I can’t be the only one who’s suddenly wanted to make a Diet Coke cake, right? Right?! Well, give me a second to explain myself.
I can’t blame Duff Goldman or Cupcake Wars or even Food Network in general for my unbearable desire to get in way over my head (or go full-on kitsch) when it comes to baking. It’s always been who I am.
As a kid, I’d turn bundts into volcanoes, with rivers of red buttercream “lava” for my brother’s birthday. I’d shape a sheet cake into a guitar for my sister, or a replica of the Daytona 500 for my Dad. Once, a failed checkerboard cake transformed into a pink and white castle for my cousin’s birthday, though my proudest moment, without a doubt, was the time I concocted a massive Grave Digger monster truck for my youngest brother, Carson, for his fourth birthday (complete with donut “tires” and Milano cookie tombstones, of course).
A close second would be this anti-gravity cereal & milk cake:
Real talk here: None of these cakes look remotely professional, and sometimes, they’re so homemade they’re borderline Cake Wrecks, but hey, being able to laugh at your misshapen masterpiece is half the fun. Often, the fails are even more memorable (and enjoyable) than the real thing.
That’s why, when it came to making my Diet Coke-obsessed boss’s birthday cake, I immediately knew I had to make a gigantic soda can, customized with her name on it, despite my total lack of artistic skills. I had a set of five, 6-inch cake pans, and I enlisted a coworker to Photoshop a design that looked like the Diet Coke can label, only using my boss’s name. I sent the label to a local bakery to have it printed on two sheets of edible frosting — which you can do at many bakeries, as well as most Walmart and Sam’s Club bakeries, for about $5-$15.
It Takes a Tower of Cakes to Make One Can.
The struggle, I found, was patience: Patience to bake all 11 layers, and patience to deal with keeping them level. I needed that height so the cake would look right proportionally, and so that I could easily fit my 8 1/2-inch by 11-inch sheet of edible frosting on it. I used thin layers of Nutella and Dulce de Leche buttercream to glue the cakes together, sticking two thin skewers down the center to keep it from turning into the leaning Tower of Pisa (which happened twice before it was secured).
To further stabilize it, I stuck the whole thing in the freezer as I whipped up a second batch of buttercream frosting. I stuck with basic vanilla, whipping in black food coloring a drop at a time until it turned just the right shade of gray. I coated the half-frozen cake with frosting, creating an even layer that filled in any gaps between the layers of cake.
Adding The Frosting Sheet Is Easier Than You Think.
Once smooth, I gently peeled away the edible frosting sheet’s paper backing — it’s a lot like a sticker, in that respect — and smoothed it onto the cake, wrapping it around one half of the cake, then added the second sheet to balance it out. The frosting’s so delicate that if you pull too much you can tear it (or, if your hands are too warm or wet, it’ll start to dissolve), but it’s about as durable as tissue paper, so you can work with it somewhat.
The downside: It is nearly impossible to keep it wrinkle-free. If you figure out a hack, let me know. Because my Diet Coke can kind of looked like it’d lost a fight with a vending machine.
Don’t Forget The Lid.
I took the remaining cup of gray buttercream frosting and put it in a piping bag with a No. 3 round tip (AKA a wide circle, so it’s easy to pipe). I sealed the seam where the two edible frosting sheets met with a stripe of buttercream, then circled the top of the cake to create the lip of the can, along with a circle for the opening and two interlocking ovals above it for the pop top. That’s it.
You don’t have to have any decorating skills — just patience, as you bake cake after cake — to master this treat. The edible frosting doesn’t taste like anything (other than sugar) and dissolves right on your tongue, so you won’t have any trouble cutting into it, and it won’t taint the cake itself. If you’re feeling extra ambitious though, by all means, freehand away.
Here’s what you’ll need to make a Diet Coke cake:
- 2 batches of cake (or cake mixes with ingredients)
- 1 jar Nutella
- 3 cans buttercream frosting, or 4 c homemade (For Dulce de Leche, mix 3 tbsp Dulce de Leche into a 12-oz tub of vanilla buttercream)
- Black food coloring (or whatever food coloring’s necessary for the soda can you’re trying to replicate)
- 2 sheets edible frosting, printed to look like the soda can in question
- 1 piping bag with No. 3 round tip
- 6-inch cake pans (Wilton sells a great 5-pc set)
- 2 wooden skewers or thin dowels
- A freezer (it really helps!)