The Best (Texas) Chocolate Sheet Cake

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A few posts ago, I told you about a recipe for Cheesy Hash Brown Potatoes, made by Jane Ann for her department lunch. Well, Jane, who is also in that same department, made this fabulous Texas sheet cake for the dessert. It was super-good…nice and moist, very chocolatey, and topped with a smooth layer of chocolate icing. Jane found the recipe over at The Pioneer Woman, where it’s called The Best Chocolate Sheet Cake. Ever. Some people call this cake a Texas Sheet Cake because it’s so big…it’s baked in a big 13 x 18″ sheet pan or jelly roll pan, which measures about 10 x 15″. It’s described on The Pioneer Woman website as “…moist beyond imagination, chocolatey and rich like no tomorrow, and 100% of the time, causes moans and groans from anyone who takes a bite.” And as someone who tasted the cake Jane made, I can verify that this is all true! :)

Jane made this cake in a 13 x 18″ sheet pan–she had first tried it in a 10 x 15″ pan but said, “…by the time I added the frosting, it was running off the sides. It seemed to work much better in the larger pan. I used the recipe as is, just the larger pan.” So, if you use a 13 x 18″ pan, your cake will be thinner, like the one Jane made. I really liked the thinness of the cake–it kind of looks like a huge pan of brownies when you make it in a pan that big. But the cake will taste great whether you make it in a larger or smaller sheet pan. One thing I found is that if you make this in a 10 x 15″ jelly roll pan, you won’t need to use all the frosting; to avoid having the frosting run off the sides like it did for Jane on her first try with a 10 x 15″ pan, just pour enough frosting on to cover the surface of the cake without going over the edges of the pan–you’ll have about 1/2 to 2/3 cup of frosting left over (just save it to use on another desert).

The frosting will start setting about a half hour after you pour it on the cake, but if you want it to set firmly, you’ll need to give it a few hours.

Jane made the frosting a little differently, too, so it would be really smooth, and I’ve noted how she did that in the recipe below.

THE BEST (TEXAS) CHOCOLATE SHEET CAKE  from The Pioneer Woman

CAKE:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 heaping Tablespoons unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • ½ cup buttermilk (Or use this tip to make a buttermilk substitute: Place 1/2 Tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup. Add enough regular milk to bring the liquid up to the 1/2 cup line. Let stand for 5 minutes, then use in the recipe.)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

FROSTING:

  • 1 3/4 sticks butter
  • 4 heaping Tablespoons unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 6 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 pound (minus 1/2 cup) powdered sugar (about 3 to 3 1/4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts, optional (Jane did not use nuts in her frosting and it was great…so if you don’t like nuts, leave them out!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt.

Melt butter in a saucepan and add cocoa. Stir together. Add boiling water, allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds, then turn off heat. Pour over flour mixture, and stir lightly to cool.

In a measuring cup, pour the buttermilk and add beaten eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate mixture. Pour into 13 x 18″ sheet cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes (if using a 10 x 15″ jelly roll pan, you may need to bake 22 to 23 minutes). NOTE: I greased my pan, but the Pioneer Woman’s recipe doesn’t say to do that, so I guess that’s optional.

While cake is baking, make the icing. If using nuts, chop them finely. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add cocoa, stir to combine, then turn off heat. Add the milk, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Stir together. Add the nuts, stir together, and pour over warm cake. (NOTE: if you follow these directions, you’ll notice your frosting is still a little lumpy. To make her frosting really nice and smooth, Jane simply cooked the frosting several minutes longer over low heat, stirring until the mixture was smooth; she also omitted the nuts. You could also leave the nuts out of the frosting mixture and sprinkle them on top of the icing instead). If you made your cake in a 13 x 18″ pan, pour on all the frosting–you may need to spread it a little so it covers the entire cake; if your cake is in a 10 x 15″ pan, just pour enough frosting on to cover the surface of the cake without going over the edges of the pan. You’ll probably have about 1/2 to 2/3 cup of frosting left over.

You can let the frosting cool and set before cutting into squares if you want, or cut into squares while it’s still warm and dig in! The frosting will start setting in about a half hour, but it needs between 1 and 2 hours to set more firmly; at 2 hours, it should be nice and firm.

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As big as this sheet cake is, it disappears pretty quickly!

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157 thoughts on “The Best (Texas) Chocolate Sheet Cake

    • Actually, this is NOT Ree’s recipe, it’s just one she “borrowed” for her cookbook … from dozens and dozens of old church and women’s league cookbooks. My mom and aunts all made this EXACT recipe back in the 60′s-70′s, so it’s been around for at LEAST 50+years !! and it’s been called TEXAS Sheet Cake ever since Lady Bird Johnson made it back in the 60′s !

