Though not well-known elsewhere, cola cakes remain popular in the American South, reports Jamie Feldmar in The Wall Street Journal (9/7/13). As the name would suggest, cola cakes are made with Coca-Cola. Their origins date back at least as far as the Great Depression, when a shortage of baking soda and baking powder led inventive Southern grannies to improvise by using carbonated drinks as a substitute.
The result is an "exceptionally moist and fluffy breed of baked good." It also tends to be exceptionally sweet – although the cola flavor really doesn’t come through all that much. Lee Gregory of the Roosevelt, a restaurant in Richmond, Virginia, says he discovered cola cakes while researching Southern cooking. The cola, he says, "is there more to help with leavening and moisture." He says the result is "like something you’d have at a family reunion or church supper."
Coca-Cola does not have a corner on carbonated cakes, however. Dennis Hunter of the SemiSweet Bakery in Los Angeles, says his Southern grandmother used to make a 7-Up pound cake. His grandmother’s recipe turns out a cake with "a light lemony flavor and a slightly caramelized sugar crust on top." And Matt Lewis of Baked in Brooklyn, NY, makes a root-beer Bundt cake, which he designed to taste like a root-beer float, which he achieves by adding root beer schnapps.