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Texas Sheet Cake



Chocolate cake baked in a sheet pan covered in chocolate ganache and topped with chopped walnuts.
Photo by Travis Rainey, Food Styling by Rebecca Jurkevich

When time is tight and you need something to feed a crowd at a picnic, potluck, or bake sale, this Texas sheet cake recipe is the answer. The fudgy single-layer cake gets its lush crumb from melted butter and a tangy boost from buttermilk. The genius of the recipe is in its timing: Right after you remove the pan from the oven, you’ll pour the liquid chocolate frosting on top of the warm cake, then sprinkle toasted nuts all over (chopped pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, or almonds are all delicious options). The frosting melts slightly into the cake as it sets, eventually cooling into a fudge-like topping.

The cake calls for two types of cocoa powder: natural and Dutch-process. While you could use natural cocoa for both cake and frosting, Dutch-process cocoa powder will give the frosting a richer color and deep chocolate flavor. Don’t swap the opposite way, though; the cake needs the acidity present in natural cocoa to rise properly.

While some say, “Don’t mess with Texas,” this chocolate sheet cake can take a few licks: Substitute coffee for the hot water, or use ¼ cup each of sour cream and water instead of buttermilk. Swap in ½ cup of brown sugar for toasty notes or almond extract for one of the teaspoons of vanilla. If you don’t have a jelly roll pan, use two quarter-sheet pans or two 9" round cake pans (you could even turn them into a layer cake if you went this route). Dust your Texas sheet cake with powdered sugar or cocoa powder right before you serve, or go for broke and add a scoop of ice cream.

This recipe was adapted for style from ‘Vintage Cakes’ by Julie Richardson. Buy the full book on Amazon.

Recipe information

  • Total Time

    50 minutes plus cooking

  • Yield

    24–30 servings



1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
½ cup (1¾ oz.) unsweetened natural cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
3 Tbsp. canola oil
2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. fine sea salt
2 large eggs
½ cup buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Frosting and assembly

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
¼ cup (1 oz.) unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-process
⅓ cup whole milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups (339 g) sifted powdered sugar
½ cup toasted chopped nuts (such as walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts)


  1. Cake

    Step 1

    Place a rack in center of oven; preheat oven to 375°F. Grease 15x10x2" baking pan with unsalted butter.

    Step 2

    Melt 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in ½ cup (1¾ oz.) cocoa powder. Add 3 Tbsp. canola oil and 1 cup water and bring to a boil; boil for 30 seconds. Let cool slightly.

    Step 3

    Meanwhile, sift together 2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour, 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar, 1 tsp. baking soda, and ½ tsp. fine sea salt into a large bowl, then whisk to combine. Pour warm cocoa mixture into flour mixture and whisk until just combined.

    Step 4

    In a small bowl, whisk together 2 large eggs, ½ cup buttermilk, and 2 tsp. vanilla extract. With a rubber spatula, stir egg mixture into batter. Pour cake batter into greased pan. Bake cake until top is firm and a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 32–35 minutes.

  2. Frosting and assembly

    Step 5

    Melt ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in ¼ cup (1 oz.) cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process, and bring to a boil; boil for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and whisk in ⅓ cup whole milk and 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract. Add 3 cups (339 g) sifted powdered sugar 1 cup at a time while whisking until combined.

    Step 6

    Immediately after cake comes out of oven, pour frosting over. Sprinkle with ½ cup toasted chopped nuts (such as walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts). Try not to jiggle the cake before it sets or there will be waves in the frosting. Let cool before cutting into squares.

    Do Ahead: Cake can be made 5 days ahead. Tightly wrap in plastic and store at room temperature.

