You are going to wonder where this Old Fashioned Buttermilk Texas Sheet Cake has been all of your life. This post is in loving memory of my Aunt Rita who introduced this recipe to our family.
This 1950’s classic is worth a resurrection. Ridiculously easy, this all-the-way-from-scratch cake is a thin slice of ultra-moist, fudgy heaven!
What makes this unassuming looking piece of cake so special?
Three things. Buttermilk, butter, and the hot drizzly glaze unlike any you have ever had before.
These classic farm ingredients form an ultra moist cake. The frosting/glaze/icing, or whichever you choose to name it, is poured on the hot cake and seeps into the crumb. The glaze has a delightful, crackly finish after it dries a bit, and the cake is deep, rich fudgy decadence. If you have never had an Old Fashioned Buttermilk Texas Sheet Cake, it’s not quite like any cake you have ever tried before.
Where does Texas Sheet Cake come from?
Well, the obvious answer is Texas, but from what I’ve been able to find, it was first submitted to a Dallas newspaper in 1957 featuring German’s Sweet Chocolate, a sweet, dark baking chocolate developed in 1852 by Sam German, a worker at the Baker chocolate factory in Massachusetts. The recipe then swept the country, and actually remains pretty consistent to this day with few substitutions.
For me, this recipe was always known in our family as Great Aunt Rita’s Texas Sheet Cake. I may have mentioned that our family cooks. And by that I mean, there are literally two family created cookbooks floating around and family reunions have original written recipes from the Great Depression on display. My Aunt recently passed away and since this was one of her signature desserts, I felt it would be the perfect time to share it.
How to make Old Fashioned Buttermilk Texas Sheet Cake
Start by combining butter, water, and unsweetened dutch pressed cocoa powder in a small sauce pan. Bring it to a boil, whisk, and then let it cool for a few minutes off the heat.
In a medium mixing bowl, sift or whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and a smidge of cinnamon.
Add the hot cocoa mixture to the dry ingredients, stir, and then add lightly beaten eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. Stir everything together and pour into a buttered cookie sheet, sometimes called a jelly roll pan, to bake.
If your oven racks do not sit perfectly level, this very thin cake is the recipe that it will be noticed in. I used a cast iron trivet to slightly lift an edge of the cookie sheet so that the cake would cook evenly and be the same thickness throughout.
While the cake cooks, and it only takes about 15-20 minutes, use the same sauce pan as before to make the glaze. Bring to a boil more butter, cocoa powder, and buttermilk. Remove from the heat and whisk in vanilla and powdered sugar.
After the cake is finished cooking, pour the hot glaze over the top of the hot cake, spread it out evenly with a spatula, and let it cool. The glaze covered spatula is a particularly coveted tool in our house as seen by the patiently waiting 6 year old in the photo above.
If you like nuts on your cake, stir in a cup of TOASTED, chopped pecans into your glaze before you drizzle on the cake.
A few notes about cocoa: Which one do I choose?
I am an admitted recipe tinkerer. I’m somehow incapable of following exact directions and always think I can improve on a recipe. This recipe is pretty perfect as is. That being said, I reduced the amount of cinnamon and upped the cocoa a bit in the cake. I also really like the taste of dark cocoa found in dutch processed cocoa for this recipe. What is dutch processed or dark cocoa you might ask? The difference is in the amount of acidity in the cocoa and how it is processed. Dutch processed has been washed in a potassium solution that neutralizes some of the acidity and give it the stunning dark color and depth of flavor. Think oreos. For more details between the two, check out this article by Joy the Baker or for more technical detail, the one by Cook’s Illustrated.
The long and the short of it is this. Regular cocoa is great and is the traditional choice and is always paired with baking soda for a fantastic result. For a deeper, fudgier flavor, try the dutch processed cocoa and use baking powder as in the recipe card below.
A scoop of vanilla bean ice cream or a dab of fresh whipped cream are delightful accompaniments if you desire.
If you have tried this, leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!
Old Fashioned Buttermilk Texas Sheet Cake
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup water
- 6 tablespoons dutch processed cocoa powder
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 eggs – lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup butter
- 4 tablespoons dutch processed chocolate cocoa
- 6 tablespoon buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a 18" x 13" cookie sheet.
- Combine the butter, water, and cocoa powder in a medium saucepan on a medium heat until until the mixture comes to a boil.
- Remove from the heat and cool for 5 minutes.
- In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
- Stir the hot butter and cocoa mixture into to the dry ingredients.
- Add the lightly beaten eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla and mix until everything is combined.
- Pour batter into the buttered cookie sheet.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- While the cake is baking, melt the butter, cocoa, and buttermilk for the glaze in the saucepan used earlier on a medium heat.
- Bring to a boil and remove from the heat.
- Add the vanilla and powdered sugar and whisk to combine.
- When the cake is finished baking, remove from the oven and pour the hot glaze on the hot cake.
- Cool to room temperature and cut into slices.
- A slightly smaller cookie sheet may be used, but the bake time may be a few minutes longer, as the cake will be thicker.
- Standard, unsweetened baking cocoa may be substituted, but use 1 teaspoon of baking soda in place of the baking powder.