Texas sheet cake

It's summer and that means making time to hang out in the kitchen and work on a cooking project or two with my son.  Most recently, we made a Texas sheet cake together, and it was such fun!
I'm calling it "Texas sheet cake" rather loosely because although there doesn't seem to be a definitive explanation for the term, "Texas sheet cake", our version omits a lot of what makes it what it is.  Specifically, we didn't bake the cake in a sheet pan; rather, I divided the recipe in half and baked it in a 9-inch square brownie pan (hence, the cake isn't Texas-style "big", either).  We also omitted two things - ground cinnamon and pecans - that you often find in a classic Texas sheet cake.  I decided to forego them because my son isn't a big fan of those ingredients and frankly, I wanted to make sure he'd enjoy what we baked. 
Even with the modifications we made, I'm still keeping the "Texas sheet cake" moniker because ultimately, the way the cake is prepared is so unique. Even my 11-year old could tell that the method of making this cake - cooking wet ingredients over the stove and pouring the hot mixture over the dry components to combine - was unusual!  But that's what made it fun and part of the reason why I picked this for a baking project.  It provided a lot of hands-on cooking for the little guy and he did an admirable job!  For a boy who isn't too interested in cooking, quite frankly, he seems to be pretty comfortable in the kitchen.  Maybe these little cooking sessions, even if relatively infrequent, do more and have a bigger impact than I realized...
There was another reason I thought of making this cake with my main man (aside from the somewhat obvious consideration that this super sweet treat would go down well).  We recently took a road trip to Virginia.  After many hours on the road (traffic on I-95 is no joke and we also had to contend with a flat tire midway there), we stopped into a Cracker Barrel to eat and I ordered a slice of Coca Cola cake for us to try for dessert.  Not surprisingly, the little one was a big fan of that and I thought this cake would be very similar (it is) and a fun thing to make now right after the trip.
To make a long story shorter, my little guy gave our cooking collaboration two-thumbs up!  I tell you - this is a sweet cake, with a moist, fluffy texture.  The icing is poured on the top of the warm cake and it seeps slightly into the cake, making it all the more moist.  It goes down very easy and has a nostalgic flavor to it somehow.  

It's certainly true when people say that kids will enjoy things they helped to make (though maybe I should make something vegetarian with him next time to test that theory); I just think it's doubly true when what they made was cake - and Texas sheet cake, at that!  He gobbled up his fair share of this cake and his dad was certainly another very happy beneficiary of this kitchen session of ours.  For my part, the best thing was spending the time in the kitchen together, watching my son do so much now, and sharing an enthusiasm for something together.  That's even better than eating cake!


I let the little guy do most of the cooking and he was really up to the challenge. Since we were dividing a recipe in half, we also got to do a little math together, too!

I'll let some pictures tell most of story but he did things from working at the stove (to melt butter, cocoa, and water together in the initial step as well as for the icing) to whisking the batter together and sifting powdered sugar to make the glaze that goes on top of the cake.  It was a unique and interesting baking process and he got to literally make it all by hand while also seeing that it could be done quite easily and quickly.
Whisking the dry ingredients together first
Whisking the hot butter, cocoa, and water mixture he heated over the stove right into the flour mixture
Next, whisking the egg, buttermilk, and vanilla that go in next
That was fast - all done and ready for the oven!
Cake is baked and ready for the icing
First time using a sieve to sift powdered sugar for the icing
Icing is a quick mix...mom saw it was a bit loose (we used milk instead of cream) so she added another spoonful of powdered sugar to thicken it some more
Getting close to eating time...poured the icing onto the still-warm cake so it absorbs a bit of it
This simple cake is done in no time!  You can remove the cake from the pan using the parchment paper overhang, then cut up a few slices.  It's a casual enough cake to also make and serve with a big spoon right from the pan itself.
As I mentioned, we omitted the ground cinnamon in the cake itself and didn't top the cake with chopped pecans.  Given the sweetness of the cake, both these additions are something worth considering.  I know my husband and I would have enjoyed a bit of crunch and nuttiness to the cake with the addition of nuts but we easily settled into the simple moist tenderness of the cake.
This was my first time making and tasting Texas sheet cake and I'm so happy I got to share the experience with my 11-year old!  I hope he will join me in more baking projects and I think he will.  In fact, he asked me what we should make next so I'm mulling over some ideas...

Recipe:

Texas Sheet Cake
Adapted from Martha Stewart

- Makes one 9-inch square cake - 

For cake:
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional; we omitted)
2 tablespoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1 large egg
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For icing:
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder
3 tablespoons whole milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (2 oz.)  finely chopped toasted pecans (optional; we omitted)

Make cake: Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly butter a 9-inch square cake pan and line it with a piece of parchment, with about a 2-inch overhang on each side.

In a large heatproof bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt (also cinnamon, if using).  

