About a week ago, my mom called me up to complain about my blog. "Why don't you make cupcakes anymore?" she demanded. "I want to make them for the Christmas party I'm having. As giveaways, you know."
I laughed and explained that I'd finished baking through the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, but pointed out that there were other relatively new recipes on my blog that would make great giveaways for the holiday season: caramel corn brittle, for instance, or chocolate crinkle cookies.
She seemed unimpressed. "No cookies... I want something novel. Can you make something that's cake-like, but not a cake? But something that will feed a lot of people? And looks good? And is delicious?"
With my mom's requests on hand, I went forth and started pouring through my shelf of cookbooks, looking for a recipe that was "cake-like but not a cake" (uh, okay, Mom, that makes perfect sense), could feed a lot of people, and was delicious. Brownies? Nah, my mom probably wouldn't be too impressed with that. Besides, she wanted something novel, and as much as I love brownies, they're kind of your average, run-of-the-mill baked good. Cupcakes? They were "cake-like but not a cake", but I'd exhausted my one cookbook of cupcakes and since my mom had access to all the cupcake recipes I have, she obviously wasn't very impressed by them.
I was just about to give up home when I remembered I still had my coworker's copy of Vintage Cakes a cookbook from a local baker dedicated to upgrading vintage cake recipes and adapting them for modern tastes. One of my favorite recipes in the blog, Kentucky Bourbon Butter Cake, originated from the book. Surely Vintage Cakes would have the answer?
And yes, yes it did:
Behold, my friends — Texas Sheet Cake.
What is Texas Sheet Cake, my friends? According to the book, it's "a large, thin layer of tender chocolate cake slathered with gooey chocolate frosting and spinkled with toasted nuts". The frosting gets poured onto the cake when it's still warm, cooling off to creating a delicious, fudgey, crust:
Since the recipe makes a giant jelly roll pan's worth (yep, you need a 15 by 10 inch baking pan for this recipe), I took about half the batch to work (and still had plenty left over at home). One of my coworkers took a bite, gave a whelp of surprise, and through a mouthful, assessed the cake out loud:
"What is this? I thought it was a brownie. But it's more like a cake. But with the frosting of a fudge brownie. It's a cake-like brownie, I guess. Maybe a hybrid. Whatever. Can I have another one?"
Bingo. Did I hear him say "cake-like, but not a cake" (or close enough)? Bingo.
Admittedly, this is not my first encounter with Texas Sheet Cake. I've always been a big fan of The Pioneer Woman's recipe. While I think I still prefer The Pioneer Woman's recipe, I couldn't believe how soft, light, and fluffy this version was. Normally when I have large quantities of cake, I feel a little sick to my stomach (despite being a food blogger, I am human after all). But not this time. It was almost a little dangerous, putting away square after square without feeling a thing.
This recipe makes a huge sheet pan's worth, so it's perfect for a holiday party. If you don't have a cup of coffee, a cup of warm water should also do the trick. Note that halfway through the cake's baking time, you need to start making the frosting so that it's ready to be poured onto the cake immediately after it comes out the oven. Sprinkle immediately with toasted nuts to get that beautiful look, or, if you're feeling particularly festive, feel free to top off with a sprinkling of crushed peppermints.
So what do you think Mom? 'Coz this one's for you. I hope you like it!
Texas Sheet Cake
(Adapted from Vintage Cakes)
For the Chocolate Sheet Cake:
(makes one 15 by 10 inch baking pan)
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup unsweetened, non-Dutched natural cocoa, lightly packed
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 cup strongly-brewed coffee
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the Fudge Frosting:
(makes enough for one 15 by 10 inch baking pan)
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa, lightly packed
- 1/3 cup whole milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
- 1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts
For the Chocolate Sheet Cake:
- Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 375 (F).
- Melt 1 cup unsalted butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in 1/2 cup cocoa powder. Add 3 tablespoons vegetable oil and 1 cup coffee and bring to a rolling boil for about 30 seconds. Remove the saucepan from heat and set it aside on a cooling rack to cool slightly.
- While the saucepan is cooling, whisk together 2 cups flour, 2 cups sugar, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a large bowl.
- Pour the warm cocoa mixture (from the second step) into the flour/sugar/baking soda/salt mixture and whisk until just combined.
- In a small bowl, whisk together 2 eggs, 1/2 cup buttermilk, and 2 teaspoons vanilla.
- Using a rubber spatula, stir the buttermilk mixture into the batter until just combined.
- Pour the batter into a greased 15 by 10 inch baking pan and place in the center of the oven. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, or until the top is firmed and a wooden skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs.
- When the cake is about halfway through its baking time, start making the frosting.
- Melt 1/2 cup unsalted butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in 1/4 cup cocoa powder and bring the mixture to a rolling boil and boil for about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and immediately whisk in 1/3 cup milk and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.
- Whisking continuously, add 2 cups confectioner's sugar one cup at a time.
- Immediately after the cake comes out of the oven, pour the frosting over the hot cake and sprinkle with 1/2 cup toasted nuts. Try not to jiggle the cake before it sets or you'll leave waves in the frosting.
- Cool completely on a cooling rack before cutting into squares. Wrapped well and at room temperature, this cake keeps up to 5 days.