It doesn't get much more Southern than rich, decadent cola cake--now in paleo form!
For the printable recipe click here.
Welcome to the next installment in my series giving classic Southern desserts a paleo makeover!
Y'all, in case you don't know, I am a Southern girl, and this cake speaks to my heart.
I have received mail in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and Texas, but I originated in Middle Tennessee--just like one of the most famous makers of cola cake, Cracker Barrel. My mom actually waited tables at Cracker Barrel's original location as a teen!
While Cracker Barrel is probably the most prolific purveyor of cola cake, they might not be the most famous act associated with it.
Cola cake is also known for being the favorite birthday cake of actor and country superstar Tim McGraw. In fact, his equally famous actress-and-country-superstar wife, Faith Hill, appears on an episode of Discovery Plus's Be My Guest with Ina Garten, along with their daughter Gracie McGraw, to show the iconic Food Network star how they make their family-favorite cola cake.
So, as you can see, it's kind of a big deal.
I've been making cola cake for years (you can see my original recipe here), and I have been SO READY to take it for a paleo spin.
So what is cola cake?
Cola cake is a chocolatey cake, usually light and airy from the carbonated cola in the batter, topped with a rich, chocolatey, cola-spiked glaze. In short, it is perfection.
The traditional Southern recipe is usually called Coca-Cola cake because usually it is made with another Southern superstar, Coca-Cola (the Coca-Cola Company was founded in Atlanta, GA).
Unlike a layer cake, cola cake is generally a single layer baked in a large, rectangular cake pan or casserole dish.
It's pretty easy to make and doesn't even require a mixer.
Just whisk up the dry ingredients . . .
Whisk in the wet ingredients . . .
Bake the cake . . .
And top with glaze.
What makes this Paleo Chocolate Cola Cake recipe different?
For our new recipe, I borrowed a little from my old version and a little from Janice's, with some key paleo subs and swaps.
From a paleo perspective, I traded out regular sugar in favor of coconut sugar, and in the place of wheat flour, I used my favorite cake combination: cassava flour, almond flour, and potato starch. The brown-sugar notes of coconut sugar lend extra depth to the flavor profile of the cake, and the three paleo flours are the perfect cake mix for fluffiness.
In the dairy department, coconut oil and non-dairy milk (plus lemon juice) stand in for butter and buttermilk.
My previous (non-paleo) recipe for cola cake was a bit on the dense side, and while it always led to plates licked clean, I wanted to try for an airier version this time.
My old recipe contained a combo of cocoa powder and melted chocolate in the cake, but I omitted the chocolate from this version to make it less dense.
That recipe also called for stabbing holes all throughout the cake before pouring the glaze on, but I took a cue from Janice's version and skipped that step this time. Poke cakes have the benefit of letting the glaze seep down into the cake more, but they also have the potentially ugly side effect of unsightly holes all over the top of the cake. This is easily remedied in recipes like tres leches cake, in which a topping is spread on after the soaking mixture is absorbed, but for something like cola cake, it's not so great. Skipping the pokes allowed for a flawless finish on top, and the cake was still moist and scrumptious!
Janice's recipe includes chopped pecans in the glaze, but I prefer to save the pecans for similar desserts like Texas sheet cake or Mississippi mud and let the cola stand out in this one.
What kind of cola should you use?
Instead of Coca-Cola, I went for a "healthier" alternative with Poppi Prebiotic Soda Classic Cola. Instead of the boatloads of high fructose corn syrup found in traditional soda pop, Poppi contains a duo of organic cane sugar and stevia for a total of 5 grams sugar per can. Each can also contains 2 grams of fiber and prebiotics (which feed probiotics) for a healthy gut.
Poppi is the only brand I have tested this recipe with, but I feel pretty comfortable that most brands would work.
Originally I had planned to use Olipop Vintage Cola Sparkling Tonic, which has 2 grams sugar and 9 grams fiber per can (along with many interesting ingredients for gut health), but Poppi was cheaper at the time I was shopping for ingredients.
If you wish to avoid high-fructose corn syrup but aren't concerned with all the other froufrou, Maine Root Mexicane Cola or Whole Foods Market's 365 Cola would be good choices. I have no idea how an all-stevia choice like Zevia would do (I do not enjoy their sodas typically), but that's another option.
Of course, you could go legit and use the real deal, Coca-Cola, if you prefer. And if you can get your hands on some Mexican Coke, I'm pretty sure it is still made with cane sugar.
What's the deal with high-fructose corn syrup, anyway?
A while back, a commercial featuring moms, kids, and cornfields tried to convince us that HFCS was just a normal, natural sugar made from normal, natural corn--no different from sugar made from beet or cane or any other sort of normal, natural thing. It sounded reasonable, so why should we avoid the stuff?
I am not a food scientist, but my understanding is this:
Unlike glucose, fructose is processed almost entirely in the liver. This is not an issue with natural foods like raspberries or an apple, but in the case of frankenfoods like high-fructose corn syrup, in which an extra-high concentration of fructose is delivered in a tiny package, it could be more taxing to the liver. Excessive fructose consumption may be especially threatening to those consuming a high-fat diet, like many paleo peeps. For more on that, see here.
Ok. That about covers it. Now prepare to meet your new favorite chocolate cake.
Here's what you'll need:
For the cake:
2 cups coconut sugar
1 cup cassava flour
½ cup potato starch
½ cup almond flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp fine sea salt
1 cup coconut oil (room temperature)
½ cup coconut milk
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp instant coffee granules
2 large eggs (room temperature)
1 ¼ cup cola* (room temperature)
For the glaze:
½ cup coconut oil
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa, sifted (I just press it through a sieve)
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup cola*
2 cups organic powdered sugar, sifted
Here's what you'll do:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F., and grease a 9x13” cake pan or casserole dish.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the first 7 ingredients (coconut sugar-sea salt).
Use a fork or pastry cutter to cut the coconut oil into the dry mixture until the new mixture looks sandy, with no clumps larger than a pea.
In a small mixing bowl or large Pyrex measuring cup, use a fork to combine the next 5 ingredients (lemon juice-eggs). Once the mixture is thoroughly combined, gently mix in the cola.
Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing just till there are no big clumps.
Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it.
About 10 minutes before the cake is done baking, make the glaze: melt the coconut oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat, and whisk in the remaining ingredients.
Pour the warm glaze over the hot cake and allow to cool completely. Allow the glaze to set (form a crust) across the top before serving, at least an hour. If cut after about an hour at room temperature, the glaze will still be pretty fluid underneath the crust, making the cake deliciously self-saucing. Store in the fridge. Served cold, the glaze will be firm, and the cake will be less airy, but still super-delicious. This cake is at its best within the first day or two but can be kept for longer.
For the printable recipe click here.
More recipes from this series:
Or try another one of our delicious paleo desserts: