Chocolate Sheet Cake. My Go-To Dessert

by Min Merrell
chocolate sheet cake

I don’t always make chocolate cake, but when I do, it’s some variation of the Hershey’s cocoa canister recipe and classic old Texas Sheet Cake. I’m usually in a last-minute baking frenzy when I throw this one together, so my “new” recipe never gets written down in the kitchen notebook, unless R.B. is there and asks, “Min, do we need to write anything down?” Finally, I’m recording it here.

Here’s my philosophy. First, I’m a big advocate of the 9 x 13 sheet cake. Easy service and convenience are huge recipe attributes for me. The big fussy layer cake does not embody those attributes. Layer cakes are a challenge to tote and difficult to serve gracefully. So, while a sliver of layer cake quickly descends into an unattractive mess, a square of sheet cake presents as sophisticated and modern. The sheet cake is also much better suited to custom serving sizes. What’s more, it’s easy to indulge in another little square when a second sliver of layer cake is completely out of the question.

Both the Texas Sheet Cake and the Hershey’s canister cake are variations of the old-fashioned recipe made with boiling water, the one that seems like a big mistake when you pour in the hot water, but magically turns out perfectly moist and delicious. The boiling water hydrates the dry cocoa powder and produces a very moist cake. We’ve all endured a crumbly dry piece of cake in our time, so we also know that moistness is key to deliciousness.

I also prefer the tang and richness of buttermilk over regular milk and always use the higher cocoa powder measurement that Hershey’s recommends. The regular Texas Sheet Cake isn’t near chocolately enough, especially for today’s high percentage cocoa taste.

Also, make it super easy by using old-fashioned self-rising flour rather than a combination of all-purpose flour and leavening. I’ll say it again: self-rising flour is the most overlooked and best convenience product of our time. With self-rising in the cupboard there is no reason for all those darn mixes, especially pancake and muffin mixes. You don’t need them. They are not your friends. I hardly ever get out the leavening any more, thanks to SR flour.

You must add a pinch of salt to the icing. It’s flat without it and misses the subtle yin/yang balance that the salt brings. Toast those pecans in the toaster oven for fuller nut flavor. Now, you’ve got your go-to chocolate sheet cake. Next time you need to take a dessert, you say, “Chocolate Sheet Cake! You’re Coming With!”

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