They say “Everything’s bigger in Texas”. I haven’t spent much time there, but if they’re talking about the airports, I’d say it’s true. Both the Dallas and Houston airports are huge! I know this because I’ve spent my share of time in each, wandering about and hopelessly lost, as I frantically tried not to miss connecting flights. I’ve even missed one of said connecting flights in Houston because I couldn’t run fast enough, and had to spend the night there, sans toothbrush, and clean undies. Good times!
They could also be referring to that phenomenon called Texas Big Hair. I’ve heard that the women of Texas can spend hours working to achieve that proper, signature volume and precarious hair “altitude”. It is even said that these big hair techniques are as secret as their family bbq recipes, and are often handed down from generation to generation! Fascinating! I’m jealous. I want a secret family big hair recipe too, but no such luck.
Of course, Texas also has George Dubya, and he’s the biggest…. Well, never mind about that.
One thing I can say with certainty that is bigger and better in Texas is chocolate cake – Texas Sheet Cake, to be exact. Oh yeah baby, bring it on!
Also known as Texas brownie cake, Texas brownies or Texas ranch cake, a Texas Sheet Cake is a big old dark, rich, chocolate cake baked in a jelly roll pan and smothered in a warm river of even darker and richer ganache-like chocolate frosting. And, there are about 100,000 toasted pecans swimming in that frosting too. Aside from the fact that this cake probably originated in the Lonestar State, I’m guessing that it also got its name because it’s just about as big as Texas is! Hmmm. Huge, chocolate cake with sinfully, decadent chocolate frosting… Interested? Well, read on!
I’ve been intrigued by the Texas sheet cake ever since the first time I came across one in a newspaper article years ago. Why I never baked one before now, I can’t explain. I always meant to. And, now that I have, I’m kicking myself for waiting so long! But, what’s done is done. So, in honor of the Super Bowl being held this Sunday in the great state of Texas, let’s bake some cake!
The first thing you need to do is toast your pecans. Spread them on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake at 350 F. for about ten minutes. You will smell them when they are ready.
There’s another saying that goes, “Don’t mess with Texas”, and it applies to Texas sheet cake as well. Don’t even think about using some other kind of nut. This is just not done. If you try it, the Texas Sheet Cake police will come and find you and then you’ll be sorry! And, it will be out of my hands.
While your pecans are toasting, melt some butter in a saucepan and add cocoa powder and boiling water. I used hot brewed coffee instead, and I loved the way it turned out.
Stir it up until it is smooth and bring it to a boil.
Whisk all of your dry ingredients together in a big bowl and beat in a few eggs, some buttermilk and vanilla. Don’t ask why chocolate cake recipes always call for vanilla. There must be a reason. Just do it!
Add the butter/cocoa mixture to the bowl and mix it all up.
Pour your batter into a jelly roll pan and bake it for about 20 minutes. This is when you should start making the frosting. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any shots of the whole frosting making/pouring thing because I was all alone and couldn’t maneuver the camera with one hand and hot pots and mixing bowls with the other. I know I need an assistant, but this gig doesn’t pay me enough to hire one.
For this cake to work like it’s supposed to, you have to make sure you pour the hot frosting on top of a warm cake. That’s how the magic happens. Again, don’t ask me why. It just does. The cake turns out light and incredibly rich with a moist and tender crumb, and the hot frosting soaks into the warm cake, making it even more moist and delicious. Total chocolate cake bliss!
I’m told that there are some acceptable tweaks for Texas Sheet Cake. Some of these include adding brewed coffee to the batter (as I have here), adding a little cinnamon and mixing some toffee bits into the frosting. But, that’s about it. I got this on good authority from my friend Marye at Texas Well Seasoned, which is where I also found this recipe. Marye knows what she’s talking about. She’s from Texas.
This cake is indescribably good served warm right out of the pan, but it’s also fabulous chilled. I froze a few pieces to hide save for later and it was great right out of the freezer. It’s a perfect no muss, no fuss delectable treat for Super Bowl Sunday or any old time.
So, tease your hair a little, put on a Willie Nelson album and bake a Texas Sheet Cake, y’all!
Texas Sheet Cake
adapted from Texas Well Seasoned
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup butter
1 cup boiling water or brewed, hot coffee
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Valrhona)
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup full fat buttermilk, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 batch Texas Sheet Cake Frosting (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a jelly roll pan with butter and set aside.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the coffee and the cocoa power and whisk until smooth. Bring to a boil while stirring and remove from heat.
Mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then the buttermilk and vanilla. Add cocoa mixture and stir until smooth.
Pour batter into the prepared jellyroll pan, smoothing it out evenly.
Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and cover the top of the cake with the warm frosting.
Let cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.
Slice cake into squares to serve.
Makes approximately 2 dozen generous servings.
Texas Sheet Cake Frosting
adapted from Texas Well Seasoned
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Again, I used Valrhona.)
1/2 cup butter
3 3/4 – 4 cups of confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups chopped, toasted pecans
Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add the buttermilk and the cocoa. Bring to a boil, stirring until smooth.
Remove from heat and add the sugar, pecans, and vanilla, stirring until well combined.
Immediately spoon warm frosting over warm cake, and gently spread evenly with an offset spatula or butter knife.