Texas Sheet Cake {chocolate cake}

This is another one from the vault. A recipe that’s been in our family for so long that I can’t remember the first time I had it or I made it. It always just was. It was also, for the first 18 years of my life, the ONLY thing I knew about Texas. And honestly, I have no idea what this cake has to do with that state. From what I’ve been able to discern, Texas is mostly comprised of the following: Tex-Mex restaurants, rose festivals, “unique” politicians, border fences and Top Chef. Ironically, I suppose, I have since married into a family of Texans and they’ve never mentioned it (although, like French kissing in france, would they just refer to this as “sheet cake”?).

Essentially this is a chocolate buttermilk cake that you ice warm (which means you can eat it sooner). I used to make it in a larger jelly roll pan but I opted for a 9″x13″ metal pan because I have a cover for it and can leave it on the counter for easy access at breakfast, lunch and dinner. As such, the cooking times are for a 9″x13″ pan but if you want to go hotter and flatter a la Thomas Friedman, then go for it. Just adjust the cooking time accordingly.

This is a different style of cake recipe because you end up cooking several of the ingredients for the cake and icing on the stove. Don’t be alarmed. It helps give the cake that deep chocolately flavor and really means you can decide you want a cake and eat it within two hours. No waiting for butter to soften. No nothin’. The only tip to remember, which you learned in the white buttermilk cake recipe, is to put your baking soda directly into the buttermilk to activate before you add to the batter. Put that in your back pocket for the rest of your life.

All cakes should have buttermilk.

Let’s do this. For the cake, you’ll need:

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

My cocoa even expired last March and the damn cake was still fantastic. You really can’t mess this up, friends. Preheat your oven to 350°F and smear some butter or Crisco in the bottom of your baking sheet. In a pan on the stove, bring the butter, water and cocoa powder to a boil.

Once things have boiled briefly, pull the pan off the stove and bring over to the counter where your hand mixer is plugged in and ready to go. Add the dry ingredients to the cocoa mixture and blend until well-combined.

Add the buttermilk and baking soda to the batter and then beat in the eggs.

This is a very wet and loose batter. Don’t fret. You’re on the right track for a ridiculously moist cake. Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines (is that a person?) can come kiss my ass.

Pour into your prepared pan and pop into the oven for 25-30 minutes or until a knife or toothpick inserted in the middle comes out almost completely clean. A crumb or two won’t kill you.

Now let’s turn to the icing – which you should start as soon as you pull the cake out of the oven. Hot icing + hot cake = mind-blowing chocolate orgasmohysteria (thank you for that term, Gogol Bordello). It looks a lot like the cake recipe in the beginning so you should be well prepared for what lies ahead.

Icing:

  • 1 stick butter
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 6 tablespoons milk
  • 1 16-oz. box powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

In a saucepan, bring the butter, cocoa and milk to a boil. Yank it off the stove and bring over to your mixer yet again. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and mix thoroughly.

Now, in one quick, delicious flick of the wrist, pour the icing over the hot cake and if need be, quickly use a spatula to get the frosting in all the nooks, crannies, corners and the like. The frosting sets up fairly quickly so the less you handle it, the better.

Look at that. It’s like a beautiful chocolate reflecting pool with a belly button where I tested the cake to see if it was done. We gave it a couple hours to cool as much as we could but I couldn’t wait any longer.

I knew I had done good when the husband looked up after his first bite with that ridiculous smile and shoulder shrug that is a tell-tale sign of a job well done. Even this morning the Texan told me this was the best cake I’d ever made. Maybe he’s biased. Maybe it really just is that good. You should find out.

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