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Texas Sheet Cake

Yep, everything is bigger here.

By February 2016Comments

Photograph by Jody Horton

Not long ago, this magazine’s “estimable advice columnist,” a.k.a. the Texanist, answered a question regarding the proper ingredients for a Texas sheet cake. Needless to say, the subject inspired a sheet-load of letters from passionate readers, all eager to share their own tips: “Use extra-dark cocoa powder!” “Don’t use an electric mixer!” Texans clearly have a proprietary interest in the enormous rectangle of thin, flat chocolate cake slathered in deliciously sugary, pecan-studded chocolate icing. But what exactly makes it a “Texas” sheet cake? Some say it’s simply because the cake is huge. Others maintain it’s because it’s flamboyantly rich. Still others point to the addition of Texas-y ingredients like buttermilk and pecans, or to the fact that the recipe is similar to one submitted to the Dallas Morning News in 1957 that subsequently swept the country. I like the explanation offered by the aforementioned, ever-genteel Texanist, who proudly declares it “as big as Texas and twice as oily.” That seems a fitting description of this “oleo”-and-shortening-infused version, a recipe from my maternal grandmother’s collection in the handwriting of my paternal grandmother. That makes it plenty Texan to me.

Cake

In a mixing bowl combine 1/2 cup buttermilk, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 teaspoon baking soda. Whisk until smooth and set aside.

In another mixing bowl combine then sift 2 cups flour, 2 cups sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Set aside.

Bring to boil in saucepan 1 stick unsalted butter, 1/2 cup vegetable shortening, 6 tablespoons cocoa, and 1 cup water.

Pour hot mixture over flour mixture and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon. Add buttermilk mixture and stir to thoroughly incorporate.

Lone Star cooks were smart to get their state’s name on something that tastes so good.
—Ann Burger, The Charleston Post and Courier, January 28, 2001 

Pour batter in buttered and floured half-sheet-cake pan (about 15 x 10) and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until edges of cake pull away from the pan and the cake springs back when you touch it.

Icing

About 10 minutes before the cake is done, bring to a boil 1 stick unsalted butter, 6 tablespoons buttermilk, and 6 tablespoons cocoa. Quickly remove from heat (it will not be pretty) and add 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 pound powdered sugar; beat with an electric mixer till smooth. Stir in 1 cup pecan pieces.

Spread icing over hot cake (this is important). Allow to cool, then cut into squares and serve.

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  • Brad Nelson

    Pecans? No way, that frosting is supposed to be nut-free. 🙂

    • Granddad

      Pecan free would be just plain nutty.

  • Jan Abney

    Definitely PECANS! It’s from TEXAS!

  • Laura Freeman

    I’ve always seen it w pecans. However, at my MiMi’ church in Silsbee, there was a lady that added shredded coconut to the icing, too. Yum.

    • Bren

      I may try that, I don’t see how that couldn’t be delicious

  • Granddad

    I grew up in Kansas, and this was the same recipe, except you heat the powdered sugar with the other frosting ingredients. Please understand, I am NOT saying this is a Kansas recipe. It’s Texan.

    • Bren

      Whoa. Strong coffee instead of water….. Must try that.

  • Lynne

    The recipe was mailed out by “Reddy Kilowatt” with electric bill in 50’s or 60’s.

  • Bren

    I’ve made it twice and followed the recipe both times. It’s perfect and everyone loved the chocolate goodness. Chocolate perfection! I just finished one to take to church tonight.