butter without it having to be warm.
- With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the sifted powdered sugar, one cup at a time, mixing a little in between each addition.
- With mixer on medium speed, add whipping cream, vanilla and salt.
- Turn the mixer to medium-high speed and beat for an additional 5 to 7 minutes. The frosting will become lighter in color and texture.
- Before spreading on your cake, spend a couple minutes mixing the buttercream by hand with a wooden spoon to push out the air pockets.
- Place the first cake layer, top side up on a cake plate or cake board set on a turn table.
- Pipe a rim of the buttercream around the edge of the cake.
- Pour about 1/2 cup of the glaze on the cake, spreading evenly.
- Place the second cake layer on top of the filling and repeat steps 2 and 3.
- The final cake layer will go top-side down on the filling.
- Apply a thin coat of frosting around the entire cake to lock in the crumbs. Freeze for about 10 minutes.
- After the crumb coat is set, continue frosting and decorating the cake.
- Note: To make the ombre effect on the cake, take about 1 1/2 cups of the buttercream and combine with about 3 tablespoons of the glaze.
Note: To make the ombre effect on the cake, take about 1 1/2 cups of the buttercream and combine with about 3 tablespoons of the glaze.