      • I have made this cake for over 40 years. It’s sometimes referred to as Mexican Chocolate Cake.

      • I have been making this cake for 30 years, I am 73…..recently I found some of my mothers recipes (in her handwriting), she called it best Choc cake….in the 40′s -50′s….so no telling how old the recipe is…My daughter made kitchen t-towels for all females in the family with the recipe and others printed on them..an idea she got off Pinterest…..what a great thing that has been for us (Pinterest)

      • This recipe has been in our family, as our favorite special occasion cake, for almost 50 years. We did indeed live in Texas when my mother first made this. I believe she was in a women’s homemakers group when she got this recipe We use pecans and coconut in the frosting (well, one side is frosted with plain chocolate and the other with the coconut and pecan)

    • Absolutely wonderful! My great grandmother, grandmother and mother made this recipe for many years and now I make it for my kids. It has that smooth chocolate flavor for those chocolate lovers out there. Not too rich and not fake. It is the real deal.

  1. Hey Nancy.
    This chocolate cake recipe is an old one from way back and it is a goodie! My husband Paul recalls eating this cake when he was a kid. His grandmother, Mama Faust, made this and his mother, Peggy, still does, and so do I. I have this very same recipe Mama Faust gave me when Paul and I were first married. You can’t go wrong with this one.
    Denise

    • That cake of Paula Deen’s you mentioned sounds really good–I will have to try that sometime–I’ll check out the one you made, too–homemade chocolate syrup–yum! Thanks for including the links to those recipes!

    • You can if you don’t want to have to clean up the pan at all, but the cake slices come out pretty easily without parchment paper…just a little sticking.

  2. I’ve made the Pioneer Womans cake a couple of times and it is always delicious. Thanks for reminding me of it..I need to make one for our home fellowship gathering on Sunday.:))
    xo bj

  3. From the way it sounds this is a must try recipe. It looks delicious! I’m going to have to put this on my to try list. Thanks for sharing it, Nancy.

  4. I love this cake. I found a recipe years ago and it goes by Texas Sheet Cake but the ingredients are just about identical…I LOVE it and so does everyone who eats it.

  5. In Oklahoma, we add a bit of cinnamon to the cake–just enough to get a faint taste and always serve it with home made ice cream. I’m drooling just thinking about it!

  6. Nancy, I don’t quite understand the part about the buttermilk because you say to add vinegar to 1/2 a cup of milk to make 1/2 cup of buttermilk? did you mean 1/4 cup of milk? I would love to have more info abou tthis because it is so hard to find buttermilk where I live. Thanks!!

    • Hi Cristiana, I found that buttermilk tip from the Pioneer Woman’s recipe, so I included it, but you’re right, it’s confusing! So I looked up how to make buttermilk on another site and it’s much more clear: Place 1/2 Tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup. Add enough milk to bring the liquid up to the 1/2 cup line. Let stand for 5 minutes.

      Hope this helps! Thanks for checking with me–I will update the recipe!

    • Hi Sarette–Most people make these sheet cakes in a jelly roll pan, which measures 10 x 15.” My friend Jane used a 13 x 18″ sheet pan to make the cake I’ve shown in the photo, so it’s a little thinner than the typical sheet cake.

  7. So I made this cake exactly as directed. The cake turned out fine but the icing was literally the consistency if water. I did exactly what it said to do, so I was very confused at why it was so watery. I poured it on the cake like it said to, and the icing just went right off the cake and slid to the edges and even seeped to the bottom of the pan. I let is set for a good hour and it never hardened or anything like the picture shows. Any suggestions???

    • Hi Emily–It sounds like you probably made your cake in a 10 x 15″ pan, is that right? I’ve made this cake in a 13 x 18″ pan without any problems, so I tried it in the 10 x 15″ pan. The only thing I did differently was just not use all the frosting; I ended up having about 2/3 cup of frosting left over. I basically just poured enough frosting on to cover the surface of the cake without going over the edges of the pan. It can take an hour and a half to 2 hours for the frosting to firmly set. I’m not sure why your frosting never set if you followed the directions exactly. If you decide to try this again and have the same problem, you could always add extra powdered sugar to the frosting to make it thicker, or just use a different chocolate frosting recipe. Sorry you had problems with this! I’ll update the recipe to make it clearer. Thanks so much for your feedback!

  8. Hi there–I made this cake a few weeks ago and it was to die for! Turned out perfectly moist and the frosting was a wonderfully smooth consistancy. My question is–the first time I made it with real butter, but I would like to make it again tonight for company and all I have in the house is margarine. Wondering if it will work/taste the same? (I’m trying to get out of a trip to the store :)

    • Hi Kelly–I haven’t tried making the recipe with margarine, but I think it would be fine to substitute it for butter if you are using sticks of margarine. The margarine in tubs has a different consistency and probably wouldn’t work as well.

