Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Tale of Two Sheet Cakes

Sometimes--too often, in fact--my roommate will ask me to go into the kitchen after dinner and make her a chocolate cake. But by the time I am done preparing and serving dinner, I don't usually have the stamina to make an elaborate dessert.

One night recently, she made her usual request, not expecting that I'd comply, but that's when I remembered The Pioneer Woman's much-ballyhooed chocolate sheet cake, known in every other Junior League and church auxiliary cookbook as Texas Sheet Cake or even Texas Brownies.

The beauty of this recipe is that it uses cocoa, not melted chocolate, and because you mix the batter all in one saucepan, and you frost the cake while warm, you can have a freshly-made, from-scratch cake ready to be served in about 45 minutes, start to finish! And OH MY, it is LUSCIOUS and downright SINFUL! Why in the world has it taken me this long to make one? I won't make that mistake again. However, one thing I would advise is to halve this recipe if you're going to make it for just a couple/few folks. As good as it was, I ended up having to give half of it away because it makes a HUGE (half sheet pan) cake!

Texas Sheet Cake
(Source: adapted from The Pioneer Woman)
Yield: 24 servings (or 16...tee hee!)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (heaping) unsweetened cocoa
2 sticks butter
1 cup boiling water (I prefer to use brewed coffee)
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 whole beaten eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup chopped pecans, toasted for a few minutes in a dry skillet
1-3/4 sticks butter
4 heaping tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
6 tablespoons milk (I prefer to use sour cream)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 to 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar (two cups was plenty for me!)

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt. Set aside.

In a saucepan, melt butter. Add cocoa. Whisk together. Add boiling water or coffee. Allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds, then turn off heat. Pour over flour mixture, and stir lightly to cool. (I added the dry ingredients right into the saucepan with no ill effects. Why dirty another bowl unnecessarily?)

In a measuring cup, pour the buttermilk and add beaten eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate mixture. Pour into a sprayed 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan.and bake at 350-degrees for 20 minutes. (If your oven is wonky like mine, be sure to rotate the pan a little before the halfway point.)

While the cake is baking, make the icing. Chop pecans and toast. Melt butter in a saucepan (I like to brown it for extra flavor). Add cocoa, stir to combine, then turn off heat. Add the milk or sour cream, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Whisk together. Add the pecans, stir together, and pour over warm cake.

Let the frosting set up a bit (or chill thoroughly, if you prefer), then cut into even pieces and serve. Store leftovers in the fridge.

As incredible as the chocolate sheet cake is (and I can hear the chocoholics shrieking before I even say this), I am more of a vanilla gal myself. And GUESS WHAT? Some genius at Taste of Home came up with an equally decadent white version. (Note: White Texas Sheet Cake sounds like dessert at a Klan rally. It needs a better name.)

As usual, I had to put a couple of twists on my version (swapping out vanilla for some of the almond extract, and using buttermilk, a touch of maple syrup, and macadamias as well as walnuts in the frosting), but even my chocoholic roommate said, and I quote: "It made the chocolate cake seem so-so by comparison...and I LOVED the chocolate cake!" In fact, I decided to freeze half of this cake rather than part with any. Tee hee.

White Texas Sheet Cake
(Source: adapted from Taste of Home)

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup water
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon almond extract (I cut this back to 1/2 teaspoon and added 1 teaspoon vanilla)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup butter (one stick)
1/4 cup milk (I used buttermilk)
4-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar (I used about three cups)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (I added 1/2 teaspoon vanilla)
*I also added 2 tablespoons Grade B maple syrup, optional
pinch of salt
1 cup chopped walnuts (I only had about 3/4 cup walnuts, so I threw in an additional 3/4 cup macadamia pieces, both toasted in a dry pan)

In a large saucepan, bring butter and water just to a boil. Immediately remove from the heat; stir in the flour, sugar, sour cream, salt, baking powder, extract(s) and baking soda until smooth. Add eggs last and whisk in well.

Pour into a sprayed 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. Bake at 375° for 18-22 minutes (rotating halfway)  until golden brown and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes.

For frosting, in a large saucepan, bring butter and milk just to a boil. Immediately remove from the heat; stir in confectioners' sugar, extract(s), maple syrup (if using), and salt. Stir in toasted walnuts; spread over warm cake. Cool completely before serving. Store in the fridge.

1 comment:

jules said...

ok...this looks and sounds soooo delicious. i wish i would have seen it a few days ago with all the company visiting, but i might just have to make it anyway. your additions sound fabulous. thanks for the recipe and i love your dog pal that Joy Bugaloo?