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Everything you want to know about chocolate
Junior League cookbooks have wedged themselves into my bookshelves for as long as I can remember. Most of them are yellowed and frayed, having somehow survived decades of use in family kitchens, travel, storage, and book swaps. The provenance of these books is mysterious—their prefaces bear the names of Southern counties and corners I didn't know existed. In the '50s and '60s, my grandmother lived in Baton Rouge, Dallas, and La Jolla, among other places. Being the avid cook and fabulous hostess that she was, she collected cookbooks wherever she went. I've been fortunate enough to inherit many of these tattered treasures.
I'd read of Coca-Cola cake, having spied it in this or that notebook, and I recently rediscovered it in yet another Junior League cookbook, this one from Morgan County. The spiraled pages are bound in a sunny yellow cardboard that bears a large cotton blossom illustration framed by bold, picnic blanket-print type that reads Cotton Country Cooking. The book celebrates all things Southern, and though not from those parts myself, I do feel a kinship with the region thanks to their famous hospitality and love of fried foods and decadent desserts.
Coca-Cola cake is a simple cake made from butter, sugar, eggs, flour, and cocoa, moistened with buttermilk, and of course, the trademarked soft drink. Back home, and I believe it to be the case in many Southern states, one asks for "Coke" when ordering a soft drink, and the server will then reply with "What flavor?" Coca-Cola is synonymous with pop and, in my household, it was part of every meal (even breakfast), served alongside freshly squeezed orange juice and coffee. There were always two 24-glass bottle cases in stock, and, when the bottles were mostly empty, they would be walked out, tinkling and clanking, to the Coca-Cola truck for a new, red-topped stash. I just love an ice-cold Coke, so carbonated it makes your eyes water at the first gulp, and putting it in a cake sounded delightful.
I made slight modifications to the recipe, adding dark brown sugar for a bit more depth, and making the addition of mini marshmallows to the batter a must rather than an option. The cake doesn't even require an electric mixer, which makes it a last-minute or weekday type of cake, and it keeps well for up to three days. It is moist and rich, with a thick layer of chocolate icing. It's delicious at room temperature, but I much prefer eating it warm—as soon as it cools a bit in the pan, ice it and serve with ice cream or whipped cream. It's like you died and went to hot fudge (and Coca-Cola) heaven.
Mrs. Frank Troup contributed this recipe to the Morgan County Junior League and had this to say about it: "A favorite of man, woman, and child. Very moist and easy to make. The Troups are Decatur's Coca-Cola people. Obviously they feel compelled to put Coke in everything. Seriously, this is a good chocolate cake." Take her word for it.