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Grandma’s old-fashioned Texas sheet cake is a moist chocolate cake baked in a jelly roll pan and smothered with a rich, chocolate fudge frosting. The popular dessert is a crowd-pleasing treat for birthdays, potlucks, or just about any other special occasion!

Front shot of an easy Texas Sheet Cake recipe on a blue and white plate
Table of Contents
  1. Why You’ll Love this Old-Fashioned Texas Sheet Cake Recipe
  2. Why It’s Called a Texas Sheet Cake
  3. The Difference Between Sheet Cake and Regular Cake
  4. Ingredients
  5. How to Make Texas Sheet Cake
  6. Preparation and Storage Tips
  7. Tips for the Best Texas Sheet Cake Recipe
  8. Grandma’s Old Fashioned Texas Sheet Cake Recipe

If you’re looking for even more old-fashioned dessert recipes, be sure to try this Southern bread pudding with bourbon sauce, a decadent cream cheese pound cake, this Watergate cake, an old-fashioned icebox cake, my grandmother’s bourbon balls, too!

Why You’ll Love this Old-Fashioned Texas Sheet Cake Recipe

This old-fashioned Texas sheet cake was the first dish that my mother-in-law served to me when I met her over 20 years ago. I had just started dating Keith when he invited me over for a family cookout to celebrate his birthday. We had grilled chicken on his parents’ deck for supper, but what I really remember is Carole’s Texas chocolate sheet cake. I had never tasted anything quite like it before! It’s been a family favorite for decades, and here’s why:

  • Easy. It’s made from scratch, but it’s really quite simple. You don’t need any special baking skills and you don’t need any fancy equipment for this decadent dessert.
  • Moist and Tender. Buttermilk in the batter yields a unique dense-yet-tender crumb, while the hot chocolate icing covers the cake like a blanket, keeping it moist and rich.
  • Versatile. Serve this cake for just about any occasion — from a Sunday supper with family to a kid’s birthday party or a holiday gathering. You can jazz it up with colored sprinkles, chopped nuts, candles, and cake toppers. There’s even a white vanilla version, too!
  • Make Ahead. This convenient cake can be prepared in advance, which makes it perfect for entertaining guests. No last-minute stress, and the leftovers are very freezer-friendly, too!
Spatula lifting a slice of Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake

Why It’s Called a Texas Sheet Cake

It’s not entirely clear where the name “Texas Sheet Cake” comes from. Some say that the cake gets its name simply because of it’s huge — i.e., the size of Texas. Others claim that it’s because the sheet cake is flamboyantly rich. Finally, another theory suggests that the cake is similar to a recipe submitted to the Dallas Morning News back in 1957, which instantly skyrocketed to fame. And since some Texas Sheet Cake recipes call for buttermilk and pecans, other folks claim that the “Texas-y” ingredients prompted the name.

No matter the origin, one thing is certain: this decadent chocolate cake is loaded with flavor, is big enough to feed a crowd, and is well-loved by both kids and adults.

Mixing batter for Texas Sheet Cake in glass bowl

Texas Sheet Cake Pan Size

This old-fashioned chocolate sheet cake bakes in a 10 x 15-inch jelly roll pan. This is the pan that I use. Some recipes call for even larger pans (such as 18- by 13-inch rimmed baking sheets), so it’s important to make sure that you’re using the correct size pan for this recipe.

Cooling a Texas Sheet Cake in a jelly roll pan

The Difference Between Sheet Cake and Regular Cake

The main difference between a sheet cake and a regular cake is really just the size and shape of the pan used. The term “sheet cake” generally refers to any cake that is baked in a large, shallow sheet pan. Regular cakes are often baked in 9-inch round cake pans and stacked in multiple layers, or in thicker 9 x 13-inch rectangular pans.

Texas Sheet Cake is a made-from-scratch chocolate cake with a unique dense-yet-tender crumb (thanks to the buttermilk in the batter). Unlike most cakes, Texas Sheet Cake is frosted while it’s still hot. The thick, warm chocolate frosting covers the cake like a blanket, keeping it moist and tender. Some recipes call for chopped pecans on top, but Grandma’s recipe does not. It’s a matter of personal preference, so feel free to add the nuts if you like!

Whisking Texas Sheet Cake frosting in a pot

Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for an old-fashioned Texas sheet cake recipe. As always, specific measurements and step-by-step instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Butter: for rich flavor and moisture in both the cake and the icing.
  • Shortening: I use Crisco brand. You can sub with additional butter, but the flavor and texture of the cake will not be quite the same. The shortening causes the batter to puff up a little more, and creates a lighter, softer interior.
  • Water: to thin the batter.
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder: gives the cake and frosting its rich chocolatey flavor.
  • Granulated sugar: to sweeten the cake.
  • All-purpose flour: the base of the batter.
  • Baking soda: the leavening agent that helps the cake rise.
  • Salt: to balance the sweetness and enhance the flavors of the other ingredients.
  • Eggs: for structure.
  • Buttermilk: use thick, whole buttermilk if possible. It’s creamy, tangy, adds moisture to the cake, helps the cake rise by reacting with the baking soda, and yields a tender crumb.
  • Vanilla extract: for extra flavor.
  • Milk: to thin the icing.
  • Confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar): for the icing.
Cooling a Texas Sheet Cake

How to Make Texas Sheet Cake

When you want a really delicious homemade chocolate cake, it’s worth the time and effort to bake this decadent dessert from scratch. The process and the ingredients are simple. Plus, it’s a great make-ahead option that seems to get better as it sits!

