The Best Texas Sheet Cake

published Dec 19, 2021
Texas Sheet Cake Recipe

This classic Texan cake is rich in chocolate flavor with a delicious, gooey texture from warm frosting melding with the warm cake.

Serves12

Prep30 minutes

Cook17 minutes to 20 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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texas sheet cake sliced on parchment
Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

If you avoid baking cakes because they seem time-consuming or stressful, Texas sheet cake is just the cake for you. It’s easy to make, doesn’t require any special equipment, and is the definition of chocolatey, ooey-gooey goodness.

When I was growing up in Dallas, I ate my fair share of Texas sheet cake, so it holds a special place in my heart. It always made an appearance at school bake sales, and it was the cake of choice at many birthday parties; each time it tasted just as good as the last. And now that I’m an adult, it’s a source of instant nostalgia.

Perhaps what I love most about this cake is its ability to stand up to the elements. Summers in Texas are extremely hot, and baking can often turn into a bit of a disaster — especially if there’s any transportation necessary. Texas sheet cake, however, can weather the heat without sacrificing taste or appearance. The frosting is meant to be loose, which means you don’t have to worry about it melting. It’s one of my favorite things to bring to a potluck or cookout because it’s easy to share and always a crowd-pleaser.

Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Why Is It Called a Texas Sheet Cake? 

Despite its popularity, it’s unclear how Texas sheet cake got its name — or even if it originated in Texas. Some say its large size is a sign of its Texan heritage, or its use of local ingredients like buttermilk and pecans. Others say it may have first shown up in a Texan newspaper.

What’s the Difference Between Texas Sheet Cake and German Chocolate Cake?  

Texas sheet cake is a close relative of German chocolate cake, which isn’t actually from Germany but was created in Texas. Both involve a base of chocolate cake, a chocolate frosting, and a topping of pecans. But there are a few key differences between the two.

  1. The batter: Whereas a German chocolate cake requires creaming butter and sugar in a mixer, a Texas sheet cake comes together with a bowl and a whisk.
  2. The frosting: German chocolate cake is frosted with a fluffy buttercream, while Texas sheet cake is topped with a looser stovetop frosting. In fact, that’s part of the uniqueness of this cake: Instead of slathering frosting onto a cooled cake, you get to pour the warm frosting onto the still-warm cake.
  3. The assembly: German chocolate cake is a layered affair, complete with a sweet coconut filling. Texas sheet cake is much simpler; it’s baked and served directly in its sheet pan.

How Do You Store Texas Sheet Cake?

I recommend refrigerating your leftover cake for optimal freshness. Plus, the frosting will form a slightly crackly top in the fridge as it sets, which is absolutely delicious.

Texas Sheet Cake Recipe

This classic Texan cake is rich in chocolate flavor with a delicious, gooey texture from warm frosting melding with the warm cake.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 17 minutes to 20 minutes

Serves 12

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 2 sticks

    (8 ounces) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided

  • 2 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1 cup

    packed light brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon

    baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/3 cup

    Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 1 cup

    boiling water

  • 1/2 cup

    buttermilk

  • 2 large

    eggs

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

  • 1/2 cup

    raw or toasted pecan halves

For the frosting:

  • 1 1/2 sticks

    (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter

  • 1/4 cup

    Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 6 tablespoons

    whole or 2% milk

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

  • 2 1/2 cups

    powdered sugar

Instructions

Make the cake:

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Coat an 18x13-inch baking sheet (half sheet pan) with 1 tablespoon of the unsalted butter.

  2. Place 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 cup packed light brown sugar, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine.

  3. Melt the remaining 2 sticks unsalted butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add 1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder and whisk to combine. Add 1 cup boiling water and whisk to combine. Add the butter mixture to the flour mixture and whisk until fully combined.

  4. Place 1/2 cup buttermilk, 2 large eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Pour into the batter and whisk until fully combined. Transfer onto the baking sheet and smooth the top with a spatula.

  5. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 17 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, chop 1/2 cup pecans into bite-sized pieces.

Make the frosting:

  1. 10 minutes before the cake is finished baking, melt 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, 6 tablespoons whole or 2% milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and whisk until combined. Slowly sift in 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, whisking until smooth, about 1 minute. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

  2. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then pour the frosting over it and spread into an even layer. Top with the chopped pecans. Let the frosting set for 30 minutes before serving. Cut into 12 pieces.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.