Last month Slate pushed an article into my RSS reader pronouncing Coke and Peanut Butter Sheet Cake Is Sweet, Salty and Southern. A sweet and salty dessert with an offbeat ingredient list? I was very predictably Into It. I found the right excuse to make it soon enough: we set off on a long weekend in Forrest with a couple of friends and I resolved to take most of the cake along with us, leaving a quarter of it back home with our cat sitter.
This recipe is egg-free and pretty easy to veganise, so I went ahead and substituted Nuttelex for the original butter. This only goes a small way towards explaining the worrisome things I noticed as I proceeded. The cake batter was thick and a bit rubbery, and it barely stretched across the baking tray I'd chosen for it, even though this was smaller than the baking tray directed in the recipe. It never achieved the fluffiness of a fresh cake, and seemed to have two-day-old texture from the get-go.
The peanut butter buttercream was incredibly rich, even by my tolerant standards, and licking the beaters was enough to have me feeling bloated. The quantity here seemed far too high: as you can see in my photo, the buttercream looms as tall as the cake itself! (I wonder if this recipe was tested well, because the photo accompanying the recipe shows very different proportions.)
Yet, somehow, these two not-quite-right components came together to make a pretty great cake. The Coca Cola didn't offer a distinct flavour, but the thick buttercream countered the dryness of the cake and it was very satisfying to eat with a spoon. While this wasn't the novelty experience I hoped for, it was a comforting treat as we lounged by the fire with a jigsaw.
Coke & peanuts sheet cake
(a veganised version of a recipe at food52)
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
125g margarine, cut into tablespoon-sized pats
3 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter
225g margarine, softened
3 cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons soy milk
3/4 cup peanuts (roasted and salted), chopped
Preheat an oven to 180°C. Line a very large baking tray with paper and spray it with oil.
In a large saucepan, place together the cola, sugar, cocoa and margarine. Set it over medium heat and bring it to a high simmer, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat when the margarine has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Set the saucepan aside to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, bicarb soda and salt. Pour in the still-warm cola and whisk until smooth. Pour the cake batter into the baking tray and bake until it passes the skewer test, 15-20 minutes. Allow the cake to cool before you ice it.
Use an electric mixer to beat together the peanut butter and margarine. Gradually beat in the icing sugar, then the salt and vanilla. Add a little soy milk to loosen texture of the buttercream if needed. Beat for an extra 20 seconds after everything is well combined. Spread the buttercream over the cake. Sprinkle over the peanuts, and slice the cake to serve.