texas sheet cake

Texas sheet cake

28 February 2014

Texas sheet cake – moist and brownie-like – is one of the few frosted cakes I make, because even I cannot mess it up. Regular frosted cakes are an avalanche of catastrophes for me: layers not cooled enough, frosting pulling off crumbs, me desperately picking out lumps while making a bigger and bigger sticky mess.

But Texas sheet cake is dummy-proof. The cake – which is super simple to make – stays in its pan, so there are no sides to struggle with. The simple frosting, made hot on the stovetop, is poured over the warm cake and spreads with almost no effort, settling in to a smooth finish all by itself.

Sweet and simple, Texas sheet cake is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. And because it stays in its pan, it’s a perfect dessert for transporting to a party.

This is a quick cake to put together. First an easy cake batter with ingredients you likely have on hand, then frosting made in minutes while the thin cake cooks quickly.

The one ingredient you may not have is sour cream, but buttermilk, plain yogurt or even regular milk mixed with a spoonful of vinegar or lemon juice are all perfectly great substitutes.

butter oil cocoa

Melt together butter, oil, cocoa and water.

butter oil cocoa water

Pour into dry ingredients.

hot liquids into dry

I used plain greek yogurt here. Add eggs and vanilla too.

greek yogurt eggs

Spread batter in sheet pan. I used the least-warped of my three sheet pans.

batter sheet pan

In my lazy way, I make frosting in the same pan I used earlier. Similar ingredients as before, this time milk with the butter and cocoa, rather than water and oil.

butter milk cocoa

It’ll look like thick hot chocolate.

frosting base

Add powdered sugar in a couple of batches.

powdered sugar frosting

And mix well with an electric mixer. Hand mixing will leave it too lumpy, so you do need some power here.

beating frosting

I forgot to show it, but here’s a key tip from my friend Jenny, who makes the best Texas sheet cake: use a fork to poke holes in the cake after you take it out of the oven, to allow the hot frosting to seep in.

baked sheet cake

Pour the frosting over, and spread it out evenly with a spatula. I would love it with chopped pecans – you can mix into the frosting or sprinkle on top – but my kids of course like it plain. But according to some, it’s the pecans that make this sheet cake Texan.

frosting sheet cake

Glass of milk optional but highly recommended.

texas sheet cake

Texas Sheet Cake
Moist chocolate cake, with hot chocolate frosting poured on warm – what’s not to love? A casual cake served right out of its pan, it’s the perfect treat for transporting too. This is a recipe that has been around forever, but I’ve added substitutions here for when you don’t have sour cream on hand (I never do).

Cake ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (1/2 teaspoon salt if using unsalted butter)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (or you can use another 1/2 cup butter)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, plain yogurt or buttermilk (or combine 1/2 cup regular milk with 1 teaspoon white vinegar or lemon juice – let sit for a minute before mixing into batter)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Frosting ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter (add 1/4 teaspoon salt if using unsalted butter)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 box (1 pound) confectioners’ sugar, about 4 cups (sift if you want a perfectly smooth frosting)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, optional


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a rimmed baking sheet (a 10″x15″ jelly roll pan is ideal; a 13″x18″ half-sheet pan works but makes a thinner cake). Or if you don’t have a rimmed sheet, use a 9″x13″ baking pan for thicker cake and frosting layers.
  2. In a mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a saucepan, combine butter, oil, water and cocoa. Heat over medium heat, whisking well to combine, until butter melts.
  4. Pour hot mixture into dry ingredients and mix. Add sour cream (or yogurt, or buttermilk), eggs and vanilla. Mix well.
  5. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Use a fork to poke holes into the cake (for frosting to seep in).
  6. Prepare frosting while the cake bakes: Add butter, cocoa and milk to saucepan and heat on medium to melt butter. Remove pan from heat and add vanilla. Add powdered sugar in batches, using an electric mixer to mix frosting well. Pour hot frosting over warm cake, spreading evenly to cover. Sprinkle with chopped pecans, if using (or you can also add pecans to frosting).


  • Sifting the powdered sugar will help make a smoother frosting.
  • This cake is moist enough to make a day before serving.
  • Some like a bit of cinnamon in their Texas sheet cake; add 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon to the frosting if you like.

Here’s the link to a printable version.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa 28 February 2014 at 1:39 pm

YUM! Kevin’s favorite!!! Is this Jenny’s famous recipe???


cg 28 February 2014 at 4:44 pm

you betcha! it’s a classic.


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