A friend had a birthday, and I realized it had been way too long since a layer cake happened in my kitchen. Given my southern roots, I’ve been dying to put my own spin on a southern classic, a nostalgic recipe from my childhood: the coke cake. Usually it’s a chocolate cake, but I never understood that as it never really ended up tasting like cola. Which would seem the whole point, aside from the texture the effervescence & syrup lend to the final crumb. I know you’re probably thinking that coke is a far cry from local, but for a Chattanoogan that isn’t really the case. Fact: the first Coca-Cola bottling plant in the world was right here in my hometown. As such I grew up on things like coke basted ham (my mom’s specialty which also requires French’s mustard, no fancy stuff allowed) on every holiday spread and, what you see here, coke cake. This rendition takes that traditional cake in a more vanilla spice direction…so that it actually tastes like it’s namesake.
eth Kirby[/url], on Flickr
With a coke Italian meringue buttercream, the omission of the cocoa (which, as I said, I always found superfluous & overpowering), and with the exclusive use of coke as the liquid in the batter, I think I finally got what I was after. At first when I was developing this recipe I went half and half coke and buttermilk, but again it just didn’t come through. The addition of some nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla are designed to accentuate those spicy, mysterious flavors that end up being more than a sum of their parts. I will forever, as a cook, be fascinated by the amalgamation of flavors in coke. This cake is about making room in your culinary room for nostalgia & the fact that feast day foods can be an indulgence. It’s about the fact that food is memory as much as anything, and while some food memories do well to be rewritten, there’s nothing wrong with revisiting the emotions flavors of the past invoke. Moderation in all things.
coca-cola birthday cake + coke italian meringue frosting
A southern nostalgia piece, this is twist on both the traditional coke cake & the traditional vanilla birthday cake. A little bit of spice really brings out that unique cola flavor, and I highly recommend using Mexican coke (cane sugar coke) if you can get your hands on it. It's usually available at most latin groceries.
375 g flour (3 cups)
2.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
pinch of cinnamon
2 sticks (226 g, 1 cup) unsalted butter
400 g (2 cups) sugar
369 (1 1/2 cup) coke
2 teaspoon vanilla
5 egg white
pinch cream of tartar
bowl rubbed down with lemon
150 g / 2/3 cup coke
185 g sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla
2 sticks unsalted butter
Heat oven to 350° F and put a rack in the center. Grease two 9" round cake pans (or whichever cake pans you'd like to use), line with parchment, and then grease again.
In a mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon until well combined. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and the butter until very light and fluffy, at least 8 minutes. Scrape down the bowl half way through.
Add the eggs one by one to the butter mixture with the mixer on low, fully incorporating one before adding the next. Add the vanilla. Add about a third of the flour, then a third of the coke, repeat until they're both all added. After the last addition, turn the mixer off and finish mixing gently by hand with a rubber spatula, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl.
Divide the batter between 2 9" cake pans, about 26 ounces of batter per pan. Bake on the center rack for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool for about ten minutes in the pan and then invert onto cooling racks.
To make the frosting rub down the bowl of a stand mixer with a wedge of lemon, and then whip the egg whites & a pinch of cream of tartar with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form. Turn the mixer off. While the egg whites are whipping, heat the coke, sugar, and vanilla in a medium sauce pan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved, turn the heat to high and boil until it reaches the soft ball stage or 240° F on a candy thermometer.
With the mixer on low slowly pour the hot syrup into the stiff egg whites, increasing the speed to medium high once all the syrup has been added. Beat until the bowl is cool to the touch, and then proceed to beat in the butter bit by bit until it's all incorporated. If it appears to curdle at some point, don't worry, continue to beat until it's smooth. Be careful to not add the butter while the mixture is still warm or you'll end up with a soupy mess on your hands!
Frost your cake as desired. The cakes can be frozen and the frosting can be made ahead of time, but bring to room temperature before using.
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