Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Snacking State-by-State: North Carolina IV - Be Young! Have Fun! Eat Pepsi!

In 1893, Chinquapin, NC, native Caleb Branham developed the aptly named "Brad's Drink" in a small drug store in New Bern (also the birthplace of my cousin's wife, I might add).  Five years later, he re-christened his drink "Pepsi-Cola" after its key ingredients of pepsin and cola [, date unknown].  Over a hundred years later it has become one of the leading soft drinks in the world.  And just like that other cola soft drink, you can use Pepsi in various recipes.  They're just not as easy to find.

Official Name: State of North Carolina
State Nicknames: The Tar Heel State, The Old North State
Admission to the US: November 21, 1789 (#12)
Capital: Raleigh (2nd largest)
Other Important Cities: Charlotte (largest), Greensboro (3rd largest), Winston-Salem (4th largest)
 South, Southeast, Upper South; South Atlantic (US Census)
RAFT NationsCrabcakeChestnut
Bordered by: Virginia (north); Tennessee (west); Georgia (southwest); South Carolina (south); Atlantic Ocean (east)
Official State Foods and Edible Things: blueberry & strawberry (berries), milk (beverage), channel bass (fish), Southern Appalachian brook trout (freshwater trout), Scuppernong grape (fruit), honey bee (insect - again, for the honey), gray squirrel (mammal), sweet potato (vegetable)
Some Famous and Typical Foods: two - count 'em: two famous styles of BBQ (Eastern and Western or "Lexington-style"); other standard Southern foods, including (typically eaten with said BBQ's) cole slaw, hush puppies, sweet tea; pimiento cheese (the nation's leading producer); also the birthplace of Pepsi-Cola

North Carolina is a stronghold of Pepsi in a region of the country where Coca-Cola is Cing, er, King.  And while there are cookbooks and tons of recipes for using Coke as an ingredient, you can't say the same for Pepsi.  There is a handful of recipes that I could find online, tops.  Mind you, I am a Pepsi drinker - I grew up in a Pepsi household (though we still sometimes called it "Coke".  Ah well).  So I was surprised to have such difficulty finding Pepsi recipes.  Sure, I could take that Coca Cola cookbook that I used back in Georgia and just replace the Coke with Pepsi, but that's no fun.

I could only find a few recipes, most from the Sir Pepsi website, aka Andy's Pepsiholic Haven.  Most recipes were meat-related in some way, and I have had my fill of meat with pounds and pounds of Eastern and Western NC-style BBQ to go through (note: a Pepsi-based BBQ sauce recipe on Andy's website, which adds a can of Pepsi to vinegar and ketchup for a very unique Lexington-style BBQ sauce).  One more intriguing recipe was a Pepsi Cake - something like a Mississippi mud cake but with either a ganache-type frosting (see Andy's website) or a peanut butter frosting (note a recipe found by Jane & Michael Stern and posted on the Splendid Table website).

And then I found a recipe that particularly intrigued me on the website for Our State: Down Home in North Carolina Magazine.  In one series of recipes they make cake recipes using popular North Carolinian ingredients: a Krispy Kreme cake (yes, Krispy Kremes origniated in North Carolina as well), a Nabs cheese cracker cake (intriguing), a Pimento Cheese Cake (even more intriguing), and the following: a take on the lava cake flavored with Pepsi.

The Recipe: Pepsi and Peanut Cakes

These Pepsi and Peanut Cakes are individual cakes, not one big cake that you slice and serve.  And you will need a lot of ingredients, and a bit of time and coordination to mix them together.  It's not as difficult as it first appears: I got these done in an hour or two, while making pimento cheese no less.

You will need the following for these cakes, on the Our State website:

* Pepsi (duh.  Instead of the standard HFCS-y Pepsi, or even the Throwback Pepsi made with real sugar, I used Mexican Pepsi, also made with sugar and probably closer to what Americans were drinking way back when.  No peanuts in the bottles.  Like Mexican Coke, Mexican Pepsi costs about $1.50 for a 12 ounce bottle)
* flour (this recipe is gluten-free, so it suggests a combination of chestnut flour and gluten-free all-purpose flour.  You can exchange regular to gluten-free more or less at a 1 to 1 ratio, so I used plain old White Lily brand flour)
* brown sugar (had it)
* baking powder (same)
* Baker's chocolate (one 8 ounce box cost about $3)
* peanut butter (I didn't have any!  When I went grocery shopping I decided to get something, again, less HFCS-y, passing by the $2 jar for the $4 peanut-only in-store variety from Harris Teeter)
* cream of tartar (had it)
* peanuts (had them too)
* eggs
* white and powdered sugar
* vegetable oil
* milk (almost out)
* applesauce (I had none on hand, but no worries: the recipe tells you how to make some from fresh apples: just peel, core, de-seed and slice, and microwave for a few minutes with a little sugar and a little water or apple juice.  Mash with a potato masher, and voila: instant applesauce.  I've always hated applesauce but this stuff I cannot get enough of)
* salt (have it)
* vanilla (almost out of this too)
* whipping cream (to top with in the end)

You will also need 4" diameter ramekins, enough to make 8 cakes (so either eight ramekins or four that you will use twice).

