A Texas Sheet Cake is a big, low cake that is essentially a single-layer version of a German Chocolate Cake, with a simplified cake batter, and simplified presentation. It’s a cake you can make for a crowd in under an hour, from start to ready to go out the door.
The cake is dense, fudgy, rich and moist, with creamy, thick, shiny icing.
Texas Sheet Cake is generally made in half-sheet or jelly-roll pans, about 9 x 13 inch (23 x 33 cm.) You serve the cake straight from the cake pan. You can buy the pans with plastic lids that fit on them, to make the finished cakes easier to transport and to keep flies off at picnics. Tip: tape your name to the bottom of your cake pan before you even start, because if you are going to be taking the cake anywhere, you are going to take it in the cake pan.
The cake only needs about 20 to 25 minutes to bake.
The icing, which has pecans in it, is a “boiled icing.” You have to pour the icing on while the cake is still hot, and it basically spreads itself.
Some recipes now call for some cinnamon in the cake batter, and many people think of the cinnamon as essential to the cake, but not many of the earliest printed recipes included it.
Literature & Lore
“The following [entrants in the News-Record recipe contest] received honorable mention: Mrs. Anthony Plesnick, Madison Drive, Zelienople, Texas Sheet Cake.” — The Winners. News-Record Cook Book. 27 May 1970. Page 2.
Below is a 1971 recipe for Texas Sheet Cake:
Bake together: [Ed.: sic. should have read “boil together”]
1 cup water
4 tbsp. cocoa
2 sticks oleo
Remove from heat and add:
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp. baking powder
Bake on a cookie sheet 15 x 10 x 1 [Ed.: inches] at 350 degrees for 15 min.
1 stick oleo
6 tbsp. milk
4 tbsp. cocoa (bring to a boil)
Remove from heat and pour over 1 box powdered sugar. Beat for 10 min. or until smooth. Add 3 tsp. vanilla and 1 cup chopped nuts. Pour over cake while still warm. — Vandermer, Mrs Ronald. Novel ideas make holiday treats. Monessen, Pennsylvania. The Valley Independent. Friday, 19 November 1971. Page 5-A.
Not everyone in Texas has even heard of it by name (as of 2006), though they’ve seen it at many potlucks or in church recipe books. They might have heard it called “Chocolate Sheet Cake.”
Texas Sheet Cake is sometimes called “Texas Sheath Cake.”
Some say whatever it’s called, they’re sick of it.