    Photo by Travis Rainey, Food Styling by Rebecca Jurkevich

    Editor’s note: This Texas sheet cake recipe first appeared on Epicurious in August 2012. Head this way for more of our best birthday cakes

Cover of the cookbook Vintage Cakes featuring a layer cake iced with pale pink frosting.
Reprinted with permission from Vintage Cakes: by Julie Richardson. Copyright © 2012 by Julie Richardson. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Buy the full book at Amazon or Bookshop.
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  • So I have heard about the Texas Sheet Cake for a while. And I figured that since I heart epicurious, that I would take a gamble and make a recipe that noone had reviewed. I made this for a work party at my bosses home. It was great! Although, people and kids alike kept referring to it as brownies;) The recipe was really easy to make. The only issue I had, I guess when I poured it into the pan I must have poured it unevenly because after it was baked one side was significantly higher than the other and it had nothing to do with raising/falling. Also note that I have not noticed that my oven runs hot but I set the timer for the minimum amount of time and after peering into the over 6 minutes early, it looked done and actually tested done too. So I pulled it out of the oven. Moral of the story: I would watch it when you make it because part of the joy of the cake is that it is so moist. And overcooking it would be no good. To prevent the frosting from wrinkling, I propped up the lower side with kitchen towels as the frosting was cooling. It was still wrinkling but as it was cooling, several time I smoothed it with a spatula and it removed the wrinkles and they did not reappear. YAY:) It cut and presented great! it was moist, and chocolately but not overly rich which could lend itself to eating more than a few pieces. Overall, I would make this recipe again for a big get together. The kids liked it. The adults liked it. My boyfriend that prefers savory liked it. As for myself, I prefer sweets and I liked it. Overall, a solid recipe that next time I make it I will try and even out the batter a little better. This is a solid 3-3.5 star recipe. Not 4 stars because it was a good chocolate cake but not a a great memorable chocolate cake that I will remember for years. You should totally try it. Texas obviously know how to do sheet cake!

    • Anonymous

    • Durham, NC

    • 8/26/2012

  • I've been making this cake for years. It is my all time favorite sheet cake. I give it at least 4 stars and would do 5 if possible. If you want to take it up a notch, add a heaping teaspoon of instant coffee to the water before you add it to the cocoa mixture. You can make this into cupcakes or an 8" layer cake as well.

    • JanForret1

    • Florida

    • 12/13/2014

  • I don't usually write reviews, but this one calls for it. No, I haven't made it, and I won't, for the simple reason that I have no idea what measurements to use. 1 cup of butter is 16oz, since one stick=1/2 cup=8oz. 1 3/4 oz is about .2 of a cup, and 2oz = 1/4cup. And it goes on and on in this recipe. Please check before publishing - I never expected it from Epicurious. Garbage!

    • divaLL

    • Fayetteville, NY

    • 12/13/2014

  • I have been making this cake for over 25 years. This is my family's all time favorite cake. It's like a combination of a moist cake and brownie. Every time I fix this cake for a function I end up with a vast amount of people asking for the recipe. If you like chocolate, this is a must. Super easy too.

    • RovingWino

    • Murrieta, CA

    • 12/13/2014

  • DivaLL - 1 cup of butter is NOT 16 oz (1 lb): 1 cup of butter is 8 oz., so I/2 cup butter is indeed 4 oz., or 8 T, and equals 1 stick. If you are unhappy with the given weights, use the given volume amounts. Next time, please add a helpful, accurate comment AFTER making the actual recipe. This one is excellent.

    • tputnam

    • Massachusetts

    • 12/13/2014

  • Sounds delicious and I want to make it but a little confused about the frosting part. Do I keep cake in pan for the pour over? If yes how do you remove from pan after the "frosting"? Maybe I'm overthinking but would appreciate some help.

    • VivienB

    • Miami, FL

    • 5/20/2015

  • Terrific and easy. I like to bake fancy cakes, but sometimes I am in a hurry. But this cake is rich and light and very chocolatey. I made three small changes: 1) substituted coconut oil for canola oil, 2) used dark coffee for the water, 3) reduced the sugar to 1 1/2 cups -- which was plenty. It got rave reviews.

    • HurricaneCook

    • 2/1/2016

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