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Food & Recipes

Coca-Cola Cake Is a Southern Classic for Derby Day: Moist, Fudgy + Preps in 20 Minutes

Learn how this fizzy drink does wonders for your cake batter!

The excitement of the Kentucky Derby lingers long after the final horse crosses the finish line. We’ve sipped our mint juleps and crowned the most extravagant hat. But a celebration can’t end without a delicious dessert. So we had to include this Southern classic on the menu: Coca-Cola cake. This chocolate cake boasts a unique ingredient — yes, you guessed it, Coca-Cola! You won’t find a cake more rich or soft. And we love how it comes together with only 20 minutes of prep. Plus, you can whip up its iconic fudgy frosting on the stove (no mixer required). Here’s your expert-approved guide to making Coca-Cola cake.

What is Coca-Cola cake?

This isn’t your average chocolate cake! Coca-Cola cake has a rich Southern history, dating back to the 1920s or even earlier. Its rise in popularity coincides with the widespread availability of Coca-Cola throughout the South. Particularly common in states like Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas, Coca-Cola cake can be found at potlucks, church socials and family gatherings. You may have also heard of the double chocolate fudge version on Cracker Barrel menus.

This unique dessert features a moist chocolate cake infused with Coca-Cola. Additionally, the batter includes flour, sugar, cocoa powder, eggs, butter milk and sometimes mini marshmallows for added moisture. A crackly, fudgy chocolate frosting (also made with Coca-Cola) adds the finishing touch to this sheet pan-style cake.

Want another soda-infused dish? Try this Coca-Cola Ham recipe!

The magic of soda

coca-cola cake recipe: soda bottle poured into glass birds eye view

You might be surprised to learn that the use of soda in cakes goes beyond just Coca-Cola. The lack of readily available baking powder in the early 20th century led resourceful Southern cooks to experiment with other leavening agents. Fizzy drinks like cola or ginger ale offered a convenient and affordable way to added lightness and airiness to cakes.

But Coca-Cola doesn’t just add fizz. Its addition brings several benefits to the cake. “Not only does the Coke enhance the flavor, but it helps to moisten the cake,” says Chef Eva Wong at The Armory Hotel. Additionally, it adds a subtle caramel note that complements the chocolate flavor. “Of course, you can use different types of soda such as Mexican Coke, which is sweeter, but I suggest using only dark colas,” adds Chef Wong.

Tips for making the best Coca-Cola cake

You don’t have to be from the South to master Coca-Cola cake. It all comes down to maximizing flavor and texture. And with these key tips, you can impress your Southern friends or relatives with one bite.

1. Using room-temperature ingredients

Just like with many other baked goods, using ingredients at room temperature can make or break your batter. Cold ingredients can cause lumps and hinder proper mixing. To ensure a smooth and even consistency, take your eggs, buttermilk and butter out of the refrigerator for about 30 minutes before you begin baking.

2. Not overmixing

Once you’ve combined all your ingredients, resist the urge to overmix your batter. Overmixing can lead to a dense and tough cake. Instead, mix until just combined.

3. Baking your cake

Coca-Cola cake batter tends to be thinner than traditional cake batters due to the added soda. So, fill your baking dish slightly less full to prevent overflow during baking. Additionally, keep a close eye on your cake in the oven. Since the soda adds moisture, the cake may bake faster than traditional chocolate cake. To prevent overbaking, check for doneness with a toothpick a few minutes before the timer.

4. Making your frosting  

Ditch the store-bought frosting and whip up a simple and rich stovetop fudge frosting. To start, heat up your Coca-Cola (we use an entire can) in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Importantly, make sure to reduce it to about ½ cup so you get the right consistency. Too much soda can lead to a runny frosting. After adding the rest of the ingredients like butter, cocoa powder and powdered sugar, pour it immediately over your cake before letting everything cool. This gets that desired crackly texture.

Chef Wong has an extra tip as well: “Sifting powdered sugar can be messy, so I sieve the frosting after it was made.”

