By Kelly Jaggers
Texas Sheet Cake – Rich, Moist Chocolate Sheet Cake Topped with Chocolate Frosting and Toasted Pecans. Tried-and-True, Quintessential Texas Dessert Recipe.
My friend Kelly Jaggers is back with another wonderful dessert recipe! Her nostalgic memories behind this recipe, beautifully expressed, make it taste even sweeter. ~ Tori
One of my most treasured possessions is a cookbook that was created by the PTA of my elementary school. The cookbook was a fundraiser for a computer lab, something that was almost unheard in the early 1980’s, and contains recipes for everything from appetizers to desserts. The recipes were submitted by staff and students, and it contains mostly easy to make, kid-friendly recipes for tried-and-true family favorites.
My father and mother were members of the PTA, and along with the board they saw that the students needed to become computer literate to compete in the future. The problem was a lack of funds. While the school district agreed that computers were the wave of the future, there was little budget for a computer lab that could accommodate an entire classroom of students at one time. Never ones to back down in the face of adversity, the PTA decided to raise the funds needed though a series of fund raisers. We had a school carnival where we sold tickets to play games, enter a maze, and participate in a raffle for prizes donated by local businesses. We also had an auction presided over by my father, and we sold cookbooks.
I remember that putting the book together was quite a chore. All the recipes were submitted by students and teachers, and there was even art work created by the students for each section. It took the help of a lot of people to transcribe the recipes considering our school only had two computers. The volunteers would type up each handwritten recipe, format each page, and finally, once it was all printed, bind each book. The book clocked in at a hefty 282 pages! It was a labor of love, and when it was all said and done our school had 14 new state-of-the-art (for the time) Apple IIe computers!
As I said before, many of the recipes are for kid-friendly fare, as the kids were asked to submit their favorite treats, but some of the recipes are a little more mature and challenging. There are even some exotic recipes such as gulab jamon (fried dough balls soaked in cardamom syrup from India) and Singapore Style Fried Chicken (fried chicken marinated in five spice powder and Shaoxing wine). I have used the book as a resource in the past since the recipes are very reliable.
A Texas made cookbook isn’t complete without the quintessential Texas dessert – Texas Sheet Cake. The origins of this cake are a little murky, as are the claims from Texans far and wide that it is our invention. The cake became popular in the South in the 1950’s just after German Sweet Cake or German’s Chocolate Cake became popular. The Texas Sheet Cake has a similar flavor, but is much, much easier to prepare, making it immensely popular.
What I know for certain is this cake is one of my absolute favorites. It is a staple of holidays, birthday parties, and pot lucks from Houston to El Paso, and it is easy to understand why. The cake is baked and served in a jelly-roll pan and it is incredibly moist. The fudge like frosting is poured onto the cake while it is piping hot, so it soaks into the top of the cake just a little, and you can add some toasted pecans if you like (and I do like). The cake is simple to prepare, it actually tastes best baked a day ahead, and it requires no fancy decorating skills.
If you want the best possible Texas Sheet Cake I recommend you use full fat sour cream, whole milk, and regular, not Dutch-processed, cocoa powder. Some recipes I have tried substitute ½ cup buttermilk for the sour cream, but I prefer the sour cream version as I find the cake has a better texture. If you don’t like nuts, by all means do not add them, but a Texas Sheet Cake is not the same without toasted pecans. If this cake is being baked for the holidays add a teaspoon of cinnamon in with the dry ingredients for some spicy warmth.
Food Photography and Styling by Kelly Jaggers
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- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
- 1 cup water
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 1 cup sour cream
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 cup butter, melted (1 stick)
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1 lb powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp vanilla
- 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted (optional)
- Heat the oven to 350°F and spray a 13-inch x 18-inch x 1-inch jelly roll pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Whisk the mixture until well combined and set aside.
- In a medium sauce pan over medium heat add 1 cup of butter, water, and 1/3 cup cocoa powder.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often, then remove from the heat and add to the flour mixture. Mix to combine then add the sour cream, eggs, and vanilla and mix thoroughly.
- Spread the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 20-22 minutes, or until the cake springs back when gently pressed in the center and the edges of the cake are coming away from the sides of the pan.
- While the cake is baking prepare the frosting. In a medium bowl combine ½ cup melted butter, milk, and ¼ cup cocoa powder and mix until smooth. Add the powdered sugar to a large bowl and add the butter mixture and vanilla.
- Whisk until no lumps remain. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel until the cake has finished baking.
- Pour the frosting on the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven. Spread the frosting to the edges of the cake.
- Then immediately sprinkle the toasted pecans over frosting.
- Let the cake cool completely to room temperature before serving.