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Best Texas Sheet Cake Recipe (+High Altitude Adjustments)

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This Texas Sheet Cake Recipe is the best! Baked in a half sheet pan, it feeds a crowd and is perfect for a potluck! A large, thin cake, slightly chewy and a little dense, the perfect amount of chocolate, with a warm gooey chocolate frosting poured over the warm cake!

image of Texas Chocolate Sheet cake in a silver sheet cake pan, just the corner removed from pan with icing oozing over.

If you are into chocolate desserts, you won’t want to miss these chocolate lovers favorites; like Death By Chocolate Cake (easier than it looks), One Pan Chocolate Fudge Brownies, Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake or pretend to be all healthy with this Chocolate Zucchini Cake.

half sheet cake pan filled with chocolate Best Texas Sheet Cake with floral tea towel in background.

What is a Texas Sheet Cake?

Chocolate sheet cakes are not fussy. The batter comes together so quickly, it bakes in just 20 minutes, you make the frosting while it bakes and pour over the warm cake.

It’s chocolate-y, but not overly so, allowing the slight tang of the buttermilk to shine through. While it’s dense, it’s also rich and has a slight chewy factor.

The easy, cooked chocolate frosting pours on while warm, then sets with a little crust that makes your taste buds scream for more.

Square of frosted Texas Sheet Cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on a bamboo plate with a rustic fork.

Texas Sheet Cake Pioneer Woman

I have been making this Texas Sheet Cake recipe for years, in fact, it’s from one of my favorite cookbook authors and bloggers, the Pioneer Woman. It’s an oldie but such a goodie!

I have definitely made some tweaks to make it work for high altitude, but have no fear you sea level dwellers, I have the original amounts as well.

Recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman.

Why is it called Texas Sheet Cake?

Where’d it get its name? Legend has it, because it’s huge, like the state of Texas.

Others say it’s because it’s dark and rich, like the oil that flows from the ground in Texas.

Still others say it’s because it’s loaded with Texas-y ingredients like buttermilk and pecans or to the fact that the recipe is similar to one submitted to the Dallas Morning News in 1957 that subsequently swept the country. (Source)

Close up shot of a square of the Best Texas Sheet Cake, warm with melting vanilla ice cream on top on a bamboo plate

Regardless of what you call it, Giant Chocolate Sheet Cake or Texas Sheet Cake or the “Get-in-my-mouth-now” cake — I don’t really care, but you and your loved ones will care very much when they sink their teeth into this rich, slightly chewy, chocolatey cake.

HIGH ALTITUDE AND SEA LEVEL sheet cake INGREDIENTS

  • all-purpose flour | I use organic unbleached all purpose flour
  • granulated sugar | I use all natural cane sugar, but you can replace it with white sugar
  • light brown sugar | this is my addition, to add a bit more of a molasses taste and a bit more chewiness
  • salt
  • cocoa powder | use whatever kind you have, I love Rodelle’s Dutch Process Cocoa Powder
  • butter | the real deal please, my mantra “If it’s soft coming out of the fridge, it’s not real butter” no oil blends
  • boiling water | does a little sciencey magic thing with the cocoa
  • buttermilk | No buttermilk? No problem, see my handy substitutions chart for this and many other baking ingredients substitutions.
  • eggs | provides the lovely lift and lightness to the cake
  • baking soda | Make sure it’s fresh and not out of date
  • vanilla extract | I always put a little extra in and homemade vanilla is the BEST!

Cooked Chocolate Frosting Ingredients

Texas sheet cake frosting is the bomb, you don’t even need to wash your pan from the cake! Simply toss your ingredients into the same pan, melt, stir, whisk until smooth!

  • butter | see above so there isn’t any gnashing of teeth happening 🙂
  • cocoa powder | same kind you used in the cake
  • milk| but you can also substitute half and half or heavy cream as well
  • vanilla | the best flavor in the world, nothing “plain” about it!
  • powdered sugar | also called confectioners sugar, the powdery white sugar!
  • mini chocolate chips | optional, but they add a nice touch
  • chopped pecans | optional again, my son has tree nut allergies, sadly I cannot use them, but they are yummy!
Image of the Best Texas Sheet Cake in half sheet pan, spreading on warm frosting with a spatula.

What Size Pan is used to make the Best Texas Sheet Cake?

A full sheet pan is 18″ x 26″ which is enormous and most of us don’t have ovens large enough to fit one.

