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The iconic soda lends both flavor and texture to rich and fudgy chocolate cupcakes.
Coca Cola is practically a religion in some parts of the South, so much so that any variety of soda is generically called “Coke.” As in, I once ordered a Coke in a Dallas diner and was taken aback when the waitress asked me what kind of Coke that I wanted. Naturally, I stared at her like the deer-in-the-headlights-Yankee I am and replied, “Uhhhh…..Coke-Coke? If that’s OK?”
I’ve always had a way with words.
After polishing off the best huevos rancheros that I’ve ever eaten before or since, I skipped over the pie (gasp!) in favor of a big slice of Coca Cola Cake. I’d never in all my life heard of a cola cake, so when in Rome…err Texas…I had to do as Texans do and give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised at how the cola flavor carried through such a rich, chocolaty cake! The cake was so moist and fudgy that I may or may not have lost all composure and licked the plate clean. Only the waitress and my conscience know for sure, and they’re aren’t telling a soul.
Once I gathered what little dignity I had left, I asked the waitress where the Coca Cola Cake originated. She laughed and stated, “Oh, honey! Coca Cola Cake has been around for darn near ever!” In fact, her aunt baked all of the cakes for the diner from her grandmother’s recipe. She further explained that Coca Cola cake is a staple at church pot lucks, family picnics throughout the south. As rumor has it, the Coca Cola Company convinced the US government to allow them extra sugar rations during WWII because they insisted that providing our soldiers with the iconic soda would improve morale. She speculated that the cake came about as another morale booster.
I can totally buy into that kind of logic because the stuff does wonders to improve my morale! A fully-sugared, icy-cold Coke (or Dr. Pepper) fresh from a soda fountain is my guilty pleasure–it never fails to make me smile.
When I returned home, I Googled the bejeezes out of Coca Cola cake recipes. I was sad to see that the majority of them started with cake mix. Now don’t get me wrong–I don’t have anything against cake mix! I just knew that My Coca Cola Cake from the diner was made from scratch, so gosh darn it, my cake would be from scratch, too!
Which was easier said than done. I cried a thousand tears over the countless number of mediocre cakes bubbled up and overflowed onto the oven floor. I even tried making cupcakes, thinking the batter would behave better and stay put in their wrappers, but it still spread like wildfire in the oven. Clearly, adding soda to various chocolate cake recipes was not working for me. I just couldn’t catch a break! Then I read a super-secret-southern tip that said that cola cakes were more Chocolate Sheet Cake than chocolate layer cake, and should be treated accordingly. Translation: rather than creaming the butter with sugars, the butter, sugars, and cola are heated then cooled.
BAZINGA! That made all the sense in the world! I was finally able to bake a cola cake that was worth a darn and could morph into cupcakes at a whim. Which brings me perhaps the most exciting part of this recipe:
Dr. Pepper can be substituted for the Coke to make Dr. Pepper Cupcakes! How cool is that?!
If you’ve made it thus far through my recipe development ramblings, I applaud you! My mind is a funny place, but if you hang with me long enough, sometimes you’ll be rewarded with a really great cupcake.
Coca Cola (or Dr. Pepper) Cupcakes
Yield 24 Cupcakes
Classic colas lend iconic flavor to these rich and fudgy chocolate cupcakes.
Prep Time: 30 minutes, Cook Time: 18 to 20 minutes, Total Time: 55 minutes
2 C. all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
16 oz. Coca Cola Classic soda (or regular Dr. Pepper – DO NOT use “diet” soda)
½ C. unsalted butter
¾ C. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 C. granulated sugar
1 C. light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs at room temperature, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line the wells of 24 muffin cups with cupcake liners; set aside.
Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and set the bowl of dry ingredients aside.
Heat the cola, butter, and cocoa powder in a small saucepan set over medium heat, stirring periodically, until the butter has completely melted. Whisk in the sugars and continue heating until dissolved. (About 4 to 5 minutes total.) Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla, then allow the cola mixture to completely cool.
Once the cola mixture has cooled, whisk in the eggs to incorporate them. Pour the cola mixture into the well of the dry ingredients, whisking them together until the batter is just blended and mostly smooth. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared muffin cups, filling each about 2/3 full.
Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until cupcake crowns puff and a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 3 minutes before removing and transferring them to a wire rack to completely cool.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes at the Comfortably Domestic Photography Studios, a.k.a. my dining room…
As a food blogger, it’s not at all uncommon for me to bake something delicious that I absolutely, positively refuse to allow anyone in my family to so much as breathe upon until after they’ve been photographed.
Often, I’m subtly informed that I’m taking too long photographing said deliciousness. In this case, my reminder came in the form of a sleepy Son #4 crawling into my lap while I was in the middle of making a photo.
As if that weren’t a blatant enough message, The Baby then proceeded to photo-bomb the next 25 shots until I agreed that I was done for the day. We had some cupcakes to eat.