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.
A little over three years ago, my husband and I were preparing to head down to Florida for a two-week trip to his parents’, I made one last stop the night before we left. I went to visit my grandma in the facility she was staying in while she received some physical therapy, which she was hoping would get her strong enough to get back home. She wasn’t sick at all, and aside from some mobility issues, at 91-years old, she was in pretty good shape. But, still. I knew I was going to be gone for two weeks, and I just had this nagging, uneasy feeling about leaving without going to see her for a little bit. I brought Einstein (whom she loved) and we had a nice little visit.
Fast forward two weeks, the morning before we were set to head back home, and I received an early morning phone call from my sister that my grandma had passed away in her sleep the night before. I was upset, but not completely surprised. I had felt that I needed to see her before I left, and I’m so glad that I listened to that intuition. We managed to get on the road not long after receiving the phone call and drove straight through back to Pittsburgh, getting in around 3am.
The next day I was exhausted, emotional, and hungry. As is the case most times there is a death, tons of family and friends dropped off food for my family. Among the fried chicken, roasted chicken, potatoes, deli platters, buns, and cookie trays was this gem. My great aunt had whipped up and sent over a Texas Sheet Cake. I ate some every day – before the viewing, the day of the viewing, the day of the funeral, and for at least a day after. It was amazingly delicious, and it soothed my soul. The day after the funeral, once the out of town family had gone, things were organized, and we could all take a breath, I made it my business to get this recipe from my aunt before I forgot. 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.
Yesterday was my husband’s birthday and we celebrated on Sunday. As I normally do, I asked him what he wanted to eat for dinner and what he’d like for dessert. After a few days of contemplating the decision, he told me he’d like pizza for dinner since it had been months since we had any, and that he narrowed it down to Texas sheet cake and ho ho cake (another big favorite of mine) for dessert, but ultimately chose Texas sheet cake.
I absolutely adore this recipe and was thrilled to have an excuse to make it again, as it had been far too long!
I made a lighter version of a Texas Sheet Cake quite a number of years ago and it quickly became one of my favorite go-to desserts for three primary reasons: (1) It’s very quick to throw together and is essentially a one-pot recipe; (2) The combination of chocolate cake and a fudge-like icing is divine; and (3) You pour hot icing on hot cake, which basically melds them together. The results are phenomenal. The one thing I was missing back then was the addition of nuts to the frosting. I was in the midst of my food allergy saga and sadly had to omit them. My aunt uses walnuts in hers, but I prefer pecans. The previous recipe is good if you are averse to using shortening, but I love the old-school nature of this one and have no such aversion. This cake comes out a bit more moist and fluffier than the other, so a big thumbs up.
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!
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 11x15-inch jelly roll pan.
Place the shortening, water, and cocoa powder in a large pot (at least 4 quarts) and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat and whisk in the flour, sugar, and salt. Whisk well until thoroughly combined. Add the sour cream, eggs, and baking soda, and again whisk until thoroughly combined and batter is smooth.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
When the cake is about 5 minutes from being done, start the icing. In a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the shortening, milk, and cocoa powder to a boil. Remove from the heat and whisk in the powdered sugar and vanilla extract, mixing until smooth. Stir in the chopped nuts.
When you remove the cake from the oven, immediately pour the hot icing over the cake, gently spreading it into an even layer over the cake. Let the icing set for about 30 minutes prior to serving. The cake can be served warm or at room temperature.