“The best cake I’ve ever eaten.”

“The best cake I’ve ever eaten.”

That was the final word from Jasper Sentell, after sampling the cake I made for Ashley on her birthday this year. We brought the last few pieces with us to visit the 5-year-old and his parents on their new farm in Searcy County recently.

We moved into a new house at the end of March and have just enough unpacking done to start regular cooking again. With a new commercial oven, stove and vent hood at my fingertips, I decided to put our new fancy kitchen to work for Ashley’s birthday.

Nana (Ashley’s mom) used to make the Classic Coca Cola Chocolate Cake for her kids. Ashley gets a craving for it every now and then. Ashley is usually the baker in our house, but I took a shot and surprised her for her birthday. I used the standard recipe for the cake itself, but skipped the donut-like glaze that everyone would recognize. I opted instead for a chocolate ganache icing. It’s easy, rich, and cools to a wonderful texture for a birthday cake.

And wanting to keep Ashley’s recent Lard campaign going, I got out the Grass Roots 5-lb supply of goodness for this one. I highly recommend this substitution anytime you can make it. The cake had similar moisture and texture, but the flavor had a little something extra: a bit more depth, a lingering savory feeling with each bite.

The vegetable oil so often listed is certainly neutral in flavor as a fat. Sometime that is desirable. But when we have access to a flavorful alternative, that we know came from happy hogs, I will go for that option every time.

For the Cake:

2 Cups sugar

2 Cups all-purpose flour

1 Cup Coca-Cola

1 ½ Cup small marshmallows

½ Cup butter or margarine

½ Cup vegetable oil 1/2 Cup Rendered Pork Lard

3 Tablespoons cocoa

1 Teaspoon baking soda

½ Cup buttermilk

2 eggs

1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Frosting:

8 oz chocolate (we’re a dark chocolate household and always go for 70% or higher)

1 cup heavy cream

The Cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, sift the sugar and flour. Add marshmallows. In a saucepan, mix the butter, oil, cocoa and Coca-Cola. Bring to a boil and pour over dry ingredients; blend well. Dissolve baking soda in buttermilk just before adding to batter along with eggs and vanilla extract, mixing well. Pour into a well-greased 9- by-13-inch pan (or-as I did-two 9” round cake pans and bake 35 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven to cooling racks. Level each cake.

The Ganache:

Bring cream to a boil over medium-medium high heat. Place chocolate in a bowl and have a lid on standby. Pour boiling cream over chocolate and cover with lid. Let sit for 10 minutes. Then stir with whisk to smooth the mixture together, using a spatula to scrape chocolate down sides and from the bottom of bowl.

Place the first cake on a cake stand or serving platter. Add ganache to top of cake only. Place second cake atop first. Add ganache to the rest of the cakes, starting at the top and allowing the ganache to run down the sides to frost the walls. Let cool and then cover until ready to eat.

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