There’s a long history of cooking with Coca-Cola - from using it in a glaze for ham, making a marinade for barbequed chicken or steak or throwing a splash in a Chilli Con Carne.

With the launch of Coca-Cola No Sugar we thought we’d try cooking one of the age-old famous recipes – Jestine's Kitchen's Coca-Cola Cake - but replacing the Coca-Cola Classic with Coca-Cola No Sugar.

A great idea for a moist, slightly fudgy cake or dessert for any occasion.

We halved the amount of icing - which still produced plenty - and also replaced the pecans with walnuts as they more readily available in New Zealand.

Be aware that it’s quite a wet cake mixture. Also you may want to ice it after getting it out of the tin. We poured the icing on while the cake was in the tin (with no removable base) as per the recipe. The cake came out of the cake tin once iced but do it gently!

Coca-Cola No Sugar version of Jestine’s Kitchen’s Coca-Cola Cake

The history of Jestine's Kitchen's Coca-Cola Cake

Jestine's Kitchen in Charleston, S.C., is a comforting sort of place for locals and tourists alike. The restaurant takes its name from a strong African-American woman who lived to be 112 and its down-to-earth vibe and authentic recipes.

Jestine's is also widely known for the Coca-Cola Cake it has served since the first week it opened in 1996. The dessert has drawn praise and rave reviews from customers and writers from as far away as Italy.

“The Coca-Cola Cake was a little gastronomic shock. I'd go back even only to taste it again," a visitor from Rome posted on an online travel forum. Another first-time guest tried the cake and wondered in an online post how she could have “gone so many years without ever experiencing something so wonderful."

Owner Dana Berlin Strange hadn't even planned to serve dessert when she opened Jestine's Kitchen in a former corner deli on the Charleston peninsula. What she really wanted to do was honor her family's longtime housekeeper, Jestine Matthews, by serving local dishes and creating a welcoming gathering spot for anyone who dropped by.

Jestine “never wrote a recipe down in her life," Strange said. So Strange and some of the “deli ladies" who stayed on after the sale set out to create recipes for meatloaf, fried-green tomatoes and brown sugar-glazed ham in Jestine's self-taught style. Her mission, Strange said, was to honor the warm and comfortable atmosphere that her longtime caregiver was known for.

“Everybody pulled together to make the recipes," she recalled. “But the real reason I opened the restaurant is so we could talk about her."

Jestine Matthews

Photos of the elegant, bespectacled Jestine line the walls of the restaurant, along with newspaper and magazine clippings that tell its story. Matthews passed away in December 1997, just long enough to witness the positive attention and long lines that her namesake restaurant had created.

The legendary Coca-Cola Cake comes from Jestine's Kitchen's former pastry chef, Jessica Grossman, who presented her friend Strange with a coffee-infused black magic cake on the opening day of the restaurant.

“I called her later and told her I needed five more," Strange recalled.

Grossman obliged, adding a Coca-Cola Cake to the mix, and was soon put in charge of Jestine's desserts. Now, along with coconut cream pie, banana pudding and other sweets, Coca-Cola Cake is served daily in the restaurant and at Jestine's Sweet Shop, a bakery just around the corner. When a regular customer comes in to celebrate a birthday or anniversary, Strange often sends over a couple of slices on the house.

Meanwhile, Strange remains close with Grossman, who went on to receive a culinary arts degree from the Art Institute of Charleston. Now the executive pastry chef for a hospitality group that coordinates weddings and other special events, Grossman was happy to share the recipe for the cake that has brought joy to so many people for two decades.

“It was my honor to receive this recipe from a friend's late mother," Grossman said. “She made it every year for his birthday.

Jestine's Kitchen's Coca-Cola Cake


2 cups, all-purpose flour

2 cups, sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 cup unsalted butter

2 tbsp cocoa powder

1 cup Coca-Cola

1/2 cup buttermilk

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1 1/2 cup mini marshmallows


1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

2. Grease a large cake tin

3. Sift flour, sugar, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. Set aside.

4. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Whisk in cocoa powder, then add Coca-Cola and stirring occasionally, bring just to a boil. Remove from heat.

Pour over the dry ingredients and mix well. Set saucepan aside to use again for icing preparation.

5. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine buttermilk, eggs and vanilla extract. Whisk lightly to combine and stir into flour mixture until well blended.

6. Fold in pecans and mini marshmallows.

7. Pour into prepared pan and bake approx. 45 minutes or until cake pulls away slightly from the pan and a skewer inserted near the center (but not into a marshmallow!) comes out clean.

8. Prick hot cake all over with a fork or toothpick and pour Coca-Cola icing on top.

Coca-Cola Icing


4 cups icing sugar

1/2 cup butter

2 tbsp cocoa powder

1/2 cup Coca-Cola

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup chopped pecans


1. While cake is baking, sift icing sugar into a large bowl. Set aside.

2. In small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in cocoa powder, then add Coca-Cola. Stirring occasionally, bring just to a boil.

3. Remove from heat and gradually stir into icing sugar, whisking well until smooth. Whisk in vanilla extract and fold in nuts.

4. Pour over hot Coca-Cola cake.

5. Cool completely before running a knife around the edge, turning out and serving.