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat.  Whisk in cocoa and 1/2 cup water. Increase heat to medium-high and bring mixture to a boil, whisking occasionally. Pour hot mixture over the dry ingredients and whisk to combine.  Lightly whisk the egg together with the buttermilk and vanilla, then add to the batter to combine.

Transfer batter (it will be thin and fluid) to the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes.  Transfer cake, in the pan, to a cooling rack and let stand for about 15 minutes.  

Make icing: Place confectioners' sugar into a large heatproof bowl.  In a small saucepan, bring butter, cocoa powder and milk to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Pour mixture over the confectioners' sugar and whisk together.  Add vanilla extract and whisk until smooth.  (If icing does not seem thick enough,  you can whisk in a bit more confectioners' sugar.)  

Pour the icing evenly over the top of the slightly warm cake (if you like, you can remove the cake from the pan using the parchment paper overhang and set it on a rimmed serving platter to glaze).  Sprinkle the top with chopped nuts, if using.  Let the cake sit and allow the icing to set before serving.  



26 comments:

  1. Your chocolate sheet cake has such a soft and light texture that I can only find in sponge cakes. Well done, Monica.

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    1. I was surprised by how sponge-like it turned out as well.

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  2. So nice that you and your son bake together, how fun to make things that you know he will enjoy, makes it all that better. Beautiful cake Monica!

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    1. Thanks so much, Cheri. It is awesome to see him more capable of doing so much and being more interested each time. It's nice. : )

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  3. This cake is stunning! Love the way the frosting sinks into the cake and adds even more chocolatey flavor :)

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    1. I agree...that little pour-over while the cake is warm lets it ooze just a bit into the cake and makes it very tempting. : )

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  4. That's such a delicious looking cake and that's so cool that you get to bake things with your son!! You must be one fun Mommy!! :)

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    1. I wish! I definitely can't categorize myself as a "fun" mom (my poor kiddo) but I think we did have fun doing this. And we have fun eating. haha

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  5. Monica, I absolutely loved this post! I love how you and your son spent quality time baking this cake ! This Texas sheet cake looks smashing and your son did just such a fabulous job! I'm loving how moist that cake is and how the tops of the cake have absorbed that icing and gone a beautiful fudgy dark brown color! Okay, salivating now! Need to make this soon! :D

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    1. You are very sweet, Samina. I'd never made this kind of cake before so it was a good experience to share with my fella. Have a good rest of the week now!

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  6. Love that you and your son have so many wonderful baking adventures together. A coca-cola cake sounds so cool and yay that inspired you guys to make a Texas sheet cake. It looks so chocolaty and amazing!!

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    1. Yes, I saw the cola cake on the menu and knew we should try it (hard to get something like that here and I knew that would capture his interest). And this is much like that cake in appearance and taste. It was fun in many ways.

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  7. My mom used to make the best Texas Sheet Cake and often brought it to family functions. I've searched for her old recipe but cannot find anybody that has it. I love that you made this with your son. He will always remember those special days together and who wouldn't want a big slice of this gorgeous cake! It must have been hard to wait while you took photos - have a great weekend!

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    1. I bet your mom used pecans and I'm sure it was delicious. It's such a nice cake to make for a crowd. I want to make a real sheet size one and let a bunch of kids just tear into it. haha! not sure how the parents would like that...

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  8. This cakes looks so soft and gorgeous dear. What a lovely share. I love all your recipes and its also so sweet that you and your son bake together :-)

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    1. Thanks so much...it is always fun to play in the kitchen with my little fella (don't tell him I called him that!) ; )

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  9. What a stunning and moist and delicious looking sheet cake, Monica. I bet baking time with your son must be so much fun. Love the idea of coca cola cake! :)

    Anu
    http://www.mygingergarlickitchen.com/

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    1. Yes, I'd been curious about "soda" cakes so I couldn't resist trying. : )

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  10. Proud mum!! I truly love the idea that you get your sons to help you - this cake is perfect for a chocolate addict like my sweetheart, he saw your post and begged me to bake it for him.

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    1. Thanks so much...it is lots of fun when I can get him in there and seriously make something special together. I have to say this cake is sweet and for a serious chocoholic, I'd prefer something like the bouchon cake I just posted. That said, kids like my son seem to adore this light, fluffy, sweet Texas sheet cake very much. : )

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  11. This method for making a cake is new to me, I should definitely give it a try some time!

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    1. It was an unusual method for me, too! So interesting and I was surprised by the fluffy, sponge-like cake that it turns out. Have a great weekend!

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  12. What a great way to bond! Looks like you guys had lots of fun! That cake looks absolutely delicious. So moist! We are always craving for chocolate cake. :)

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    1. Thanks! It's nice to have some extra time during the summer to do different things like this. : )

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  13. I am loving this Texas Sheet Cake 'experiment' with your son. What fun! And such a cool name for a cake!...

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    1. Thanks, Jo! I like making something new with my son so we both have "a-ha" type moments together. It was fun.

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