Does soda and cake mix work?

Baking cakes from scratch can be time consuming and intimidating for many home bakers. An appealing shortcut is to use a cake mix and add a carbonated beverage, like soda, instead of the ingredients listed on the box. This leads to the question: does soda and cake mix really work to make a tasty cake?

The Science Behind Using Soda in Cake Mix

To understand if soda and cake mix work, it helps to look at the science behind how cakes are leavened. Leavening is what makes baked goods rise up tall and light. Cakes get their lift mainly from baking powder or baking soda.

Baking powder is a mixture of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and cream of tartar (acid). When baking powder gets wet and heated in the oven, the acid and base react together to produce carbon dioxide bubbles. These bubbles get trapped as the cake sets, causing it to rise.

Many cake mixes rely on baking powder to leaven the cake. But you can also use baking soda combined with an acidic ingredient like buttermilk, yogurt, or lemon juice. The acid reacts with the baking soda to produce those important lift-giving CO2 bubbles.

This is where the soda comes in. Carbonated sodas are acidic due to the carbon dioxide and phosphoric acid they contain. When used in place of other liquid ingredients called for in the cake mix, the soda reacts with baking soda in the mix, effectively becoming the “acid” to create rise.

Does Any Soda Work with Cake Mix?

The short answer is yes – you can make soda cakes with a variety of popular soft drinks. Keep in mind soda comes in a wide range of acidity levels. And more acidic sodas will react more strongly with the baking soda.

Some sodas that can be used to make soda cakes include:

  • Coca-Cola
  • Pepsi
  • Sprite
  • Mountain Dew
  • Ginger ale
  • Root beer
  • Lemon-lime soda like 7-Up or Sierra Mist
  • Orange soda

Note that diet sodas like Diet Coke are not recommended because they contain artificial sweeteners that can give the cake a bitter chemical taste.

Pros of Using Soda with Cake Mix

There are a few advantages to making cakes with cake mix and soda:

  • It’s faster – Opening a can or bottle of soda is quicker than measuring out milk, oil, and eggs.
  • Easy ingredient substitution – For beginning bakers, it eliminates guesswork to follow package directions and simply replace one ingredient.
  • Moist and tender crumb – The acidity of soda reacts with baking soda for extra lift and a softer, more moist texture.
  • Fun novelty appeal – Kids and adults get a kick out of the idea of a cake made with a favorite soda.
  • Color and flavor – Sodas like cola, lemon-lime, or ginger ale imbue the cake with recognizable flavors.

Potential Cons of Cake Mix and Soda

Using soda in box cake mix does have some downsides to consider:

  • Loss of structure – Too much soda can make the batter foam up excessively so the cake falls easily.
  • Off flavors – Some sodas like orange or root beer may overpower the cake or create a strange aftertaste.
  • Dense, heavy crumb – The extra moisture from soda can make for a dense, soggy cake if soda is overused.
  • Tooth decay – The acidic nature of soda isn’t great for tooth enamel, especially in kids prone to cavities.
  • Artificial colors and flavors – The artificial additives in some sodas may be undesirable to some bakers.

Tips for Making the Best Soda Cake

Through lots of kitchen testing, bakers have honed some good tips for successfully using soda in cake mix:

  1. Use soda brands you like the taste of since the flavor will come through.
  2. Stay away from diet sodas.
  3. Open the soda very carefully and let it sit for 5 minutes before using to prevent excessive foaming.
  4. Replace no more than half the liquid called for in the recipe with soda.
  5. If using all soda, reduce another liquid ingredient like oil or eggs slightly.
  6. Don’t overmix once the soda is added – just mix enough to moisten.
  7. Bake in the middle of the oven to prevent uneven rising and sinking.
  8. Check for doneness 5 minutes before the minimum time and insert a toothpick to test.
  9. Cool the cake completely before frosting so the soda bubbles can set.

Popular Soda Cake Recipes

Here are some of the best soda cake recipes to try:

Cola Coca-Cola Cake

This moist chocolate soda cake uses just a can of cola in place of other liquids. Bakers say it tastes like a fudgy brownie!

Lemon-Lime Soda Cake

For a refreshing citrus cake, lemon-lime soda like Sprite adds both sweet and tart flavors. Top with whipped cream or lemon glaze.

Orange Dreamsicle Cake

Use orange soda for a creamsicle-inspired cake. Fold orange zest into vanilla buttercream for an extra pop of color and flavor.

Ginger Ale Spice Cake

Ginger ale offers a nice spice and subtle sweetness. Pair with caramel frosting for a delicious flavor combo.

Root Beer Float Cake

Root beer gives a caramel undertone and sophistication to chocolate cake. Top with whipped cream and maraschino cherries.

Frosting and Topping Ideas for Soda Cakes

Frosting and topping choices mirror the fun soda flavors:

Soda Frosting Flavor Topping Ideas
Cola Chocolate buttercream Chocolate shavings, chopped nuts, maraschino cherries
Lemon-lime Whipped cream cheese Grated lemon/lime zest, lemon slices
Orange Vanilla buttercream with orange zest Orange slices, orange sprinkles
Ginger ale Cream cheese frosting Crystallized ginger, cinnamon
Root beer Caramel buttercream Whipped cream, maraschino cherries


While soda cakes may seem unconventional, the science behind using soda with cake mix is sound. When paired correctly, soda can react with baking soda in the dry mix to give a pleasant lift and moisture.

Sodas like cola, lemon-lime, ginger ale, and even root beer can make fun, flavorful cakes. Just beware of using too much soda or overly sweet options. Follow tips like opening soda carefully, only replacing half the liquids, and not overmixing once soda is added.

With the right recipe, soda cakes can be a big hit at potlucks and parties – especially with kids. The novelty and tastes of these cakes really appeals. So don’t be afraid to get creative with cake mix and soda for a simple shortcut to scrumptious treats!

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