Root Beer — It’s Not Just For Drinking

The secret ingredient in this luscious cake? Root beer.

One of my fondest memories as a teenager is the jolting brain freeze I’d get slurping an A&W root beer float after spending the afternoon playing tennis with my older brothers.

The frosty mug of root beer and soft-serve vanilla ice cream went down sweet, slightly bitter, and creamy. I was usually so thirsty that I couldn’t help but take that first gulp big and fast. The coldness would race up my nose to the middle of my eyes, forcing them shut with part pleasure and part pain. For a kid, it was the ultimate reward after all that running around after a fuzzy, bouncing ball.

Nowadays, I can’t remember the last time I picked up a tennis racket. And I long gave up root beer floats in an ode to try to be more health conscious.

But when I saw the photo of Root Beer Bundt Cake in the new “Baked: New Frontiers in Baking” cookbook (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, I knew I had to make it. There’s root beer in both the chocolate cake and the chocolate frosting.

To ramp up the root beer flavor in the cake, you can substitute some root beer schnapps, according to the recipe. But I didn’t go to the bother of hunting that down.

The cake batter includes 2 cups of root beer and 1 cup of dark unsweetened cocoa powder. The frosting has 2 ounces dark chocolate, ¼ cup root beer, and 2/3 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder. But you might find that you need to add a drop or two more root beer to the frosting to get a good, spreadable consistency.

The root beer flavor is pretty subtle in the resulting cake, one of the moistest I’ve had in a long time. One slice is all it takes to bring me back to my teen years. But this time, without the brain freeze.

Root Beer Bundt Cake

(Makes one 10-inch Bundt cake)

For the root beer bundt cake:

2 cups root beer (do not use diet root beer)

1 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 ¼ cups granulated sugar

½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

For the root beer fudge frosting:

2 ounces dark chocolate (60% cacao), melted and cooled slightly

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 teaspoon salt

¼ cup root beer

2/3 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder

2 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar

To serve:

Vanilla ice cream

Make the root beer bundt cake:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Generously spray the inside of a 10-inch bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray; alternatively, butter it, dust with flour, and knock out excess flour.

In a small saucepan, heat the root beer, cocoa powder, and butter over medium heat until the butter is melted. Add the sugars and whisk until dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until just beaten, then whisk them into a cooled cocoa mixture until combined. Gently fold the flour mixture into the cocoa mixture. The batter will be slightly lumpy — do not overbeat, as it could cause the cake to be tough.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a small sharp knife inserted into the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Gently loosen the sides of the cake from the pan and turn it out onto the rack.

Make the root beer fudge frosting:

Put all the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse in short bursts until the frosting is shiny and smooth.

Use a spatula to spread the fudge frosting over the crown of the bundt in a thick layer. Let the frosting set before serving, with the ice cream on the side.

From “Baked: New Frontiers in Baking” by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

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  • I have to go buy some root beer and give this cake a try! Looks amazing!

  • I highly recommend the artisan Virgil’s Root Beer at Trader Joe’s If you find any other outstanding root beers, do tell. 😉

  • WOW!! I love that there is root beer in the frosting too. I am going to bookmark this and try it sometime!

  • This looks good and inspire me to make steamed cake that is typically leavened by lemon-lime soda… and replaced it with root beer. Thanks for the inspiration 😉

  • Hi Carolyn!

    Wonderful recipe and memories. Perhaps no more tennis but the fondness for the root beer still there 😉
    I’ll put in must-do list to give this tasty cake a try!

    Gera .:. sweetsfoods

  • This cake has everything, pure joy! Love the flavor combo and it looks fantastic!

  • my room mates and i usually do this with boxed cake mixes and sprite since we’re poor college students trying to save a few bucks 🙂 yours looks great-and so moist! must try root beer next 🙂

  • I’m not a soda drinker, but I do break for root beer. This sounds lip-smacking.

  • I so need to make this when Root Beer Float day comes around again.

  • Yum! For the first time I’m wishing I had my bundt pan. Lost somewhere in the storage units of you-know-who. 🙂

  • Stylegal, ya mean our dear friend Barb who lives in Shanghai without an oven has your bundt pan? Too funny!

  • I believe you or lori (or ken or mike or jeffie) may have had a hand in packing it away, oh, 13 or so years ago! Ii might have to just splurge and get another one so I can bake this cake.

  • Mechanical engineers and students gathered Thursday evening to watch small vehicles zip around the Garden Court as part of the Payload Drop competition. The competition was hosted by the BYU chapter of the American Society of Mechanical

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  • Delicious use of root beer in this cake!

  • What a great recipe to use up my root beer. Not overbeating the cake batter and making the frosting in the food processor to smooth out the lumps were wonderful tips in making a fantastic chocolate cake. This is a keeper.

  • Monica: So glad you enjoyed this cake. It’s a fun one, isn’t it? Happy baking! 😉

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