Sarsaparilla Cake

Sassparilla Cake

Okay…your first question might very well be, “What the heck is sarsaparilla?!?” That’s totally legitimate, because this old timey drink isn’t exactly a 21st century staple. Think of it as a slightly more exotic kind of root beer, flavored with sassafras and birch oil. It evokes the days of cowboys and tonic salesmen…and it’s the perfect ingredient to kick up a classic cake to a whole new level.

The Curly-haired Chick and I both have Coca Cola cake stories. Her Aunt Betty would make Coke cake for family gatherings, social functions, and any other occasion that called for a tasty treat. In my case, it was the mother of one of my school friends – Mrs. Colmenaro – who made it. Getting invited over to her house was especially awesome because it usually involved a gooey slice of chocolatey goodness.

Today, we didn’t have any Coca Cola, but we DID have a cold bottle of Sioux City Sarsaparilla just waiting in the refrigerator. Necessity being the mother of invention, we modified the traditional recipe a smidge and came up with something great. (You’re welcome to revert to the standard Coke, of course.)

Another thing we didn’t have was buttermilk, (seriously…I need to do a better job of shopping!) so I used a great trick of adding a tablespoon of white vinegar to plain old milk and letting it stand for about 5 minutes until it curdles a bit. It totally works as a replacement, and you don’t have to worry about wasting the rest of the carton of buttermilk.

Look at that! The Bald Food Dude has come through with all kinds of useful information this time. Now you know what sarsaparilla is, you know how to make buttermilk in a pinch, and you know that I may or may not have had a crush on Mrs. Colmenaro. (It was the cake I loved…honest!)

Sarsaparilla Cake
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 45 mins
Total time: 1 hour
  • 1 cup sarsaparilla, root beer, or Coca Cola
  • 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 ½ cups small marshmallows
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons sarsaparilla, root beer, or Coca Cola
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. In a sauce pan over medium heat, mix 1 cup sarsaparilla, 1/4 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup butter, marshmallows, and oil. Melt and stir until smooth.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, 1 Tablespoon vanilla, buttermilk, and eggs.
  4. Add the first mixture to the second and mix well.
  5. Pour batter into a lightly-greased 13×9 pan and bake for 45 minutes.
  6. For the topping, mix 3 Tablespoons sarsaparilla, 1/4 cup butter, 2 Tablespoons cocoa, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Bring to a boil. Sift in the powdered sugar and stir until smooth.
  7. Drizzle the topping onto the warm cake. Slice and serve.

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