So technically speaking, what we are using is a half sheet pan which is 18″ x 13″, also called a baking sheet, but what I commonly use as a cookie sheet and have four or five in my kitchen.

A 10×15 inch jelly roll pan or a 9×13 baking pan will both work. You will need to adjust the baking times since both pans are smaller and will take longer for the cake to bake through.

Bake until the cake springs back when lightly touched or there are only fine crumbs on a toothpick when inserted.

Slice pulled from the Best Texas Sheet cake on a plate with vanilla ice cream, with image of the corner removed from the sheet cake pan and warm chocolate frosting oozing down onto the sheet pan.

HIGH ALTITUDE CAKE BAKING TIPS

Cakes can be finicky at normal altitudes, but the higher the altitude the more testy they become, here are my tips for high altitude baking, sometimes you need to try a recipe few times to figure out the best for your oven and altitude.

  • Decrease the double-acting baking powder or baking soda by one-quarter to one-half teaspoon for every teaspoon called for in the recipe, and add an extra egg, but do not over beat the eggs.
  • Decrease the sugar two to three tablespoons for each cup in the recipe.
  • Increase the liquid by three to four tablespoons for each cup liquid indicated.
  • Increase the flour by one to two tablespoons for each cup called for. Increase the baking temperature about 25 degrees.
  • Be sure to grease your pan extremely well and only fill ½ full as cakes like to stick more at altitude and will tend to rise quicker.
  • Use an oven thermometer to make sure your oven is heating at the correct temperature.

TFC TIP | Remember ovens vary significantly in temperatures, it’s okay to check early to make sure they aren’t baking too fast. I highly suggest purchasing an oven thermometer and if necessary increase or decrease oven temp until you get desired results.

How Many Servings Does It Make?

  • 13″ x 18″ baking sheet or half sheet pan and are cutting the cake into 2×2″ slices, you will have 59 slices
  • 2 x 3″ slices will yield about 39 servings
  • Slicing into 3 x 3″ slices you will get about 24 servings! Slice it anyway you like it!

Do I need to refrigerate my sheet cake?

If not eating within 2-3 days, then yes, I would recommend refrigerating, but be sure to cover well with plastic wrap. Otherwise it should be fine covered on the counter.

I have yet to have much, if any of this delectable cake leftover after a gathering. In fact, I made it for the 4th of July potluck and people came back for seconds and thirds! It’s that yummy!

  • Half Sheet Pan or Baking Sheet (as mentioned above, you can also use a jelly roll pan or 9×13″ pan as well, just bake it longer)
  • Mixing Bowl | This is my favorite mixing bowl, it’s great for dry goods as well as batters as it has a cover and a spout for pouring, plus handy measuring marks on the side.
  • Measuring Spoons | these are my new favorites, I love that they stack and nest, love that they have a round and narrow side for easily fitting into spice bottles and they are magnetic as well!
  • Silicone Spatula | I love these Tovolo silicone wood handled spatulas, sturdy wood handles, BPA free silicone, plus how cute that they have state inspired designs!
  • Off Set Spatula | Ideal for spreading the batter in the pan as well as th frosting over the warm cake!
  • Whisk | A solid stainless steel whisk is the best for whipping your frosting into smooth, creamy, deliciousness!
  • Serving Spatula | I love this mini spatula for getting into tight fitting cake pan corners, lifting out the perfect slice of cake or brownie.

Can you Make Texas Sheet Cake Ahead of Time?

While the beauty of this cake is eating it warm from the oven, it still tastes great the next day — just be sure to cover tightly with plastic wrap and keep on the counter.

If you want to serve it warm heat your oven to 200 degrees F and pop the cake (icing and all) into the oven for about 15 minutes.

Lastly, we think this cake is best warm with a generous scoop of Old-Fashioned Vanilla Bean Ice Cream or chocolate ice cream!!

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Yield: 24-39 Servings

Best Texas Sheet Cake

image of Texas Chocolate Sheet cake in a silver sheet cake pan, just the corner removed from pan with icing oozing over.

