Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Texas Sheet Cake

I'm still not done with last week, because on Saturday there was Texas Sheet Cake for Sunday's church pot luck dinner. It deserves mention, at least in this little life of mine.

When the church secretary said to make plenty of food to provide for the guests invited to our 125th anniversary celebration, the first dessert that came to my mind was Texas Sheet Cake. I've learned to go with my instincts rather than flustering myself with over thinking, so that was that.

Now, I haven't made one of these in years. When I was enthusiastically licking the icing remnants off the spatula I wondered why. Here's what's to love about Texas Sheet Cake.

  • It's big--great if you need to feed a large family or a crowd
  • It's chocolate--my favorite, always and forever, amen. But not so chocolatey and rich that you almost choke before the piece is gone. I've uncharacteristically thought "I could eat another one" after every piece. But I haven't.
  • The icing--a light fudgey layer. Since it goes hot onto the hot cake, there's a gorgeous thin melty line that makes me melt, too. And no waiting for the cake to cool before icing it means that dessert is done in one pass. Perfect for the Lazy Chef.
  • It's easy--no fussy creaming step that must be gotten just right or the cake won't work.
  • It uses all pantry and fridge staples--no extra ingredients to buy. I could make one anytime. If I had some help to eat it, that is. Ah, but there's the freezer, where part of our leavings rest now. We'll see how that works. *(UPDATE: It works beautifully.)
  • It's as easy to eat as it is to make--no fork required when baked in a 12 x 18 half sheet pan. Then again, you could bake it in a 9 x 13 pan and have honest to goodness cake. I love versatility.
My husband is mystified as to why I'm loving this cake so much. Frankly, I don't have a ready answer. It just works for me right now. Maybe tomorrow I'll be in love with butterscotch pie all over again, since that's what I'm making right now for tomorrow's Thanksgiving feast. This could be another good food week at the barn.

By the way, the recipe I chose to follow was in one of my Cooking Light yearbooks, but there was no appreciable difference between their version and those not claiming to be lightened. (Texas Sheet Cake must be practically healthy!) The only variable I could find was a little less butter in the icing. Believe me when I say that you will not miss it. I did depart from their instructions when adding the pecans. I studded the top with them instead of folding them into the icing, just because I thought it would be prettier. And I used a bigger pan than they called for. I also skipped the cinnamon because I wanted just chocolatey goodness this time. and reduced the vanilla in the icing because I just didn't see the need for more than a teaspoon. It wasn't missed either.

Well, apparently I've made enough changes that I'd better just record my version here for you. If you need something big and chocolicious, and if you keep nothing more unusual than buttermilk in your larder, make yourself a Texas Sheet Cake and call in the neighbors. Or just pull down the shades, and no one will know.

Texas Sheet Cake

Serves: 12 to 20 (Depends on how you cut it, now doesn't it!)

Cooking spray
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

6 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup milk

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cups pecans, toasted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To prepare cake, coat a 12 x 18 half sheet pan with cooking spray and dust with the 2 teaspoons flour. You could also use a 10 x 15 jelly roll pan or a 9 x 13 pan, but cooking times will have to be adjusted up.

Combine the 2 cups flour and the next four ingredients in a large bowl, preferably of your KitchenAid stand mixer, if you are so blessed. Stir well with a whisk or let the mixer go for a bit.

Combine water, 1/2 cup butter, and 1/4 cup cocoa in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. OR use my cheater method: combine them in a microwave safe glass measuring cup and heat on high until boiling, about 3 1/2 minutes. Whisk briskly and pour into the flour mixture. Beat with a mixer (of some kind) at medium speed until well blended. Add buttermilk and eggs. Beat well. Pour the batter into your prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or longer if you're using a smaller pan and therefore have thicker batter. Whatever the pan size, when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, it's done.
To make the icing, combine the 6 tablespoons butter, milk, and the other 1/4 cup cocoa in a medium saucepan. No vessel cheating possible here. This is old fashioned goodness that requires the stove. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat.

Gradually stir in the powdered sugar and vanilla. Stir in the pecans at this point if you want them enrobed with icing. Spread over the hot cake. You'll need to work with moderate speed, since it sets up fairly quickly. Scatter the pecans now if you're top dressing. You may need to press on them ever-so-lightly to embed them in the icing that is quickly becoming fudge's cousin. Cool completely on a rack.

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