Coca-Cola Cake with Sour Cream Whip: A Piece of Cake #1
December's Snack Cake
If you ever visited me at MeMe’s Diner, or have been to my house for dinner, or have talked to me for more than 10 minutes, then you know I really love cake. Like, it’s right there in the newsletter name.
And I’ve been sharing that cake-love my whole life—from the banana caramel cake my mother demanded for her birthday every year, to the German chocolate cake my father wanted on his, to the hundreds of cakes I baked at MeMe’s Diner. As a first-born, eager-to-please little homosexual boy, I learned two things very early in life:
1. Cake makes people happy.
2. There is never a bad time for cake.
With that in mind, I’ll be starting off every month of this newsletter with a snack cake recipe. A snack cake is a weeknight, or weekday, cake. A single-layer, unfussy cake you keep on the counter to have when you want it (or when you need it). It’s exactly the kind of baking you want to do [redacted] months into a pandemic. So I’ll keep these recipes easy, one bowl (mostly), and exciting (hopefully). A little bit of sweetness for your weekly menus.
The first snack cake I remember eating was the Texas sheet cake my mother made for every Fourth of July BBQ (or any high school theater cast party). It’s a buttermilk-based, brownie-adjacent cake, topped with a thick, pecan-flecked cocoa glaze—it’s as perfect as it sounds. A few years back, it was finally my turn to make Texas sheet cake for my mom, this time for her retirement party. But instead of the classic version, I made a two-layer Texas sheet cake that served 75 people. The spiritual opposite of a snack cake. Deranged, but delicious. Also… remember parties?
This month’s Coca-Cola snack cake shares Texas sheet cake’s buttermilk base and fudgy frosting. But CCSC cranks everything up a notch, with an added depth of flavor and an extra glug of nostalgia.
I absolutely did not invent Coca-Cola cake. (My fiance Andrew told me about growing up in North Carolina and the church ladies who’d bring “Cokecola Cake” to homecoming.) But the sour cream whip is my addition. The extra tang of sour cream cuts through the very rich, very sweet (very perfect) combo of Coke and chocolate.
Serve this after a hard day of working from home, drop it off at a friend’s doorstep, or make it for the family you can’t be with this season (it holds incredibly well).
I used Mexican coke when developing this recipe, but if you use standard-issue corner store Coke, it probably won't make much of a difference. However, you’ll want to use the best quality cinnamon you can get your hands on. My go-to for this recipe, and for most times I need cinnamon, is Burlap and Barrel’s Royal Cinnamon. On the other end of the spectrum, I use classic Hershey’s cocoa: gets the job done, tastes great. Save the fancy, single-origin stuff for something it will really shine in. The more mild chocolate flavor of Hershey’s lets the Coke come through.
The key to the fudgy, slightly crusted glaze on this cake is putting it on when the cake is HOT. And that means you need to have the glaze ready to go when the cake comes out of the oven. Don't be shy—dump it right on there. The heat helps the frosting meld with the cake and cools into that very specific texture you expect.
As I said, this cake keeps really well: it’s a good candidate for mailing to the out-of-state family you can't be with this year. Mail it in the baking tin, wrapped in tin foil, and wrapped again in saran wrap. Your family can make the sour cream whip themselves. Including a card is up to you.
Coca Cola Snack Cake with Sour Cream Whip
For the CAKE
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
¾ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
¾ cup butter, melted
9 ounces Coke, room temp
⅓ cup buttermilk
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
For the GLAZE
6 ounces Coke
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 cups 10x confectioners sugar
For the WHIP
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup sour cream
2 teaspoons 10x confectioners sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
Heat oven to 350 degrees, coat an 8x8 pan liberally with pan spray.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
Whisk together melted butter with Coke, buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla.
Whisk Coke mixture into flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Pour into the prepared pan.
Bake ~35 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean, rotating halfway through.
Prepare glaze during the second half of the baking time.
Bring Coke to a boil in a small saucepan, cook until reduced by half.
Add butter to melt and whisk in cocoa powder.
Remove from heat and whisk in 10x sugar.
Pour over the cake, immediately after removing the cake from the oven.
Whip cream until stiff.
Whisk in 10x, salt, and sour cream.
Serve cake with a healthy dollop of whip.
Like I said, snack cakes are very much pandemic baking. Yossy Arefi wrote the book on them this year, Snacking Cakes, and it’s sold out everywhere.
If you’re out of things to watch and need something pleasant, check out Full Bloom on HBO Max. It’s absolutely copying British Baking Show’s thing, and doing a good job at it.
Speaking of that Baking Show, I’m a huge Derry Girls fan, and their episode of The Great British Baking Show: Holidays was utterly charming.
If you don’t have an 8x8 square pan and need to scale this recipe to a different pan, Kendra Vaculin wrote a handy cheat sheet for Epicurious earlier this year.
If the idea of a snack cake is really doing it for you, you’re in luck. I’ll drop a new snack cake recipe here, the first week of every month. That’s free: for followers, paying subscribers (legends, icons, saints), and everyone else! And subscribers get three more original recipes a month. You can expect some easy weeknight dinners, project bakes, cocktails, wine recs, dog pics—honestly whatever I’m into and am excited to share. You’ve read a newsletter, you know how this goes. If you have any questions, shoot me an email. See you next week! (And tell somebody about this newsletter!)
If you don’t already follow A Piece of Cake, you can fix that here:
A Piece of Cake is written by Bill Clark and edited by Andrew Spena. Photography by Hunter Abrams. Logo design by Brett LaBauve.
I doubled it and the egg separated in the oven giving the bottom layer a gelatin-like texture. I found the glaze too sweet as well.
Hey Bill, I just wanted to let you know that I made this cake a couple of days ago - I'm Australian and cooking food with/in Coke isn't really a big "thing" here. I made it out of curiosity and for the novelty factor and I'm happy to report that it was, IS absolutely delicious (and I don't even drink Coke!). Thanks for the recipe and for writing your lovely newsletter. Stay safe over there.