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  10. Love this recipe! I’ve never actually seen it in print before but always made it for my sons birthday. They are 24 and still ask for it!

  11. We have made a similar cake for years but we always had a teaspoon of CINNAMON to the flour mixture. Gives it a very unique taste!

  12. I used to make this cake for my children in the late 70s and early 80s. I was on the Hershey’s cocoa can. It used solid shortening instead of butter. I always used a 13 x 16 inch enamel broiler pan. It was a perfect size. A couple of weeks back, my daughter made it in a 9 x 13 inch pan, and it was also good. I sometimes would make just the cake part, baking it in 3 eight inch round pans. Then I would split each layer with unflavored dental floss, and spread about 3/4 inch of softened vanilla ice cream between the split layers. Freeze and cut each round into about 6 wedges, yielding about 18 wedges. It tastes so much like ice cream sandwiches that you would swear it is if you didn’t see it first.

  13. OMG i’ve looked EVERYWHERE for this!

    just add marshmallow fluff in between the layers and you get Mississippi Mud. My grandma used to make this all the time and the only copy of the recipe has been lost since she passed away 10 years ago. This makes me SO excited to get that piece of “home” back!

    • I’m glad you found this here, Sarah–thanks for letting me know! :) I hadn’t heard about using marshmallow fluff in this, but it sounds really good! Would you spread the fluff over the baked cake and then add the frosting over that? Or bake the cake in round layers and put the fluff in between the layers?

  14. This is an old recipe but, definitely a favorite ,I have had it with the cinnamon added but, really prefer without it so , you get the taste of a brownie!

  15. The frosting directions are incorrect. All ingredients are cooked together for 2 minutes. Then add powdered sugar until desired thickness.

    • Hi Luann–Thanks for sharing your frosting directions! I will definitely try your way the next time I make this! I’m sure there are several different ways you can make the frosting–the directions shown on this post are from the Pioneer Woman recipe, and that has worked for me and others I know who have made it. With the extra cooking time, your version may make a thicker frosting that would set a little faster, so I’m looking forward to trying that out!

  16. Do you think the cake recipe could be made into cupcakes? If so, what changes do you think would have to be made?

    • Hi Melissa! I’ve never tried this recipe for cupcakes, so I’m not totally sure. The cake doesn’t rise much, so your cupcakes may not either. I think your baking time might be longer too, because your cupcakes would be thicker than the cake. You’d want to use a different frosting recipe too–like a chocolate buttercream, since this thinner frosting would be hard to use on cupcakes. You may have better results using a chocolate layer cake recipe for your cupcakes. If you do try this, though, let me know how it worked out for you!

      • I made these as cupcakes tonight. And youre right, the thickness, or thinness, rather, is an issue. But I have come up with the solution!!! Creative Cupcakes is a brand of pan liners. Theyre meant to be used without a muffin pan, so, theyre really stiff. That is what I plan to use next time.

      • I got some muffin liners that are wider and lower…. To make “muffin tops” that would work. They are only like an inch high.

  17. Pingback: Texas Sheet Cake « The Nashville Fork

  18. I’ve made this for YEARS and YEARS since I was growing up in the Midwest, but we always called it Texas Brownies. :) It is definitely a favorite around here. :D

  19. My mom used to make these all the time :) We called them Texas brownies and used 1 c. coffee instead of the boiling water in the cake.. They are my favorite. Thank you for having this recipe :)

  20. To make this cake over-the-top amazing, put it in a normal 9 x 13 inch pan and bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees F.

  21. This is the recipe I have used for years with the exception that I use 1/2 cup sour cream instead of buttermilk. It seems to come out moister. Mine seems to be a darker chocolate also. Not sure if that is due to the sour cream or not….

  22. substitute the water with a strong cup of coffee and see if you don’t like it even better… oh and never freeze this stuff in precut serving size pieces… NEVER! ;)

  23. I don’t know if anyone has mentioned it here but this cake is really good when it’s COLD. I refrigerate the leftovers so the icing becomes fudge-like and the cake is so moist to begin with, refrigerating it doesn’t dry it out. Love this recipe!

  24. Wonderful recipe. I cut the sugar in the cake down to 1-1/2 cups (just to make me feel better about eating a little less sugar, lol) and it is still sweet and decadent. Thanks!

  25. Our Texas Sheet Cake recipe was my Great Grandmother’s. Both the icing and cake have a hint of cinnamon plus the icing has chopped pecans. It is best served cold!

  26. I have made this cake for the past 40 years and now am having the problem of lumpy frosting. What am I doing wrong? I remove from heat when butter is melted and then add powdered sugar.

    • Hi Carol–if you want really smooth frosting, just cook the frosting (after all ingredients have been mixed together) a few minutes longer over low heat.

