This dark chocolate Texas sheet cake is rich and moist and is big enough to feed a crowd, making it ideal for large gatherings.
Right out of college I worked at a small non-profit art museum that ran on a shoe-string budget. We were all overworked and underpaid, but we were a tight-knit group of folks as we had to do the equivalent of three jobs, constantly helping each other out. Deb, the woman in charge of development and fundraising, was a huge foodie, a phrase I had never heard before (this was the early 90s). For the first company potluck picnic I was invited to, she dictated the menu to everyone. I was assigned Texas Sheet Cake, which I also had never heard of. But once I got a recipe from her, I was sold! I’ve made and shared variations of the popular dessert, in the form of Texas Mexican chocolate (Tex-Mex) sheet cake and Texas peppermint sheet cake. But after sharing my original recipe in the book Feed Your People (<- affiliate link), edited by Leslie Jonath a few years ago, I thought I’d finally get around to sharing it here!
What is Texas sheet cake?
Texas sheet cake is a large chocolate cake that is baked in a large-rimmed baking sheet. It’s thin, dense and a little bit fudgy, as if a regular chocolate sheet cake and brownies had a love child. It is topped with a layer of fudgy chocolate icing that is spread while the cake is still warm. This allows it to melt into the cake, giving it more fudgy texture. Finally, traditional Texas sheet cake has pecans sprinkled on top, though walnuts are sometimes used instead.
Because it’s baked on a large half-sheet pan, it’s a popular dessert to bring to potlucks, pitch-ins and large parties because it can serve a crowd. Folks can cut small or large pieces from the sheet cake, stretching it out for more people.
How do you make Texas sheet cake
Making Texas sheet cake is easy, which is why it’s such a popular dessert. Combine the dry ingredients of flour, brown sugar, white sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Combine eggs, egg yolk, sour cream, and vanilla in a different bowl. Finally place chopped dark chocolate, in a large saucepan with oil, hot coffee, cocoa powder and butter. Heat until the chocolate and butter has melted, stirring constantly to make a smooth chocolate sauce.
Mix the chocolate sauce into the dry ingredients, mix in the egg and sour cream mixture into the batter. Pour and spread the batter int a prepared 12 x 17-inch half sheet pan and bake in a preheated oven for 17 to 19 minutes.
While the cake is baking, toast some pecan halves in a dry skillet until fragrant and set aside. Then make the icing by combining butter, cream, cocoa, salt, and corn syrup in a saucepan, stirring until the butter has melted. Add powdered sugar and vanilla to the frosting, stirring until smooth.
Once the cake is baked, while it is still hot, pour the icing over the cake and spread it evenly all over. Sprinkle the toasted pecans over the warm icing, gently pressing them into the icing. Let the cake cool to room temperature before serving from the pan.
What makes this recipe different from other Texas sheet cake?
This is a classic sheet cake but there are a few differences compared to other recipes you’ll find out there. I use extra egg yolks in the batter, which gives a rich moisture to the cake crumb, brewed coffee, which boosts the chocolate flavor, and Dutch-processed cocoa which gives the cake a darker deeper color and mellower nostalgic chocolate flavor. I also use a generous amount of melted dark chocolate in this cake, making this dark chocolate Texas sheet cake ideal for a true chocolate lover.
What sort of pan do you use?
A Texas sheet cake is thinner than a regular typical chocolate sheet cake which is often baked in a 9 x 13 x 2-inch pan (the sort that you bake brownies in). Texas sheet cake requires a 12 x 17 pan, which is often called a “half sheet” pan. Half sheet pans are one of my favorite and most versatile baking pan, one that easily fits in most ovens and allows me to bake everything from my favorite baker-style chocolate chip cookies to soft rye pretzels on them. I actually reviewed half sheet pans for Serious Eats (both regular sheet pans and non-stick sheet pans). My favorite regular sheet pan was by Chicago Metallic and Nordic Ware (<- affiliate links) and my favorite nonstick is by Chicago Metallic (<- also affiliate link). But any half sheet pan will work for this recipe.
What sort of cocoa do you use?
