This recipe for Original Texas Sheet Cake with Buttermilk is, without a question, the all-time best! Along with easy-to-follow instructions, it’s equipped with big chocolate flavor (thanks to a secret ingredient), bakes up decadently moist and tender, only to be topped off with a gooey fudgy icing.
The only question you’ll be left with is “Pecans…or no pecans?”
Texas Sheet Cake is a recipe many Texans hold near-and-dear to their hearts, and it is sure to bring back one childhood memory or another. I’m, of course, no exception, and when I reminisce about Texas Sheet Cake, I can see my Aunt Suzy’s kitchen clear as a bell. Sitting right there in the center of her table, you would find a large silver pan fitted with a red, clear lid. The cousins and I knew exactly what we would find under that lid. It would be moist, decadent, chocolatey perfection — a cake so delectable you could never forget it.
THE ORIGINAL TEXAS SHEET CAKE RECIPE
No one is quite clear as to the exact origin of The Original Texas Sheet Cake Recipe, but an article entitled The Great Sheet Cake Mystery claims it evolved from a German Chocolate Cake recipe some time between the late 1930’s and 1960’s. The sheet cake took on the rich chocolate flavor of the German Chocolate Cake and left the coconut completely out of the picture.
Texas Sheet Cake is rich as a brownie, with a crumb as tender as the most delicate cake you’ve ever laid tastebuds on, only to be topped off with a layer of fudgy icing laden with toasted pecans.
The layers meld together in one great big pan, and that my friends, is Texas Sheet Cake. Common denominators found in The Original Texas Sheet Cake Recipe are cocoa powder, buttermilk, and pecans, and of course, the jelly roll pan.
TEXAS SHEET CAKE PAN SIZE
Jelly roll pans are rimmed baking pans, about 10 1/2″ x 15 1/2″ in dimension, and they are perfect for the quick-cooking Texas Sheet Cake. However, as the jelly roll pan has become less prevalent in the home cook’s kitchen, a 9″x13″ baking dish is often subbed in these days.
PASSED DOWN FROM ONE GENERATION TO THE NEXT
The particular sheet cake recipe you’ll find here is not the same one that sat upon my Aunt Suzy’s countertop, but rather, one from a well-versed Texas baker, Fran Murr. Fran’s bakery Yummies was modeled after the famous West, Texas bakery The Czech Stop, and there she was as well-known for her Texas Sheet cake as she was for her cinnamon rolls.
The original Texas Sheet Cake recipe Fran used in her South Texas bakery was passed down by her mother. It was their family’s go-to dessert for school and church functions. The family recipe had all of the core Original Texas Sheet Cake components — a fudgy sheet cake made with cocoa, buttermilk, and pecans — however, Fran made an adjustment during her bakery days that took their family’s recipe to the next level.
BUTTERMILK AND COFFEE FOR MORE FLAVOR
She added brewed coffee to their family’s original Texas Sheet Cake recipe. A wise decision from a wise baker. The coffee did not necessarily add a pronounced coffee flavor to the cake, but rather enhanced the flavor of the chocolate. The addition of the coffee in combination with the buttermilk made for an incredibly tender crumb.
Acidic ingredients like buttermilk and coffee in baked goods help to break down long gluten strands, keeping your cake from being tough, and at the same time, adding flavor. You can read more about buttermilk in baked goods in this article from FineCooking.com.
HOW TO MAKE TEXAS SHEET CAKE WITH BUTTERMILK
There are a few things that differentiate a Texas Sheet Cake recipe from a standard cake recipe. One, the sugar is not mixed in with the other wet ingredients, but rather the dry. Two, instead of the dry ingredients slowly being incorporated to the wet, everything is ultimately added to the dry mix. And three, that hot, signature fudgy icing that’s poured over the baked cake to finish it all off. Yes, please.
1. ADD DRY INGREDIENTS TO THE MIXING BOWL
Flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt are whisked together and set aside.
2. MAKE CHOCOLATE MIXTURE ON STOVETOP
Next, it’s off to the stovetop to get your chocolate mixture going. Butter, coffee, and cocoa are mixed together and brought to a boil in no time at all. This mixture is added to the dry ingredients and our batter is almost done.
