Texas Sheet Cake

By: Nealey Dozier

There may be plenty of beauty queens in Texas, unfortunately this sheet cake isn't one. But hey, it's supposed to be about the inner beauty, right? Whether that's the case or not, this classic recipe would still take home plenty of "Miss Congeniality" awards; it never fails to win over a crowd.

Texas sheet cake is an old Southern standby—some version of it is guaranteed to grace the table at almost any potluck, church picnic, or 4th of July celebration below the Mason Dixon. You can find a recipe for it in almost any community cookbook known to man. In the case of my old grade school's tiny cookbook, I found three. (It often falls under many different names, but Texas sheet cake seems to be the most popular. I guess because it's as big as Texas!)

This is my take on the cherished recipe I grew up with. The boy next door (who just so happened to be my childhood crush) loved it so much that my mother would often bake up an entire pan just for him. As I begrudgingly carried it over to his house, I always wondered what a girl needed to do to get one of her own.

As I've become a more experienced chef and baker, willing to attempt the most complicated of cakes, I still know with confidence this Texas sheet cake will withstand the test of time. Perhaps one day I, too, will have a daughter whose heart I can make go aflutter as she drops one off at a young heartthrob's door. (And it's funny now, how it all just started making sense.)

Texas Sheet Cake

Active time: 20 minutes

Total time: 35 minutes, plus cooling

Yields: 24
sheet cake
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
1/4 cup good-quality cocoa powder
1 cup brewed coffee or hot water
frosting
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/4 cup good-quality cocoa powder
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 (16 ounce) box powdered sugar
1 cup finely chopped toasted nuts (pecans or walnuts)

For the cake:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 18 x 13 inch sheet pan.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together sugar, flour, baking soda, salt, espresso powder, and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla.

In a small to medium sauce pan, melt the butter on medium-low heat. Whisk in the cocoa powder and coffee; increase heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the melted butter mixture to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Follow with the egg mixture and stir until all the ingredients are completely combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and rap on the counter a few times to distribute evenly. Bake the cake for 18 minutes. Remove from the oven and frost immediately.

For the frosting:

When the cake has 5 minutes left in the oven, start the frosting. In a medium to large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in the cocoa powder until combined. Add the buttermilk, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Stir until all of the ingredients are completely incorporated. Fold the toasted nuts into the frosting and immediately pour over the warm cake. Use an offset to help gently spread a thin layer over the entire surface.

Cool frosted cake on a wire rack for 1 hour, then moved to the refrigerator, preferably overnight. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Nealey moved from Alabama to the West Coast to follow her dreams, only to realize once there how much she missed good ol’ country cooking.  So she took to the kitchen and began re-creating the dishes of her past, but this time without any help from a can. What started out as a hobby turned into an obsession, so she quit her day job to pursue cooking, and eating, fulltime. Dixie Caviar is where you can follow her pursuits of all things Southern.

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