This Texas Sheet Cake Recipe is the best! Baked in a half sheet pan, it feeds a crowd and is perfect for a potluck! A large thin cake, slightly chewy and a little dense with a warm gooey chocolate frosting poured over the warm cake!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (2 ½ cups high altitude)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar | I use all natural cane sugar (2 tablespoons less for high altitude)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed (2 tablespoons less for high altitude)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4-6 tablespoons cocoa powder (heaping if darker cake desired) regular unsweetened cocoa powder or Dutch Processed Cocoa powder
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk* (see notes for buttermilk substitutions)
  • 2 whole eggs, beaten (high altitude add 1 egg yolk, beaten)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda (decrease ½ teaspoon high altitude)
  • 1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the Frosting

  • 1 ¾ sticks butter
  • 4-5 tablespoons cocoa powder (heaping and more for darker chocolate)
  • 6 tablespoons milk (cream or half and half may be used too)
  • 1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ cup pecans, finely chopped (optional)
  • ¼ cup mini chocolate chips (optional)

Instructions

For the Texas Sheet Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (375°F for high altitude).
  2. In a mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, brown sugar and salt.
  3. In a medium saucepan, melt butter then add cocoa powder, stirring together until mixed. Add boiling water and allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds, then remove from heat.
  4. Pour over flour mixture, mixing lightly to cool.
  5. In a 1 cup measuring cup, pour in buttermilk, beaten eggs, baking soda and vanilla. Stir to combine. Pour into butter/cocoa/flour mixture, whisking until just combined and only a few lumps remain.
  6. Pour into sprayed half sheet pan (13 x 18") and bake at 350° F (375 for high altitude) for 20-25 minutes until it springs back lightly when touched. See notes for baking in different sized pans. Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes before pouring on frosting.

Frosting

  1. About 10 minutes into baking time, start making the frosting.
  2. Using the same saucepan you made the cake batter in, melt butter over medium-low heat. Stir in cocoa powder to combine, remove from heat. Add powdered sugar, vanilla and milk stirring together until combined, then whisk until smooth.
  3. If desired, add pecans to the frosting directly, mixing to combine or sprinkle over the top of cake after frosting.
  4. Remove cake from oven and allow to cool 5 minutes on cooling rack, whisk frosting one more time, adding a bit of milk if it's too thick, it should be pourable and still warm. Pour warm frosting over warm cake, spreading with spatula until covered.
  5. Serve warm or room temperature with or without a scoop of vanilla or chocolate ice cream.

Store leftover cake in airtight container or covered with plastic wrap for up to 3 days. May be refrigerated up to 7 days.

Notes

*Buttermilk Substitutes | Mix one tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice into a scant 1 cup milk, stir and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes before using. You may also substitute sour cream for buttermilk, or even try plain Greek yogurt.

No half sheet pan? Cake may be baked in a 13x9" or 10x15" jelly roll pan. They will need to bake longer about 23-25 minutes until top springs back when lightly touched or when toothpick inserted comes out with a few crumbs. Do not overbake!

Notes about high altitude baking

Cakes can be finicky at normal altitudes, but the higher the altitude the more testy they become, here are my tips for high altitude baking, sometimes you need to try a few times to figure out the best for your oven.

  • Decrease the double-acting baking powder or baking soda by one-quarter to one-half teaspoon for every teaspoon called for in the recipe, and add an extra egg, but do not overbeat the eggs.
  • Decrease the sugar two to three tablespoons for each cup in the recipe.
  • Increase the liquid by three to four tablespoons for each cup liquid indicated.
  • Increase the flour by one to two tablespoons for each cup called for. Increase the baking temperature about 25 degrees.
  • Be sure to grease your pan extremely well and only fill ½ full as cakes like to stick more at altitude and will tend to rise quicker.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

39

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 217Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 33mgSodium: 146mgCarbohydrates: 30gFiber: 1gSugar: 23gProtein: 2g

The nutritional information is estimated and may not be entirely accurate, at times it pulls information for suggestions and options which may increase calories, etc. Nutritional information will change based on used ingredients, quantities used, etc.

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Tasia ~ two sugar bugs

Monday 20th of July 2020

This cake looks so insanely delicious Kathleen! My family will love this one!

Kathleen

Monday 20th of July 2020

Thanks Tasia, your family and your extended family! :-)

Kimberly Lefever

Friday 17th of July 2020

This is a childhood favorite of mine, love this recipe!

Kathleen

Saturday 18th of July 2020

Thanks Kimberly!!

Bob

Friday 17th of July 2020

Ya, I’ve had this and its all Kathleen says about it...only BETTER!

Kathleen

Saturday 18th of July 2020

Shucks, thank you kindly Bob!!

Old Fashioned Homemade Chocolate Ice Cream • The Fresh Cooky

Thursday 16th of July 2020

[…] find this Mile High Mud Pie in our freezer anytime of year. And if you are into chocolate, try this Texas Sheet Cake, or Copycat Nothing Bundt Cake Chocolate Chip […]

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