3. ADD BUTTERMILK, EGGS, AND VANILLA
To finish the cake batter, we’ll need buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla extract. These ingredients are combined and then added as a whole to the batter. Once everything comes together, the mixture is then transferred to a prepared pan.
4. BAKE THE CAKE
Before adding your batter to the pan, be sure to grease it, and add parchment paper to line the bottom. This will prevent your sheet cake from sticking.
HOW LONG TO BAKE A TEXAS SHEET CAKE
How long you bake a Texas Sheet Cake depends on what size pan you use. If you are baking the sheet cake in a jelly roll pan, the cake will bake faster than it would in a 9″x13″ casserole dish. This is because a thinner cake (or a cake with less depth) will bake faster than a thicker cake.
In a jelly roll pan, the cake will be finished baking within 25-28 minutes. In a 9″x13″ casserole dish, it will likely take between 30-35 minutes.
5. MAKE THE FUDGY ICING
The icing comes together on the stovetop. You can use the same sauce pan used to whip up your chocolate mixture, although cleaning it beforehand is a must.
Butter, milk cocoa powder, powdered sugar, and salt are added to a saucepan over medium heat. Once the mixture is melted and begins to simmer, remove it from the heat. Add the vanilla, and now, it’s time for a very important question: Pecans or no pecans?
PECANS ARE OPTIONAL
Pecans are an ingredient native to Texas, and surely, the Original Texas Sheet Cake recipe called for them, but if you aren’t a fan of nuts in your baked goods, feel free to leave them out of the process entirely.
However, if you’re Team Pecan, add them to the icing now. For an extra special touch, toast the pecans before you make your icing. You’ll notice a difference in both flavor and crunch.
Texas Sheet cake does not need to be refrigerated. Simply allow the icing to set at room temperature and serve once it hardens slightly. This will take about 30-45 minutes.
It’s almost shocking that a cake this good could be so easy to make and feed so many all at the same time. Texas Sheet Cake can serve up to 16-20 people, making it a Texas-sized cake perfect for a party.
It’s rich, it’s gooey, and absolute chocolate cake perfection. This will serve your family as an unforgettable recipe that, I’ve no doubt, will continue to be passed on from one generation to the next. Please, enjoy!
The best recipe for Original Texas Sheet Cake with Buttermilk with easy-to-follow instructions and big chocolate flavor topped off with a gooey fudgy icing.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter cut into tablespoons
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 1 cup brewed coffee
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 2 large eggs, slightly beaten
- 1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cup toasted pecan halves, roughly chopped (optional)
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 1/3 cup whole milk
- 1/4 teaspoon + a pinch fine sea salt
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350° and have ready a greased jelly roll pan (12"x17") lined with parchment paper to fit. If you do not have a jelly roll pan, use greased 9"x13" casserole dish, and see notes below.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Set aside until ready to use.
Add butter, cocoa, and coffee to a saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once the mixture reaches a boil, whisk for 30 seconds and pour over the flour mixture. Stir until evenly mixed.
In a small bowl or measuring pitcher, combine buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla. Add the buttermilk mixture to the bowl and stir to combine.
Pour the batter into the pan and smooth over the top. Bake for 25-28 minutes, or until the center springs back slightly when gently poked. Start on the icing as soon as the cake comes out of the oven.
While the cake is baking, toast the pecans (if using). Add the pecan halves to a dry pan over medium-low heat and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat as soon as the pecans become fragrant. Do not allow to burn. Set aside until ready to use.
Once the cake is out of the oven, add the butter, cocoa, milk, and salt to a large saucepan over medium heat and stir. Allow butter to melt, then stir in the powdered sugar, until smooth and add the vanilla.
If using pecans, add about 2/3 of them now.
Pour the icing over the warm cake and spread to the edges. Sprinkle the remaining pecans evenly over the top, if using.
Set aside and allow the icing to set. Serve and enjoy.
If you using a 9"x13" casserole dish, you will likely need to add about 5 minutes or so to the cook time. Remove the cake from the oven when the center springs back slightly when gently poked.