Vegan Cola Cake with Fudgy Frosting


This is Betsy‘s “New and Improved” Coca Cola Cake recipe! She submitted a fantastic version a year ago, but says, “My first attempt at veganizing the recipe was quite tasty. But this version is even more so: moister and fudgier!”

I am not a coke drinker. Okay, well, very rarely, say with Mexican food, I MIGHT crave a diet coke (sorry!), but it’s been ages. However, I love Coca Cola Cake. Are you familiar with this southern staple? The non-vegan versions are moist sheet cakes – make that ultra moist sheet cakes – topped with marshmallows and a fudgy frosting (the kind that gets ever-so-slightly crusty) and a layer of pecans, toasted for extra flavor. And my vegan version of coca cola cake is too!

Vegan Coca Cola Cake with Dairy-Free Fudgy Frosting (Recipe)

Looking back, I had my first taste of Coca Cola Cake at an Academy Awards party years ago when I lived in Nashville. It was one of those “love at first bite” moments. A guilty pleasure for sure. Recent NPR clips about the most recent Academy Awards must have triggered that culinary memory because I started craving Coca Cola Cake.

I made the cake for a “Critique Treat” last week in my AP Studio Art class. My students LOVED it and some even asked for the recipe. I have one adorable gal who is allergic to all nuts – think Epi-Pen allergic – so I left off the pecans and passed them separately.

Veganizing this Coca Cola Cake was simple: I just substituted dairy-free margarine and “faux” buttermilk for their dairy cousins, substituted baking powder for eggs, and omitted the marshmallows. I know vegan marshmallows are available, but they are expensive and I haven’t seen them locally, so I was content just to leave them out. We didn’t miss them and neither will you!

I know that some of you are adamantly opposed to Coca Cola, but there is less than 1-1/2 cups in the whole cake plus frosting. Plus, the fizzy carbonation and deep caramely notes of the Coca-Cola does magical things to the texture and taste of this cake. And keep in mind, you can use another brand of cola, such as Blue Sky or China Cola, for a natural alternative.

Special Diet Notes & Options: Coca Cola Cake

By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, peanut-free, tree nut-free, vegan, and vegetarian.

For a soy-free and vegan coca cola cake, use a dairy-free soy-free margarine (Earth Balance has a couple options) and opt for grapeseed, rice bran, or canola oil in place of the vegetable oil (which often contains soybean oil).

4.0 from 1 reviews
Vegan Cola Cake with Fudgy Frosting
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
To make a 9x13-inch cake, double the recipe and add a few minutes onto cooking time if necessary, but avoid over-baking.
Serves: One 8x8-inch cake
  • 1 cup organic sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour or white whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ cup dairy-free margarine (such as Earth Balance)
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil or grapeseed oil
  • ½ cup cola, root beer (not diet) or a natural cola/root beer brand
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons dairy-free buttermilk*
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups confectioner's sugar (plus extra, if needed, to yield the consistency you desire, but more sugar makes it lighter in color and less fudgy)
  • ¼ cup dairy-free margarine
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons Coca-Cola, root beer (not diet) or a natural cola/root beer brand
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans + more for garnish, optional (omit for nut-free)
For the Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF and grease and lightly flour an 8x8-inch baking pan.
  2. In a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder and baking powder.
  3. In a 1-quart saucepan, combine the margarine and oil. Bring just to a boil and pour over dry ingredients.
  4. Add the cola to the batter, and whisk well to combine.
  5. Dissolve the baking soda in the dairy-free buttermilk and add it to the batter along with the vanilla extract. Whisk just until combined. The batter will seem a bit thin.
  6. Pour the batter into your prepared ban and bake 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean; avoid overbaking.
  7. Remove from the oven to a wire rack and frost immediately.
For the Frosting:
  1. While the cake bakes, place the confectioner’s sugar in a medium bowl.
  2. In a 2-quart saucepan, combine the dairy-free margarine, cocoa powder and Coca-Cola; bring just to a boil.
  3. Pour the liquid over the sugar, and whisk to combine until smooth. Whisk in more confectioner's sugar if necessary.
  4. Add the vanilla extract and pecans (if using), and stir to distribute.
  5. Spread frosting over warm cake. Garnish with pecans if desired. When cool, cut into squares and serve. Store, covered, in refrigerator.
*To make dairy-free buttermilk for this recipe, whisk 5 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons dairy-free milk alternative (such as So Delicious Dairy Free Original Coconut Milk Beverage) with 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar in a small bowl until the mixture begins to curdle.

