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.
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!
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).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 10x15-inch jelly roll pan.
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.
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.
Pour into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs attached, 18 to 22 minutes.
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.
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.
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.