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Vegan Coca Cola Cake with Fudgy Frosting

Posted on by Betsy DiJulio in Dairy Free Desserts, Dairy-Free Recipes with 6 Comments

Betsy is entering this Coca Cola Cake as a “dessert” recipe in the So Delicious Dairy Free 3-Course Recipe Contest. To make a quick dairy-free buttermilk, she uses Coconut Milk Beverage from So Delicious.

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 (Coke Cake) Recipe with Fudgy Frosting

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.

So Delicious Dairy Free 3 Course Recipe Contest BadgeFor more details and to enter the recipe contest, see this post: http://www.godairyfree.org/news/so-delicious-dairy-free-3-course-recipe-contest

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).

Vegan Coca Cola Cake with Fudgy Frosting
Prep time

Cook time

Total time


Serves: One 9 x 13-inch cake

  • 2 cups natural sugar
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I like white whole wheat)
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ cup dairy-free margarine (such as Earth Balance)
  • ½ cup vegetable oil or grapeseed oil
  • 1 cup Coca-Cola (not diet) or a natural cola brand
  • ¾ cup dairy-free buttermilk (11 tablespoons So Delicious Dairy Free Original Coconut Milk Beverage + 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar whisked together to curdle)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pound powdered confectioner’s sugar (plus extra, if needed, to yield the consistency you desire)
  • ½ cup dairy-free margarine
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 6 tablespoons Coca-Cola (not diet) or a natural cola brand
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans, optional (omit for nut-free)

For the Cake:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF and grease a 9 x 13-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 vegan 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 35-45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
  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.
  4. Add the vanilla extract and pecans (if using), and stir to distribute (or reserve pecan pieces or halves and sprinkle/arrange over the top of the frosted cake).
  5. Spread frosting over warm cake. When cool, cut into squares and serve.

About Betsy DiJulio

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.

View all posts by Betsy DiJulio →

Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living


  1. Blooming Platter Vegan Coca-Cola Cake with Fudgy Frosting | The Blooming Platter of Vegan RecipesMarch 3, 2013 at 7:34 amReply

    [...] Coca-Cola Cake with Fudgy Frosting is yet more evidence that I have been having powerful winter cravings for Southern comfort [...]

  2. Chantal DHApril 2, 2013 at 2:28 pmReply

    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

  3. Betsy DiJulioApril 6, 2013 at 4:20 pmReply

    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

  4. Tamsen GraceApril 23, 2014 at 6:54 pmReply

    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?

  5. Betsy DiJulioApril 30, 2014 at 4:00 pmReply

    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!

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