Put peanut butter, brown sugar and applesauce into a bowl...

...and blend together with a hand held mixer.

Next add one egg at a time.

Next add the vanilla, and set aside.

Mix together your flour, baking powder, salt and cream of tartar.

You will add the dry ingredients to the batter, alternating with the milk.

Mixing away...

This is what your batter should look like.  Set aside your batter and prep the Pepsi.

You will next make a Pepsi reduction.  Pour the Pepsi into a saucepan...

...boil and reduce to about half the volume.

Take several tablespoons of the Pepsi reduction and  add it to roughly chopped (or hell, even unchopped) Baker's chocolate, nuking for 30 seconds at a time and then stirring, until... looks like this.

Separately, heat up peanut butter, powdered sugar and more Pepsi reduction, and cream together.

I just used a spoon.

 Next you're ready to prep the ramekins (grease these down quickly with butter)

Start by filling each ramekin halfway with some batter.

Next, put a dollop of each the Pepsi-chocolate and the peanut butter-Pepsi combos in the center of the batter.

Then cover it with more batter, filling the ramekin almost to the top.

Put in a preheated 400°F oven for about 20 minutes.  They will crack like this.

Loosen around the edges with a knife and let sit for about five minutes.

Now for the whipped cream: whip it good, and add sugar and vanilla.

Mmmm.  Whipped cream.

Put a heaping dollop on your still-warm cake...

...sprinkle with peanuts...

...and drizzle with more of the Pepsi reduction.

This is one dense little cake, intensely peanut buttery - so much so, in fact, that I think it overpowers the Pepsi flavor a bit.  But it's there, in the chocolate and drizzled on top of the cake.  It is luscious but only when eaten warm.  Make sure you warm up any leftover cake very well and you will get your best results.

- - - - -

I am full of BBQ, pimento cheese and gut-busting Pepsi ad peanut butter cake.  Were I actually traveling for real from North Carolina to our next stop I think I'd have to jog part of the way to work some of this delicious food off.  But more awaits as we journey from the From the Mid-South to the Midwest, for Sioux, German and Eastern European recipes in North Dakota.  And yah, we won't be doin' Arby's.


Barbecue Joint.  "Eastern North Carolina Barbecue".  Featured on the episode "Durham, NC" of the show $40 a Day (Rachael Ray, host).  Food Network, 2005.

Bowen, Dana.  "East Vs. West: North Carolina Pulled Pork"., Issue #139: BBQ Nation.  Published June 16, 2011.  Copyright 2011  All rights reserved.

Goldwyn, Craig "Meathead". "East Carolina Kiss & Vinegar Barbecue Sauce & Mop". Amazing Ribs website. Last revised September 12, 2011.  All

Graff, Michael, Wendy Perry, and Teresa Williford.  "The Pepsi ‘N’ Peanuts Cake".  Our State: Down Home in North Carolina. Posted February 2012.  Copyright 2012 Our State.  All rights reserved.

North Carolina BBQ Society.  "Eastern Style Slaw".  Copyright The North Carolina Barbecue Society, Inc. 2009.

North Carolina BBQ Society.  "Piedmont Lexington-Style Dip".  Copyright The North Carolina Barbecue Society, Inc. 2009.

North Carolina Travels (  "North Carolina Barbecue".  Date unknown.  Matt Barrett's Travel Guides: North Carolina.  All rights reserved.

O'Dea, Stephanie.  "You Can Use Your CrockPot as a Smoker".  A Year of Slow Cooking.  Posted August 7, 2008.

Pepsi Store (  "History of the Birthplace".  Date unknown.  Copyright and Pepsi-Cola.  All rights reserved.  "Lexington Pulled Pork"., Issue #139: BBQ Nation.  Published June/July 2011.  Copyright 2011  All rights reserved.  "Lexington-Style Red Slaw"., Issue #139: BBQ Nation.  Published June/July 2011.  Copyright 2011  All rights reserved.

Southern Foodways Alliance (Sara Roahen and John T. Edge, editors).  The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook.  University of Georgia Press: Athens, GA, 2010.

Wallace, Emily.  "A brief history of pimento cheese".  Independent Weekly (  Posted June 22, 2011.  Copyright 2012 Independent Weekly.  All rights reserved.

Some information also obtained from Wikipedia's "North Carolina" page and other pages, and the Food Timeline State Foods link to "North Carolina".