About Author

A vegan blogger, freelance writer, and food stylist, Betsy DiJulio is the author of The Blooming Platter Cookbook: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes. For her love of cooking, Betsy has worked as a caterer, taught private cooking classes, and won national recipe competitions. As a writer, Betsy focuses on vegan and organic food, art, home and garden design, and green initiatives. Visit Betsy’s website, The Blooming Platter.


  1. Tracye Bennis-Sine on

    This is excellent. My grandmother (born in 1908 in Alabama) used to make Coca Cola Cake, and I was very happy to find a good, vegan version. The frosting is absolute perfection, and very easy. My cake tasted great, but didn’t stay together quite as well as I had hoped. I cooked it for longer than the recipe stated, because I had to. Should I try increasing the flour and/or decreasing the liquid a little?

    By the way, I was bold and used Zevia cola even though the recipe said “no diet,” but the flavor was still excellent. I doubt that is what caused the slight structural problem, as any issue would surely be taste related. (Right?)

    • Tracye, I’m glad you loved the flavor–even with diet cola :)–but I am baffled as to your structure issue. I have made this cake several times never having that problem, and I checked other non-vegan cola cakes online just now and the wet-to-dry ratio was right on the money, so I don’t know how to advise you. I’d hesitate to recommend adjusting anything since it comes out just right whenever I’ve made it. Sorry I can’t be more help.

      • Tracye Bennis-Sine on

        It might be that my oven (a large toaster oven) isn’t excellent, but I was thinking that I must have been too heavy or light handed with the flour, even though I measured. I didn’t sift before measuring. Thanks for getting back to me right away. I think I will add more flour (or buy a sifter) next time, as my feeling is that my ratio must not have been perfect.

        • Tracye, if you don’t keep a thermometer in your toaster oven, you might, just to make sure that the temperature is constant because that could certainly be the culprit, although I assume you have baked in it before. As for the flour, of your two thoughts, I would think you might have been too light on the flour. And for the record, I never sift. :) Baking is a pretty precise science, so I hope your next attempt is perfection.

      • Tracye Bennis-Sine on

        I live in Pennsylvania, and our indoor air feels dry in winter, but it probably isn’t a problem as big as the ones you mean.

        • Thanks, Alisa; I just did some research and saw several on Pinterest which look lovely. Once upon a time, someone–don’t remember who–posted a beautiful looking vegan angel food cake but said she wasn’t yet ready to share as she wanted to perfect it. I’ve never seen one posted since, but I’ll have to try the meringue(s). Thanks!

  2. Betsy, thank you for converting this delicious recipe! I have one question for you though: Under “Serves” the says one 9×13-inch cake, but in the instructions you say to grease and lightly flour an 8×8-inch pan. Which should it be?

    Thank you!!

  3. Tamsen, I wouldn’t do a thing to the temperature. But if my high school math serves me well, i.e. using pi r squared to figure out the square inches in a circle, then two 8-inch round layers will be slightly thicker (because the total square inches is 12″ less than a 9 x 13″ pan), so you might need to bake them a tad longer. Maybe start with 3 minutes. On the other hand, if you use two 9-inch pans, the total square inches will be 15 inches more and the layers thinner, so you might need less time. I’d start with maybe 5 minutes less. But, honestly, I prefer a thicker over a thinner layer, as I feel they look more substantial, so I would use 8″ pans if you have them. Enjoy!

  4. Tamsen Grace on

    I’ve loved Coca-Cola cake since I was a kid. I’d like to make this a layer cake. Do I need to adjust the baking times or temp if I bake this in two round cake pans?

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  6. Chantal~Congrats on a success right off the bat! Thank you for letting me know! (You are right, that frosting is seriously sweet, but is offset a bit by the not-as-sweet cake.) I am a baker from way back and had the same fear when I converted to veganism years ago, but, as you and I both learned, there was never any reason for concern! I wish I’d done it many years before. I appreciate your taking the time to write! Best wishes with your new diet. ~Betsy

  7. this was my first vegan bake and i dont think i could have started with a better one! friends loved it and i am savouring a piece each evening as a real treat. the frosting is mega sweet but the cake is so moist and delicious its wonderful. i was a bit worried that i might not be able to convert to veganism v easily but recipies like this prove its going to be a breeze. thank you soooooo much! chx

  8. Pingback: Blooming Platter Vegan Coca-Cola Cake with Fudgy Frosting | The Blooming Platter of Vegan Recipes

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