potluck chocolate sheet cake

Potluck Chocolate Sheet Cake

Looking for potluck dessert ideas? Potluck chocolate sheet cake is an easy potluck dessert to feed a crowd; made with an incredibly moist and (almost!) one bowl chocolate cake recipe, the cake is then topped off with a tasty chocolate cream cheese frosting that doesn’t melt in warm weather. It’s the perfect summer potluck dessert.

Potluck Desserts

Here are a few facts about me, your friendly blogger who has been serving you dessert recipes on Hummingbird High since 2011:

  • I eat almost everything I bake and make. You’d be surprised how few food bloggers actually do this.

  • As a result, I probably weigh 10lbs more than what is considered to be an ideal weight for somebody my height. Oh well. My bloodwork is apparently perfect, so… shrug emoji?

  • This excess weight is also in spite of the fact that, yes, I go to the gym everyday. And when I say the gym, I mean the gym. No slow slogging away on a treadmills, elliptical, or machines—instead, I take an hour long HIIT class five days a week with lots of burpees and sprints, and then go indoor rock climbing the other two days.

Going to a gym class everyday makes for an interesting routine. I take the same classes with the same trainers week after week. As a result, we’re all kind of friends, but the kind of friends you don’t go to brunch, but instead get sweaty and gross in front of (but not in a sexual way, lol). None of my gym trainers have ever seen me in jeans or with makeup, but we are on friendly enough terms that we chat about any upcoming races or events they’re training for, wedding and travel plans, and even stuff on my blog and my own upcoming cookbook, #weeknightbakingbook.

Recently, my gym hosted a potluck picnic in the park. I was seriously considering skipping it, because, even though I like all my trainers very much, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to be friends outside of the gym. But again and again, as my trainers would announce the potluck after class, almost every single one of them would turn to me and ask me what I was bringing from my blog. Things then came to a head when Paulie, the trainer I probably see most frequently, yelled , “Michelle is gonna be there and bringing cake, y’all! And her cakes are famous on Insta!!!”

Oh boy.

After the class, several attendees approached me to tell me that they’d looked me up on Instagram.

“Will you bring the Vietnamese iced coffee cake?”

“What about this peanut butter and jelly layer cake?”

“Ooh, or this Japanese cheesecake!”

The problem was that everybody’s requests weren’t exactly potluck friendly. As much as I love my elaborate layer cakes, each one is a significant project that I didn’t have time for. Some didn’t make enough to feed a crowd, while others were made with elaborate frostings that would melt if left too long in the sun. A good potluck dessert is tasty, feeds a crowd, will hold up in the sun, and is easy and fast to make too.

potluck chocolate sheet cake

Why Chocolate Sheet Cake Makes an Easy Potluck Dessert

In any other circumstance, I likely would have brought these chocolate chip cookies or these supernatural brownies (both of which are recipes that I’ve updated in Weeknight Baking). They’re my default potluck dessert recipes—quick and easy to make, and incredibly delicious and crowd-pleasing since almost everybody loves chocolate. But it seemed like everybody was clamoring for cake!

Knowing what a hit chocolate desserts usually are at a potluck, I decided to bring the chocolate sheet cake from my cookbook. Unlike layer cakes, sheet cake is typically better for a crowd. You can slice it in more dividable ways, and they’re definitely easier to transport from one place to another since there’s no need to worry about layers slipping and sliding. Besides that, this chocolate cake is a breeze to make at home. You don’t even need to use a stand mixer—all you need is a few big bowls and a rubber spatula.

potluck chocolate sheet cake

Summer Potluck Dessert Ideas

The only remaining obstacle had to do with frosting. I look at a lot of cakes on Instagram, and occasionally, my Explore feed will serve me a sad photo of a beautifully elaborate wedding cake melting away in the sunshine. The caption usually has a warning for enterprising wedding cake bakers and brides-to-be: REFRIGERATE YOUR CAKE UNTIL YOU NEED TO SERVE IT.

