Friday, August 21, 2009

Texas Sheet Cake, Chocolate-Frosted Hospitality

Just been asked to bring a dessert for a bunch tonight over to our pastor's house. Since I am the token Southern Mama at our church filled with mostly native Coloradians and Oregonians, I thought I'd make my stand-by favorite chocolate cake. The famous Texas Pecan Sheet Cake. I served this once when Hugh (our pastor) came over and he said, "I don't know if this is cake or fudge, but it is sinful."

I may use toasted walnuts instead because that's what I have on hand and I am, if nothing else, the Substitute Queen. (I once made a carrot cake without any carrots. I just substituted zucchini. "Work with what you've got" is my motto.)

If you don't have buttermilk, you can "sour" regular milk by putting a T. of vinegar or lemon juice in it and let it sit for a bit, and the cake comes out great. I skip the cinnamon that is in the classic original recipe because I am just not a big fan of any spice messin' with my chocolate.

In her post, "Texas Sheet Cake: Hospitality in a 9x13-Inch Pan" (,Patricia Mitchell writes, " Texas hospitality most certainly extends into wonderful food of every description. Let there be company coming or birth, death, illness, wedding, engagement, graduation or whatever, home-prepared food in covered dishes is going to make the scene. My mother was famous for this. While she did not literally meet planes with fried chicken in both hands, the truth wasn't far from that.

Texas Sheet Cake is a perfect example of Texas hospitality translated into food. While it is absolutely delicious and satisfying to the senses, it can be whipped up -- start to finish, baking, frosting and all -- in 40 minutes or less. Ready to commemorate, celebrate or alleviate life events. It's also perfect when you want something delicious and you want it fast.

This cake, and its frosting, should be mixed by hand; you don't need to drag out your 40-pound KitchenAid mixer or even trot out your portable for this one. And by all means, get yourself one of those 9x13-inch pans with the nicely fitted plastic lids. But be sure and tape your name to the bottom so you don't lose track of it when you make this cake as a gesture of hospitality."

I actually love making this cake in the big commercial sheet pans that you can get at Sam's for a song!

Texas Chocolate Pecan Sheet Cake

2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 t.salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I omit this)
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted *
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canola or other vegetable oil
1 cup water
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

* Some recipes omit the oil & use 2 sticks of butter instead. Paula Deen does this AND adds 1/2 c sour cream to the already sinful cake! You may want to experiment.

Preheat oven to 375 °F. Grease and flour a 13x9x2-inch baking pan.(I use a bigger sheet pan, it is up to you!)

Sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda and cinnamon,salt and set aside.

Stir together the remaining ingredients.

Mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients, stirring until you have a smooth, rather thin batter.

Pour into your prepared pan, and bake at 375°F for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, prepare the frosting.
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup butter
1 pound confectioners sugar, sifted (about 4 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
Mix the milk and cocoa in a heavy saucepan (stir, stir, stir). Add the butter and, over medium heat, stir until the butter melts. Remove from heat and gradually stir in the sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add the pecans.

When the cake is just out of the oven, spread the frosting evenly on the hot cake.

Just a small piece of this with a few strawberries or raspberries will give you a treat without giving you a sugar headache. A glass of cold milk also helps. (I get shaky with too much sugar and no protein!) I make this rarely because its so tempting, but for a big crowd, its a hands-down favorite.


  1. Hey Becky! don't know how i missed this post of yours--this is a staple recipe of mine also. It's the cake that my "Noni" always made for my birthday! When I married and moved to Houston, on the next birthday she gave me a pan and ingredients for the cake--I was on my own from then on! She taught me that you could make buttermilk with lemon juice--I like the vinegar idea, I don't always have lemons on hand. I ALWAYS us the cinnamon! My favorite part! Her recipe had two sticks of "oleo"--instead of butter and vege oil. And most importantly--I always use a jelly roll pan--hence the "sheet"--The best story I have about this cake (and there are many stories) involves my former son-in-law; he wanted another piece and asked where the "Stealth Cake" was, I said "Stealth Cake??" and he replied, you know that cake that is to good it just disappears??!!

  2. Love that, Annette! And now I remember my Nonnie always using the term "oleo" in her hand-written recipes too. Where did that come from? Reminds me of "melorine" -- do you remember that frozen concoction that grew gummier with each serving? Yes, jelly roll pan! That's what we used to call it. thanks for the memories, Annette. And I am betting that 2 sticks of butter would be just scrumptious. Mo butter, mo better, almost every time.

  3. this looks great--I plan on making it this evening.. quick question: is the 20-25 minute cook time for the 9x13 or the half sheet pan? I love making cakes in a commercial half sheet pan (a full sheet pan doesn't fit in the standard home oven) for a crowd--especially rich cakes--because people take a more appropriate portion (which means less waste and less guilt about feeding people too much not so healthy food!)

  4. You are a goddess!!!!!

  5. If King Ranch Chicken is the Church Supper Dish of TX, then this sheet cake is surely the dessert! Baked it before going to work, and it was a hit at the pot luck. Thank you for sharing this, Becky!

    PS to Alison - Baking time for the cake in a jelly roll pan was 25 minutes.