Today’s Root Beer Chocolate Cake is a riff on the American classic Coca Cola cake. A favorite of southern bakers for decades, it first appeared shortly after the end of World War II in the 1950s. I wonder if returning GIs wanted that “taste of home” added to their desserts?
The first recorded cakes that include Coke showed up in the early 1950s and were popular for many years. Their popularity faded for a while and then in the 1990s they started popping up again. In the 2000s they started proliferating on popular blogs and have slowly become a standard again.
I prefer root beer to Coke so making the switch for the recipe was a natural one for me. You can also use Dr. Pepper or any other favorite soda in your own cake. Which one would you use?
I love a good chocolate cake and this one doesn’t disappoint. The Artist wasn’t completely sold on the idea of using root beer but he quickly became a convert, LOL. The soda adds an extra level of sweetness to the cake which is balanced by the unsweetened cocoa powder.
Another favorite ingredient is the buttermilk. I love the tenderness that buttermilk gives baked goods and in this case the slight sourness also balances the sweetness of the soda. If you don’t have buttermilk in your fridge, you can always add vinegar to half & half or milk until it curdles and thickens, usually 1-1/2 tsp per cup is enough but use your best judgment. I never measure, I go by the consistency, trying to match real buttermilk as closely as possible.
The original recipe had cinnamon and nutmeg in it in addition to the ginger. I chose not to include them, wanting the flavor of the root beer and chocolate to be foremost. If you want to include them, add them to the dry ingredients (1 tsp each).
And there is no worrying about softening butter ahead of time with this recipe! All the butter is melted before being combined with the rest of the ingredients to create a lush and delicate cake and glaze.
I hope you will try this Root Beer Chocolate Cake soon and enjoy every bite.
Have a wonderful week!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
For more information on the history of the coca cola cake, see this article at What’s Cooking America.
- 2-1/4 cups (270g) all-purpose flour or gluten-free all-purpose flour blend
- 1-1/2 cups (300g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (106g) firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1-1/2 cups (340g) root beer, flat or fizzy
- 1 cup (16 tbsp; 227g) unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup (21g) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup (113g) buttermilk
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract or vanilla paste
- 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
- 1/4 cup root beer, flat or fizzy
- 1/4 cup (4 tbsp; 57g) unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder, Dutch-process or natural
- 2 cups (227g) confectioners' sugar
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract or vanilla paste
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Sweetened shredded coconut, optional as a garnish
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and lightly flour a 9x13-inch pan or two 9-inch round cake pans (use gluten-free flour if needed).
- Make the Cake: In the bowl of your stand mixer, whisk together the flour, sugars, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. Grate the fresh ginger into the egg mixture, whisk to break up any clumps, and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, bring the root beer, butter, and cocoa powder to a boil, stirring occasionally until the butter is fully melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and cool for 5 minutes. Pour into the flour mixture and beat until smooth. Add the egg/buttermilk mixture and mix until fully incorporated.
- Bake the Cake:Pour the batter into the prepared pan (it will be very thin) and bake for 35 minutes for a 9x13-inch pan or 33 to 35 minutes for 9-inch layers, or until the edge of the cake begins to pull away from the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs.
- Remove the cake from the oven. Place the 9x13-inch pan on a cooling rack and set aside. The cake will cool in the pan. If you are using round cake pans, place a cooling rack on top of both round pans, and very carefully turn the cakes and rack over together so that the cakes remain in their pans and are resting on the rack. Wait 15 minutes, then carefully lift the pans off the cakes, jiggling gently if needed to release from the pans. While the cake is still hot, make the glaze.
- Prepare the Glaze: Bring the root beer to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter and cocoa powder, whisking until smooth. Pour the mixture into a large bowl, then beat in the confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and salt with an electric mixer until smooth and glossy.
- Immediately spread over the top of the cake while still warm. If making a layer cake, spread about 1/3 between the 2 layers and the remaining 2/3 of the glaze over the top. Sprinkle top with the coconut if using. Set the cake aside to cool and let the glaze harden.
- Store leftover cake, well wrapped in plastic, at room temperature for several days. Refrigerate or freeze for longer storage.
- Yield: about 10 servings
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