I’ve always been a lover of cream cheese frosting. Not only does it pair well with chocolate cake, it’s a breeze to make too, fitting into my standard for making an “easy potluck dessert”. But seriously—to make cream cheese frosting, simply throw together butter, cream cheese, and confectioners’ sugar in a stand mixer and beat until light and fluffy. For my potluck chocolate sheet cake, I decided to double down on the chocolate and make one of my favorite chocolate cream cheese frostings (as seen on this funfetti cake from many moons ago). It was delicious.

potluck chocolate sheet cake

Best Chocolate Sheet Cake Recipe Tips

  • {Ingredient Tip}  Make sure to use BOILING hot coffee in this recipe! The boiling coffee will “bloom” the cocoa powder, giving the cake its signature midnight black color. To save time, I like to buy bottles of cold brew coffee and heat it up on the stovetop while I prep the rest of the ingredients. At first, the cake batter will seem lumpy, but adding the coffee will smoothen it out—just be sure to continually whisk as you do so or you’ll risk accidentally scrambling the eggs in the batter. And be sure to mix/whisk the batter for the time specified in the recipe; undermixed batter will lead to a weird texture on top of the cake.

  • {Ingredient Tip} For perfectly smooth frosting, make sure both the cream cheese and butter are at room temperature. The frosting will be perfectly smooth and silky, but will harden and “crust” the longer it sits, so be sure to use it immediately after making.

  • {Decorating Tip}  To get into the spirit of the potluck, I decorated the cake with sprinkles in my gym’s signature color (orange) and fondant letters spelling out some of the most common exercises we do. My fondant came pre-made from Waitrose (a souvenir from my trip to London this past May), and I used these Wilton alphabet cutters to make the letters.

More Dessert Recipe Ideas for Potlucks

Get the Recipe: Best Potluck Chocolate Sheet Cake Recipe

Potluck chocolate sheet cake is an easy potluck dessert to feed a crowd; made with an incredibly moist and (almost!) one bowl chocolate cake recipe, the cake is then topped off with a tasty chocolate cream cheese frosting that doesn't melt in warm weather.
(5 stars) 2 reviews
Leave a Review


For the Chocolate Sheet Cake

For the Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 3 ounces (or 85 grams) cream cheese, at room temperature,
  • ½ cup (4 ounces or 113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup (1.5 ounces or 43 grams) natural unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted if necessary
  • 2 teaspoons light corn syrup
  • 3 ½ cups (14 ounces or 397 grams) confectioners' sugar, sifted if necessary
  • 3 tablespoons (1.5 ounces or 43 grams) whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • a pinch of kosher salt


For the Chocolate Sheet Cake

  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 (F). Generously spray a 9 x 13-inch cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper, too.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Gradually whisk in the dry ingredients until just combined. Slowly pour in the coffee. The batter will be fairly runny; use a rubber spatula to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. Use the rubber spatula to finish mixing until smooth and well combined, 2 to 3 minutes more.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. When done, the top of the cake should bounce back when gently pressed and a skewer inserted into the center of the cake should come out with a few crumbs attached. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack before frosting.

For the Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium-low until smooth, about 2 minutes. Reduce the mixer to low, add the butter, and beat until combined, about 1 minute. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl.
  • With the mixer on low, gradually add the cocoa powder and corn syrup, using the spatula to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl as necessary. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until just combined. Add the milk, one tablespoon at a time, beating until just combined. Once all the milk is incorporated, increase the mixer to high and beat for 1 minute more, until the frosting is light, fluffy, and spreadable. Be careful not to overbeat, or the frosting will be too liquidy—one minute should do the trick just fine!
Did you make this recipe?Please leave a star rating and review in the form below. I appreciate your feedback, and it helps others, too!

This post was last updated on 4/21/2020.

Michelle holding Weeknight Baking cookbook covering her face.

buy the book
Weeknight Baking:
Recipes to Fit your Schedule

Over the past several years of running Hummingbird High, I kept a crucial aspect of my life hidden from my readers: I had a full-time, extremely demanding job in the tech world. In my debut cookbook, Weeknight Baking, I finally reveal the secrets to baking delicious desserts on a tight schedule.