The Delicious Coca-Cola Cake Ina Garten Called 'Crazy Good'

Ina Garten isn't one to hide her affinity for easy recipes. She even acknowledges that, on some occasions, store-bought ingredients are just as good as homemade. It shouldn't come as a surprise that the Barefoot Contessa has no problem embracing family-favorite recipes passed from generation to generation, even when they call for the creative use of relatively plebeian components. Take, for example, a nostalgia-inducing treat like Coca-Cola Cake. In a 2022 episode of her Food Network show "Be My Guest with Ina Garten."the beloved cookbook author and television personality welcomed country music star Faith Hill.

Following a wide-ranging conversation, Garten and Hill joined Hill's daughter, Gracie, an Ina Garten fan since before she was tall enough to see over a countertop, to whip up the old-school confection, Coca-Cola Cake. The Southern specialty is a family favorite in the Hill-McGraw household. (Hill is married to country music singer Tim McGraw.) "I've been making it for years," Hill told Garten. "It's Tim's favorite cake. He asks for it all the time, especially for his birthday." While Garten suggested a few tweaks along the way — like using her homemade vanilla extract in place of a store-bought brand — she was delighted with the final result, ultimately declaring, "Oh, my God. That's so good. That's so crazy good." That's high praise indeed coming from the author of more than a dozen cookbooks.

A long-time Southern tradition

The mother-daughter duo reveled in Garten's reaction to their family-favorite recipe, but Hill never claimed it as her own. It's a version of a long-standing Southern dessert, a rich chocolate cake made with Coca-Cola, buttermilk, and mini marshmallows. Despite its decades-long reign as a staple in the Southern United States, food historians aren't entirely sure exactly where (or why) Coca-Cola Cake originated. Even the Coca-Cola Company weighed in on the beloved dessert's murky history, acknowledging its loyal following but stopping short of laying claim to the original recipe. We do know the Charleston Gazette published a recipe for Chocolate Cola Cake in 1952. Nevertheless, a 1990 article in The New York Times posits the recipe was probably circulating via word of mouth long before it appeared in print.

Still, we have a pretty good idea of when the traditionally Southern dessert broke into the mainstream. In 1997, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store introduced Coca-Cola Cake as a seasonal offering on its menu. The sweet chocolate cake proved so popular that Cracker Barrel was inundated with requests for its recipe. It took a dozen years, but in 2009, the down-home, country-style chain finally added its version of Coca-Cola Cake to its permanent menu. We also know that introducing her culinary icon to a family-favorite dessert was a full-circle moment for Gracie McGraw, who noted, "There hasn't been a day in my lifetime that I haven't known Coca-Cola Cake, so watching Mom make it with Ina is a very euphoric experience."