You’ll find detailed directions in the recipe card below, but here’s the quick overview:

  • Boil the chocolate mixture on the stovetop.
  • Whisk together the dry ingredients.
  • Pour the hot chocolate mixture over the dry ingredients.
  • Use an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer to combine the batter in a large mixing bowl.
  • Add the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla extract.
  • Pour the batter into a greased jelly roll pan.
  • Bake for about 20 minutes.
  • Mix together the hot Texas sheet cake frosting.
  • Pour the frosting over the hot cake and spread evenly with an off-set spatula.
  • Allow the cake to cool to room temperature before slicing and serving. The frosting will firm up and set — kind of like a fudgy ganache.
Square shot of Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake on a plate with fork

Preparation and Storage Tips

  • Make Ahead: This is a great make-ahead dessert. Bake the cake the day before you plan to serve it.
  • How to Store: Allow the cake to cool, then cover and store at room temperature for up to 5 days. To extend the life of the cake, keep it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks. If your house is particularly warm or humid, the cake is best when stored in the fridge.
  • How to Freeze: Frost the cake, allow it to cool completely, then wrap tightly and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw on the counter for a few hours, then serve!
Overhead image of a table spread with original Texas Sheet Cake

Tips for the Best Texas Sheet Cake Recipe

  • White Texas Sheet Cake: My mother-in-law often tweaks this recipe to make a vanilla version instead (the grandchildren adore it). It includes almond extract and a buttercream frosting! For the full instructions, see this recipe.
  • Add Pecans: Sprinkle about ¾ cup of chopped, toasted pecans on the hot frosting.
  • Decorate the Cake: Add colored sprinkles on top of the hot frosting. This is great for a birthday cake, but you can also tailor the sprinkles for different holidays — orange and black for Halloween, red and green for Christmas, or pink and red for Valentine’s Day.
  • Buttermilk is an important ingredient in this chocolate cake recipe, so do not substitute with regular milk. The acid in the buttermilk helps to keep the cake moist and tender, and also reacts with the baking soda to help the cake rise.
  • Sift the confectioners’ sugar to avoid lumps in the frosting.
Front shot of Grandma's Texas Sheet Cake on a plate with a fork

More Chocolate Cake Recipes to Try

Square side shot of a slice of texas sheet cake on a plate

Grandma’s Old Fashioned Texas Sheet Cake

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Cooling Time 3 hours
Total: 3 hours 40 minutes
Servings 24 people
Calories 263 kcal
This old-fashioned Texas sheet cake is a rich, decadent, and easy chocolate dessert!

Ingredients
  

FOR THE CAKE

FOR THE FROSTING

Instructions

FOR THE CAKE

  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a 10 x 15-inch jelly roll pan and set aside.
  • Place butter, shortening, water, and cocoa powder in a saucepan. Bring to a boil; remove from heat.
    Boiling chocolate mixture for Texas Sheet Cake
  • In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, baking soda and salt. Pour the hot butter mixture over the flour mixture. Use an electric mixer to beat on medium speed for 1 minute.
    Dry ingredients with whisk for Texas Sheet Cake
  • Add eggs, vanilla extract and buttermilk. Beat on medium speed for 1 more minute.
    Mixing batter for Texas Sheet Cake in glass bowl
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Tap on the counter a few times to release air bubbles. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place the cake pan on a wire rack and immediately prepare the frosting. If your cake has a rounded top on it when it comes out of the oven, use your hands, oven mits, or a dish towel to gently press down on the top of the cake to create a flat surface. You need a relatively flat top so that the icing will not run off the sides.
    Cooling a Texas Sheet Cake in a jelly roll pan

FOR THE FROSTING

  • Place butter, cocoa powder and milk in a saucepan. Bring to a boil; remove from heat. Add the sifted confectioners’ sugar and the vanilla extract; beat until smooth.
    Process shot of making frosting for texas sheet cake
  • Pour the hot frosting over the warm cake. Spread evenly, then set the cake on a wire rack to cool completely. The frosting will firm up as it cools. Slice into squares and serve!
    Cooling a Texas Sheet Cake

Notes

  • White Texas Sheet Cake: My mother-in-law often tweaks this recipe to make a vanilla version instead (the grandchildren adore it). It includes almond extract and a buttercream frosting! For the full instructions, see this recipe.
  • Add Pecans: Sprinkle about ¾ cup of chopped, toasted pecans on the hot frosting.
  • Decorate the Cake: Add colored sprinkles on top of the hot frosting. This is great for a birthday cake, but you can also tailor the sprinkles for different holidays — orange and black for Halloween, red and green for Christmas, or pink and red for Valentine’s Day.
  • Buttermilk is an important ingredient in this chocolate cake recipe, so do not substitute with regular milk. The acid in the buttermilk helps to keep the cake moist and tender, and also reacts with the baking soda to help the cake rise.
  • Sift the confectioners’ sugar to avoid lumps in the frosting.

Nutrition

Serving: 1sliceCalories: 263kcalCarbohydrates: 45gProtein: 2gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 25mgSodium: 190mgPotassium: 56mgFiber: 1gSugar: 36gVitamin A: 150IUCalcium: 17mgIron: 1mg
Keyword: old fashioned texas sheet cake, texas chocolate sheet cake, Texas Sheet Cake, texas sheet cake recipe
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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