Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Kathleen Varner
"I'm going to start calling you Opal," a friend told me after scarfing down a slice of my cake.
If there's a better compliment for an amateur baker than being compared to someone's grandmother, I can't think of it.
Credit, of course, goes to Pam Lolley, our Test Kitchen pro who developed a Coca-Cola Chocolate Cake for our August 2019 issue. With it, she's created a recipe so fudgy, so moist, and so downright foolproof that even I, someone who typically relies on store-bought and bakery-made, was able to whip up a cake that garnered "oh-my-gosh-this-tastes-like-my-grandmother's" reviews.
I'm no stranger to Coca-Cola cake. Many Sundays after church, my family and I would go to Jestine's Kitchen, a favorite (now shuttered) Charleston restaurant where the "Table Wine" was sweet tea and a dish of marinated cucumbers was presented as the complimentary appetizer. Often, owner Dana Berlin would slip us a piece of Coca-Cola cake at the end, whether my sisters and I had eaten our share of fat green beans or not.
I hadn't thought much about the cake in recent years, but the other night, inspired by all the bakers in our What's Cooking with Southern Living Facebook group, I decided to tackle it myself, opting to use our Coca-Cola Chocolate Cake recipe as my guide.
The recipe is easy to follow and doesn't require any fancy baking tools. I didn't have a stand mixer, so I just used my regular old hand mixer (no trouble there); and I didn't have two 9-inch round cake pans, so I ended up making a three-layer cake using three 8-inch round pans instead. That worked just as well, plus there was enough frosting to spread a generous coat of icing between each of the layers and still cover the cake completely. The hardest part of the entire process was conjuring up enough patience to wait for the layers to cool before I iced them.
As for the final result: The cake itself was delicious—intensely chocolatey, not dense, and moist even after a day spent under (very loosely placed) aluminum foil. But it was the Fudgy Coca-Cola Cake Frosting that really sold me on the recipe. Five to six tablespoons of Coke give the butter, powdered sugar, and unsweetened cocoa base a more complex, fudgy flavor that's hard to find in a pre-made icing. I kept sneaking little tastes of the frosting as I beat it together, and I purposefully did a poor job scraping the bowl at the end so that I could enjoy one more spoonful of the stuff. Together with the light crumb of the chocolate cake, it was truly a delight to eat.
While I may not make the cake itself again soon (lazy habits die hard, and I'll likely opt to dress up a boxed mix instead), I will never again buy a can of chocolate icing at the store. Not even the best pre-made stuff could hold a candle to our Fudgy Coca-Cola Cake Frosting, and it'll be my go-to party trick from here on out. Besides, if the icing is homemade, who'd dare to call me out on the box cake underneath?
WATCH: How to Frost a Cake Like a Professional