Monday, March 22, 2010

don't mess with texas (sheet cake)

Yet another layer of Stephanie for your perusal and enlightenment: I have this not-so-secret love for the South. If I had things my way, I would pick up today and move there. No, I'm serious. In this dream sequence, I'd be walking down the street, spring in my step, and an adorable Southern born-and-bred grandmother would take pity on this poor Yankee and swoop me up in her arms and into her kitchen, where I would proceed to feast on and learn the secrets of making authentically scrumptious biscuits and fried chicken and pecan pie. Then we'd talk deep (the merits of lard vs butter vs shortening, is Real Cornbread necessarily unsweet, chili--beans or no beans? or How many syllables does the word "grits" really contain?) while sitting in rocking chairs on her porch and drinking sweet tea as we played with a giant checker set...whoops, the fantasy just descended into a Cracker Barrel experience. The daydreams can be overwhelming sometimes, but I mean it, I am a really good candidate for Southern living. I could learn to like country music, I'll start talking like y'all, saying "icin'" instead of "frosting" and "dressin'" instead of "stuffing", and I already really, really love butter. If you are at all interested in sponsoring my dream...we should meet up. Seriously.

All earnestness aside, this past week I was faced with a challenge: dessert for 50 men, on the cheap. Cupcakes were immediately eliminated (too cutesy), as were ice cream cookie sandwiches (did them in the fall). After a thorough rifling through recipe files and cookbooks, I saw two good looking chocolate cakes from a book and a blog that I was trying to decide between, but upon closer inspection they (conveniently) seemed to be virtually the same thing: Texas sheet cake.

Of course it was from Texas. Those sassy folks think their state deserves to be its own country (and to which I say...take me with you)! Maybe this is a little audacious to put out there, but if I were in charge of these kinds of things (and let's pray that one day this actually happens), I would grant them independence based on this cake alone, provided I was supplied with a regular collection of Texas sheet cake battered spatulas. It's that good, and even better than good: ain't nothin' dainty or fussy about this cake. Slap it together, pour on the frosting, zero to delicious in 30 minutes! (Well, give it a little longer for the frosting...I mean icin' to set.) Cut yourself a big slice (remember its namesake!), top it with some nice ice cream, and sit in your rocking chair on your porch as you talk deep with your imaginary adopted Southern grandmother. Daydreams are nice and all, but take it from me: this cake is best eaten for real.

(PS...I made 4 of these cakes and I'm still not tired of them. Is that not compelling enough for you?! I'll bring the sweet tea; meet you out back!)

Texas Sheet Cake
(adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks and Homesick Texan)

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
4 heaping tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup boiling water
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350. Find your baking sheet (should have a little lip and be just deep enough for a thin layer of cake). A jelly roll pan or a 13x9 baking pan will also suffice.

Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl.

In another bowl, combine the eggs, buttermilk, baking soda, vanilla, and cinnamon (if you want).

Over medium-low heat, melt the butter on the stove. When it has melted, whisk in the cocoa powder and add the water.

Pour the butter/chocolate mixture over the flour/sugar mixture and stir briefly to cool down the chocolate a little (so it won't scramble the egg mixture). Then pour in the eggs and give the batter a few good stirs with your wooden spoon until smooth.

Pour the batter in your pan of choice, spreading it evenly. Bake for 20 minutes (for a sheet pan) or 30ish minutes (for a 13x9 pan, and I'd also recommend upping the temperature to 375-400 as well if you're using something smaller than a sheet pan). While the cake bakes...icing time!

something between 1 1/3-2 sticks butter (I'd be lying if I said the 2 stick butter icing wasn't superior...because it totally was! Plus there's the thrill of using up an entire pound of butter for a cake. But if in case you wanted to know...yes, you could use less butter, and it'll still come out fine.)
4 heaping tablespoons cocoa powder
6 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon (again, optional)
1 lb. powdered sugar 
3/4-1 cup finely chopped pecans (PEA-cans are the most Southern nut, confirm/deny)

Much like last time...melt the butter over medium-low heat. When it has melted, whisk in the cocoa powder. Add in the milk, vanilla, cinnamon (if you want). Dump in that glorious pile of sugar and whisk some more. Finally, mix in the pecans. (If you don't use nuts for allergy/etc reasons, make sure to whisk the icing extra well, since the nuts help to break up the sugar lumps.)

When the cake is done, immediately pour the dreamy icing over the top of the cake (it should spread itself quite nicely but may require a little extra help from you). Do your best to let the icing set a little. Just a little. That's all the icing asks of you.

Also...I am super happy to announce that next week I Ate Everything will have its first guest blogger! So fun, right? Be nice to her; she'll introduce herself next time as I will be tied up, enduring one of the inescapable joys in life...standardized testing. Completely unfabulous. See you in two weeks!


  1. i love reading your posts.
    anytime you are willing to move to the south, i'll follow.
    i know this great place...

  2. i'll be your surrogate southern granny!!! hahahah i dont know enough about baking and butter to do that.. but I do do do love the south. I love how in Mississippi, when invited into a home they won't ask, "would you like something to drink?" or "would you like a glass of water?" its always, "Can I get you a Coke?" served in glass bottles of course. anyway, those are my grandma's friends, a completely different breed of women. come to the south!!!

  3. aaaaw, yay! I love this post. And I want some of your cake! And I don't even like cake! Well, I like it sometimes, maybe not Chinese cake with rotten fruit in it...anyway! Great post! And I can't wait for your guest blogger, hehe

  4. this post- and that cake- make me want to actually acknowledge my Texas roots... :)

    also, a little time sittin in a porch swing watchin the chillin' frolick in the yard with a icy glass of sweet tea in hand sounds heavenly! Mississippi reunion please?

  5. haha, this is such a great post! I need to get some cookie sheets like that so I can make this recipe, good ol' PW. oh - and I'll join your "moving to the south" support team, especially if it means you'll start liking country music! :) Love you!


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