Baking through American History: 1963 to 1979 and the Coca Cola Cake

New cake time!! We’re still baking our way through American History with American Cake by Anne Byrn. We started all the way back in the 1600s but now we’re getting close-ish to modern times and we’re looking at the ’60s and ’70s and the Coca Cola Cake!

In contrast to the (relatively) peaceful and tranquil post-WWII era, this was a period of particularly tumultuous times in the United States. We were faced with escalating nuclear tension with the USSR, the assassination of a much-beloved president, the Vietnam War (and associated protests), as well as the internal struggles for civil rights. Amidst all of this, cakes almost became sweet escapes from this tumult.

Even though they were escapes though, they were still influenced by current events and sometimes even furthered these issues. We’ll take a closer look at the Coca Cola Cake, and how it helped to bridge racial divides in the south, but first, a few other highlights from this era:

  • The rise of the television and associated pop culture led to a lot of influence by celebrity and influencer chefs.
    • Including James Beard who really drove forward the idea of local chefs and locally sourced foods inspiring baking.
    • Of course, Julia Child was very influential in this time period and brought elegant French-inspired desserts to television and the broad viewing audience.
    • Desserts, such as the Hummingbird Cake *used in marketing materials for Jamaica Airlines), were featured in pop culture advertisements and lifestyle brands.
    • Alice Waters, out of Berkeley, California – the epicenter of the new hippie movement – advanced the local, fresh, seasonal and sustainable cooking and baking. With her pastry chef Lindsey Shere, they brought American baking and cakes on trend as uncluttered, sleek and timeless.
  • In the 1970s, the best cakes were products of the activist ’60s and included carrot cakes and cakes with vegetarian, California and Mediterranean influences. This included cakes stemming from the Moosewood Collective in New York.
  • At the end of the ’70s, as more women were joining the work force and staying in the work force, we saw the rise of take-out and catered desserts which continue to be popular even now.

So now on to the Coca Cola Cake, which in the 1960s, helped to bridge the racial divide in the very divided south. The cold beverage, popular with all populations, found its way into cake and frosting – creating an iconic cake that was enjoyed at church suppers and neighborhood picnics across populations.

The Coca Cola Cake

This iconic cake features Coca Cola in both the cake and the frosting – leading to a moist adaptation of the classic chocolate Texas sheet cake. Cocoa Cola was developed with a strong southern identity, although it’s popularity – and the popularity of the cake – quickly spread across the country! The first Coca Cola Cake was a spice cake in the late 1950s but saw a variety of adaptations before this version was popularized in the mid to late 1960s.

So here’s how to make (this version) of the Coca Cola Cake.

Start with mixing the dry ingredients (flour and sugar) and setting aside.

Coca Cola Cake - Wet Ingredients

In a medium saucepan, you’ll combine the butter, oil, cocoa and Coca Coil – and bring to a boil.

Coca Cola Cake - Combining Wet and Dry

Then combine with the sugar and flour and mix until just combined.

Coca Cola Cake - Buttermilk and Baking Soda

After that, you combine the buttermilk and baking soda, and add to the batter along with the eggs and vanilla.

Coca Cola Cake - Folding in the Marshmallows

Coca Cola Cake - Pouring the Batter

Fold in the marshmallows, spread in the pan and bake!

While the cake cools, make the frosting by placing butter, cocoa and Coca Cola in a medium saucepan and bring to just a boil. Then add in confectioners’ sugar and blend with an electric mixer. Add the vanilla and then confectioners’ sugar until it’s spreadable and easy to pour from the bowl. (Sorry I didn’t photograph this part!)

Coca Cola Cake - Frosting

Frost and enjoy your Coca Cola Cake!! (Note – you can add pecans to the frosting if you’d like! I don’t really like nuts, so we just used as decoration!)

Coca Cola Cake - Whole Cake

Coca Cola Cake

This was a delicious cake, although honestly, I didn’t taste a lot of Coca Cola – it was just a rich, moist chocolate cake!

Only two time periods and cakes left to go! Another one next week!

About Lindsey

Hello! I'm a 30 year old, newly married, lady living outside of one of the best cities in the USA! I work in communications, love to read, recently purchased an RV with my husband (yay for road trips!) and am looking forward to starting a family soon-ish. I love to smile and hope to make other people smile too!

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