This recipe uses Dutch-processed cocoa, which is a darker colored cocoa that has been alkalized. This means the natural acidity of the cocoa has been altered, creating a smoother, mellow and deeper flavor. Dutch-processed cocoa is also what Oreo cookies are made from. Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa, Droste, Guittard’s Rouge (in the red canister) and Ghiradelli’s are popular brands of Dutch-processed cocoa and can be found in well stocked grocery stores or online.
If you can’t find Dutch-processed cocoa, or don’t feel like buying it, you can swap out an equal amount of natural cocoa powder. Just add an additional 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder to the batter. Realize that substituting natural cocoa powder will alter the flavor and look of the Texas sheet cake and may result in a lighter colored cake that is slightly drier, as natural cocoa powder typically has less cacao butter in it. Higher quality natural cocoa powder retains a higher percentage of cacao butter and will help keep the cake moist.
How do you store it?
This cake stores well. Once completely cooled, cover it with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and store it in the fridge for up to 3 or 4 days. Bring the cake to room temperature before serving. You can also freeze the cake. Just store slices in an airtight container for up to 2 months. Thaw on the countertop before serving. Keep in mind freezing and thawing will create condensation and the icing might be affected.
Can you swap out nuts?
Yes! Pecans are the traditional topping for Texas sheet cake but some folks prefer to use walnuts on top. Just toast the same amount of chopped walnuts like you would pecans and use that on top of the cake. Or swap out a different nut like pistachios, cashews, chopped brazil nuts, or macadamia nuts if you’d like.
Feel free to omit the chopped nut topping if you are allergic to nuts or don’t like them. Or try using the same amount of roasted cacao nibs, which can be found online or at well stocked grocery and health food stores for a nutty texture that is nut free and adds a bonus chocolate intensity.
If you like this Texas Sheet Cake, here are some other chocolate dessert recipes you might like:
- Bakery-Style Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Fudgy Brownies
- Miso Caramel Soy Sauce Brownies
- Neapolitan Cheesecake Brownies
- Guinness Stout Chocolate Bundt Cake
- Double Chocolate Chip Muffins
- Chocolate Banana Bread
- Hot Chocolate Cookies
- Chocolate Salted Caramel Cookies
- Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake
Dark Chocolate Texas Sheet Cake
- 2 cups all-purpose flour 280 g
- 1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar 300 g
- 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar 55 g
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 8 oz dark bittersweet chocolate chopped into 1/4 inch chunks, 225 g
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
- 1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa, sifted 65 g
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter 57 g or 1/2 stick
- 1 cup 115 g pecan halves
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter 115 g or 1 stick
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa, sifted 65 g
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 3 cups powdered sugar sifted, 345 g
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Make the cake by preheating the oven to 350°F. Spray a 12 x 17-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking oil.Place the flour, white sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Using a balloon whisk, vigorously stir the dry ingredients together until they are blended together.
- Place eggs, egg yolks, sour cream and vanilla extract in a small bowl and beat together with a fork until smooth and well blended.
- Place the chopped chocolate, oil, coffee, cocoa powder, and butter together in a medium saucepan. Cook on medium low heat for about 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Pour the chocolate into the dry ingredients bowl and mix with a large silicon spatula to incorporate. Add the sour cream mixture to the bowl and mix to incorporate.
- Pour the batter into the prepared rimmed baking sheet and spread the batter to the edges of the pan, smoothing it out. Bake for 17 to 19 minutes or until a toothpick in the middle of the pan comes out clean. Don’t overbake.
- While the cake is baking, toast the pecans by placing them in a dry skillet and heating the skillet on the stove to medium heat. Cook and toast the pecans, stirring constantly, until they are fragrant and slightly darker in color, about 2 minutes. Set aside.
- Then make the icing by placing the butter, cream, cocoa, sea salt and corn syrup in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the butter has melted and the mixture is smooth. Turn the heat off and stir in the sifted confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract.
- Once the cake has come out of the oven, while it is still hot, immediately pour the icing over the cake and spread it evenly with a small offset spatula (or butter knife) to the edges of the cake, evenly frosting the cake. Sprinkle the pecans over the still warm icing, and gently press down on them to set them in the icing. Let the cake cool to room temperature, about an hour, on a wire rack. Once the icing has set, you can cover it with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge for up to three or four days, but it’s best served in the first couple of days.