      Another reader told me she cooks all the ingredients, except for the powdered sugar, together for 2 minutes, and then she gradually adds the powdered sugar in. I haven’t tried it that way yet, but it sounds like it would work well. Hope this helps! :)

  27. I don’t even like chocolate cake but I made this, gave half to my mom and dad who ate the whole thing in a day and mine is all gone as well. I just got online to print out the recipe so I can make it again. The frosting is exactly like the homemade fudge my dad used to make but in frosting form. Completely amazing. Only difference is that I add a tablespoon of sugar into the frosting so it has more of that sweet fudge taste my dad’s candy used to. My dad loved this cake and he doesn’t like anything that his mom didn’t make herself. Very picky guy but this will please anyone who wants something homemade and not out of a box.

  28. Oh and I forgot to add, I blended my frosting with an electric beater. Came out silky smooth and tasted perfect.

    • It sounds great with the coffee and cinnamon, Judy–something I still need to try! Many others have commented, too, about the special memories this cake brings back–that’s so nice to hear!

    • Hi Carol, the recipe mentions if you’re using a jelly roll pan you may need to bake it a little longer. If it still was not close to being done, your oven may run cooler than others, so you just need to bake things longer.

  29. I am so excited to try this….turned out exactly like it should. No problems whatsoever! Thanks so much for sharing. We are all chocolate loves in our house, so this is perfect!!!

  30. I found this on Pinterest, thanks for sharing! This was so easy! Made this for a neighborhood get-together. This was a big hit!

  31. Hi, i am in Australia and have never heard of all purpose flour does it mean self raising flour. Also how much is a stick of butter is it 250g. I want to try this but can,t work out the measurments.
    Thankyou.

    • Hi Sandra, all-purpose flour is NOT self-rising flour, so just use your regular flour! Also, I looked up your butter question on the web and found that 1 stick of butter is equivalent to 113.5 grams. Hope that helps you out! :)

  32. I wonder if this mix can be halved to use a smaller pan as my oven is not wide enough for the large pan? Looks too good to not improvise!

    • I haven’t tried that myself, but I don’t see why you couldn’t do that, Ann Marie. You could try an 11 x 7″ brownie pan or 9×9″ square pan and halve the recipe. Let me know if you try that out!

  33. Another tip for smooth frosting is to keep the heat on, add the milk, and add your powdered sugar in batches.. between the batches stir with a whisk!

  34. I grew up in Texas with Chocolate Sheet Cake being a main dessert at all gatherings. It is a wonderful breakfast the next day also with acup of coffee.

  35. The only comment I have on this is the icing recipe does not say to bubble or boil for 30 seconds before you turn off. I did not do that and my frosting was the consistency of water.

    • I have never boiled this frosting myself and haven’t had problems with it. But boiling it is a good tip if you want a thicker frosting–thanks for sharing that!

    • It’s supposed to be moist and cakey, but not gooey or brownie-like…maybe you were thinking of another recipe when you tried this? It sounds like it came out the way it was supposed to, but maybe not what you were expecting…Also, the bigger the pan you use, the thinner the cake will be, if you like it that way.

  36. Pingback: Foodie Friday – Chocolate Texas sheet cake #2 | Lauren Gleason's Webpage

  37. I really don’t care who’s recipe this is!… it’s delicious and i’m glad i found it on you page. I’ve made this twice now and it just seems to taste better every time… Thanks for sharing!!!:)

  38. I’ve had this recipe for over a decade. I got it in the mail from one of those recipe card clubs. It’s called Best Texas Brownies though. It is incredibly good and my boys ask for them frequently.

  39. Nancyc,
    I made this or a similar cake many years ago and everyone loved it. Now my question is: Can I remove this cake from the pan and then frost it as I want to serve it on a glass tray so it will look nice. ( I plan to cut it when I serve it at a party).

    • Hi Teri–I really don’t know of a way you could remove this from the pan to frost, since it is such a large, thin cake. Wish I could say there was!

  40. Do you think it would be okay to split the batter and use 2 smaller pans?
    Thanks for your input. I am going to make it tomorrow.

  41. I have been making a cake called Pot hole cake. It is the essentially the same recipe as this one(uses a double boiler for the chocolate mix). When you take the cake out of the oven, use a wooden or plastic spoon handle to poke holes in the cake and then pour the warm icing all over. You end up with these incredible “pot holes”. Yummy!

  42. I was born a chocoholic. When I was 19, my neighbor gave me this recipe. I am now 65 years old. So it’s at least 46 years old! And still dee-licious. My personal fave is with brown sugar frosting. The Crisco white frosting is killer too! Or the white icing recipe that goes with “The only chocolate cake recipe you’ll ever need.” Or…….yada-yada……yada……………This cake will live on forever:)

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