Aunt Dorothy’s Texas Sheet Cake Recipe

This classic Texas sheet cake has a thin layer of fluffy, moist chocolate cake and is topped with a fudge-like icing with chopped pecans.This classic Texas sheet cake is the absolute best and so easy to make. It’s a delicious chocolate cake recipe baked in a jelly roll pan and covered in a fudge-like chocolate frosting with chopped pecans. It’s rich and indulgent and perfect for feeding a crowd, which makes it a great choice for parties and potlucks, and it just so happens to be our family’s cake of choice for celebrating birthdays.

A pan of chocolate Texas sheet cake with pecans.

Many years ago, when my grandma passed away, friends and family members delivered food to my mom’s house. Among the fried chicken, roasted chicken, potatoes, deli platters, buns, and cookie trays was this new-to-me gem. My great aunt had whipped up and sent over a Texas Sheet Cake. I ate a little bit of it for days; it was amazingly delicious, and it soothed my soul. Once things had settled down, I made it my business to get this recipe from my aunt.

I’m so glad that it’s part of my recipe arsenal, and it will always remind me of celebrating my grandma’s life and all the love she gave.

I’ve made a couple of small tweaks to my aunt’s recipe over the years and have now settled on this fabulous version as our family’s absolute favorite.

Her original recipe called for vegetable shortening (which I think is customary in many original Texas sheet cake recipes), but I’ve replaced it with butter, added an extra tablespoon of cocoa powder in the cake and frosting, and upped the amount of butter in the frosting by a couple of tablespoons. Just a few minor modifications, but I think they make a world of difference!

A pan of Text sheet cake with several pieces missing.

Why is it called Texas sheet cake?

There is no definitive answer as to the history of the name “Texas sheet cake”, but there are a few theories floating around…

Some surmise that it’s because the cake huge like the size of Texas, while others maintain it’s because the cake is incredibly rich, and still others point to similarities to a recipe published in the Dallas Morning News in 1957 that became wildly popular.

The best pan to use

As its name suggests, we’re going to use a sheet pan to make this cake recipe. By definition, a “sheet pan” is any large rectangular cake pan, such as a jelly roll pan (which measures 10×15 inches) or a half sheet pan (which measures 13×18 inches).

For this particular recipe, we’re going to use a 10×15-inch jelly roll pan.

Pouring cake batter into a sheet pan.

How to make the cake and frosting

One of the hallmarks of Texas sheet cake is that part of the cake batter as well as the frosting is cooked in a saucepan.

Are you ready for the easiest cake-making ever? Here we go!

Make the Cake

Ingredients for Texas sheet cake prepped in bowls on counter.

  1. In a saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the water and cocoa powder, increase the heat, and bring to a boil. Set aside.
  2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, add the eggs, sour cream, and vanilla, and whisk to combine.
  4. Add the chocolate mixture, then gently whisk to combine all ingredients thoroughly.
  5. Pour into the pan. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth into an even layer.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees F until a toothpick inserted in the center has moist crumbs attached, 18 to 22 minutes.

Make the Frosting

Ingredients for Texas sheet cake frosting prepped in bowls.

It’s important to begin the frosting as soon as the cake comes out of the oven. You want the warm frosting to be spread on the warm cake for the ultimate Texas sheet cake experience!

  1. In a saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.
  2. Add the milk and cocoa powder and bring to a boil, then remove from heat.
  3. Whisk in the vanilla extract and cocoa powder until smooth.
  4. Stir in the chopped nuts, if using.
  5. Spread in an even layer over top of the warm cake.

Spreading chocolate frosting on Texas sheet cake.

Recipe tips for Texas sheet cake

Below are some extra notes to make sure your cake turns out wonderfully!

  • Cocoa Powder: You can use your favorite cocoa powder in this recipe. I always reach for my regular unsweetened cocoa powder, but Dutch-process cocoa would work, too.
  • Sour cream: You can substitute buttermilk or plain yogurt for the sour cream.
  • Nuts: Traditional Texas sheet cake contains chopped pecans, but walnuts are also a popular option. You can omit them entirely, as well.
  • Storage: The cake should be covered and will keep at room temperature for up to 4 days, but can also be refrigerated (covered) for up to 1 week.
  • Freezing Instructions: This cake freezes very well! Once you frost it and let it cool completely, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil and freeze for up to 1 month.

More Popular Chocolate Cake Recipes

Slice of Texas sheet cake on a white plate with a forkful taken out.

Many recipes, foods, and even smells can conjure up strong memories, and this cake will forever do that for me. I hope you’ll create special memories with it as well!

If you make this recipe and love it, I would so appreciate it if you would take a moment to leave a rating below. Thank you so much! ❤️️

Aunt Dorothy's Texas Sheet Cake Recipe

Servings 15 servings
Prep 15 minutes
Cook 22 minutes
Total 37 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Michelle

This classic Texas sheet cake is a chocolate lover's dream! Insanely moist chocolate cake is topped with a fudge-like frosting and chopped pecans.

Ingredients:

For the Cake:

  • 1
    cup
    unsalted butter
  • 1
    cup
    water
  • 5
    tablespoons
    unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2
    cups
    all-purpose flour
  • 2
    cups
    granulated sugar
  • 1
    teaspoon
    baking soda
  • ½
    teaspoon
    salt
  • 2
    eggs
  • ½
    cup
    sour cream
  • 1
    teaspoon
    vanilla extract

For the Icing:

  • ½
    cup
    unsalted butter
  • 6
    tablespoons
    milk
  • 5
    tablespoons
    unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1
    teaspoon
    vanilla extract
  • 4
    cups
    powdered sugar
  • 1
    cup
    chopped pecans or walnuts
    (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 10x15-inch jelly roll pan.

  2. Make the Cake: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the water and cocoa powder, increase the heat to medium, and whisk until the mixture reaches a bowl. Remove from the heat and set aside.

  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the center, add the eggs, sour cream, and vanilla, and whisk them together. Add the chocolate mixture and gently whisk to combine all ingredients thoroughly.

  4. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs attached, 18 to 22 minutes.

  5. Make the Frosting: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the milk and cocoa powder and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, whisk in the vanilla and powdered sugar until smooth. If using, stir in the chopped nuts.

  6. Immediately pour the frosting over the warm cake, using an offset spatula to gently spread it evenly over the surface. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes so the frosting can set, then serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes:

  • Cocoa Powder: You can use your favorite cocoa powder in this recipe. I always reach for my regular unsweetened cocoa powder, but Dutch-process cocoa would work, too.
  • Sour cream: You can substitute buttermilk or plain yogurt for the sour cream.
  • Nuts: Traditional Texas sheet cake contains chopped pecans, but walnuts are also a popular option. You can omit them entirely, as well.
  • Storage: The cake should be covered and will keep at room temperature for up to 4 days, but can also be refrigerated (covered) for up to 1 week.
  • Freezing Instructions: This cake freezes very well! Once you frost it and let it cool completely, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil and freeze for up to 1 month.
Nutritional values are based on one serving

Nutrition:

Calories: 533kcal
Fat: 26g
Saturated fat: 14g
Cholesterol: 75mg
Sodium: 173mg
Potassium: 126mg
Carbohydrates: 75g
Fiber: 2g
Sugar: 59g
Protein: 4g
Vitamin A: 660%
Vitamin C: 1%
Calcium: 35%
Iron: 2%

Did you make this recipe?

Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!

[Photography by Dee of One Sarcastic Baker]

This recipe was originally published in 2012 but has been revised with the modifications noted in the post above.