Classic Coca-Cola cake recipe

Ready to take on a taste of Southern tradition? This classic recipe from Brown Eyed Baker takes 20 minutes to prep before baking. You can also make it a sheet cake by using a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (learn how to clean it after with this genius trick!)

Coca-Cola Cake

coca-cola cake recipe: birds eye view of finished cake with fudgy frosting on wire rack
Olga Mazyarkina/Getty


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 (12 oz.) can cola
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 (12 oz.) can cola
  • ½ cup salted butter, cut into small cubes
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted


  • Active Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 15 servings
  1. First, preheat oven to 350°F. Then grease a 9×13-inch baking pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
  2. In a small saucepan, stir together the cola, butter and cocoa powder over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Pour into the flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until moistened.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla until blended. Add to the batter, whisking constantly. Then, pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.
  4. About 15 minutes before the cake is finished, begin the frosting. In a small saucepan, bring the cola to a boil over high heat and cook until the liquid is reduced to ½ cup, about 12 to 15 minutes. Stir in the butter and cocoa powder until the butter is melted, then remove from the heat. Add the powdered sugar about 1 cup at a time, whisking until smooth. Pour immediately over the hot cake in an even layer. Allow the cake to cool to room temperature before serving.

Storage and reheating

Moist cakes are best kept refrigerated, especially Coca-Cola cake. Once it has cooled completely, store leftover slices in an airtight container or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. It will stay fresh for up to 3 days but should move to the freezer after.

To reheat, individual slices can be microwaved for 10-15 seconds until warmed through. Alternatively, you can wrap the cake in foil and warm it in a preheated oven at 300°F for a few minutes. The oven method helps maintain some of the cake’s moisture.

Shortcut Coca-Cola cake

Short on time? You can whip up this Coca-Cola cake with this secret swap: boxed cake mix. Blair Longeran, recipe developer and founder of The Seasoned Mom, shares her shortcut recipe with a pecan-flavored frosting. “My Coca Cola cake with cake mix doesn’t require any special baking skills or much time spent in the kitchen. It’s made without without buttermilk and without miniature marshmallows, requiring just a handful of very basic ingredients.”

Longeran adds that “you can use a classic chocolate cake mix, or try one that’s labeled ‘milk chocolate cake,’ ‘dark chocolate cake,’ ‘Devil’s Food cake’ or ‘chocolate fudge.'”

Fun topping ideas for your Coca-Cola cake

Don’t stop at just a delicious cake — you can make it even better (and photo-worthy) with delicious toppings, from classic chopped nuts to even more chocolate. So, take your Coca-Cola cake to the next level with some fun ideas below to get you started.

1. Chopped nuts

For a bit of crunch and texture, sprinkle your cake with chopped peanuts, pecans or walnuts. Not only do chopped nuts add a delightful textural element, but they also complement the chocolate flavors. You can also toast them beforehand for an extra nutty flavor.

2. Vanilla ice cream

A timeless duo, a scoop of vanilla ice cream adds a refreshing and light counterpoint to the rich chocolate. If you have a leftover carton sitting in your freezer, this is your sign to use it!  

3. Chocolate ganache

For an extra dose of chocolate decadence, drizzle your cake with a chocolate ganache made with melted chocolate and heavy cream. Despite its fancy name, ganache takes just a few minutes to make. Simply heat heavy cream in a saucepan until simmering, then pour it over chopped chocolate pieces. Let it sit for a few minutes, then whisk until smooth and glossy. Pour the ganache over your cooled cake, letting it drip down the sides for an impressive look.

If you can’t get enough of chocolate desserts, we have a few more to try below:

This Chocolate Pasta Recipe Turns a Comfort Classic Into the Perfect Dessert: So Sweet + Easy

Treat Yourself to This Chocolate Lava Cake Recipe: It’s Gooey, Rich and Easy to Make in Under 30 Minutes

Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding Recipe Is a Must-Try Healthy and Indulgent Treat — Preps in 5 Minutes

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