Inspired by a classic cocktail, these 3-ingredient chocolate cupcakes are unbelievably easy to make

I didn't believe in the internet-famous "soda cake." Then I tried this boozy version

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published August 11, 2022 6:45PM (EDT)

Rum & Coke Cake (Mary Elizabeth Williams)
Rum & Coke Cake (Mary Elizabeth Williams)

In "Quick & Dirty," Salon Food's Mary Elizabeth Williams serves up simplified recipes and shortcuts for exhausted cooks just like you — because quick and dirty should still be delicious.

May I confess something? I was skeptical. I'm a columnist who serves up simplified recipes and shortcuts for exhausted cooks every week, but even I thought the internet-famous "soda cake" sounded questionable.

The concept is simple, and only requires two ingredients are required. You grab a box of cake mix and a can of cola, mix them together and voilà — actual cake! 

But I've seen enough Ann Reardon videos to know that most viral food hacks lead to inedible messes. More than that, however, I'm highly skeptical of anything that cuts the fat out of an otherwise-decent food such as cake.

Fat is delicious. Fat conducts flavor. So, when I see a recipe for something like "Diet Coke Cake" that swaps the eggs and oil for zero-calorie cola, I tend to be a hard pass. To paraphrase Nigella, low-fat cake isn't the answer, whatever the question.

What ultimately swayed me, you ask? Another ingredient that typically doesn't have a lot of fat: booze.

I'm a low-effort drinker. I like wine and beer, and I pretty much only drink cocktails that contain ampersands. Campari & Soda. Gin & Tonic. Rum & Coke. 

Rum & Coke sometimes gets a bad rap, but when I recently stumbled upon a recipe for soda cake that included a generous spike of rum extract, my attention spiked. 

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I'm shocked that this actually works. The resulting cake is crumblier — because duh, it doesn't have the fat! — but it's good. It tastes like cake is supposed to taste.

With that added whiff of rum and the vaguely spicy undertone of cola, it's also got something extra that makes it truly stand out.

It's subtle, unlike the bracing hit you get from a rum cake, but the flavor is there. I still love eggs and oil, but this is so remarkably flavorful and embarrassingly easy that I'd make it again even without the rum.

For an accidentally vegan experience, you can dust the finished cupcakes with powdered sugar. (Don't forget to double-check the ingredients on the box of cake mix, as well.) I frost mine . . . because I have to draw the line somewhere.


Inspired by Betty Crocker and Cupcakes and Cutlery

Rum & Coke Cupcakes


24 servings
Prep Time
 10 minutes
Cook Time
 15-18 minutes


  • 1 box chocolate cake mix
  • 12 ounces cola
  • 2 teaspoons rum extract
  • Frosting of choice (optional)



  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, line two muffin tins with cupcake liners.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the cake mix, cola and rum extract with an electric hand mixer on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 2 minutes.

  3. Divide the batter between the muffin tins.

  4. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, checking after 15.

  5. Let cool completely, then frost and serve. 

Cook's Notes

In terms of frosting, cream cheese is always a hit. Here's a winning recipe

You can, of course, make this in a regular cake pan. Bake according to the directions on the box.

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By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

MORE FROM Mary Elizabeth Williams

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Baking Cakes Cocktails Cupcakes Desserts Food Quick & Dirty Recipe Rum Soda