This is the absolute best chocolate cake. Quite honestly, it’s the only one you really need. This cake is most typically eaten sheet-cake style. In other words, it’s baked in a large tray bake/cookie sheet or 9×13-inch baking pan, making it the perfect crowd pleasing (and crowd feeding) cake. With it’s roots in Texas, it has to be big!
There are many aspects of this famous cake that set it apart from other chocolate cakes. The first being it’s ease to make. The chocolate, in both the cake and the frosting, come from cocoa powder. That in itself makes it easier because you skip the process of chopping chocolate and melting it down. Even more so than that though, the wet ingredients in the cake and the frosting are made hot on the stove top. So you’re not working with any Kitchenaid or electric hand mixer, nor are you beating together butter and sugar and watching flour fly around your kitchen. It’s all very Grandmother-ly in it’s roots. A simple cake that’s stress free to make. It’s one of those cakes that slow time back down and make you focus on the present.
It’s other differentiator is the sweet factor. Typically, when I think of a chocolate cake, the first thing that comes to mind is something like a chocolate lava cake or Moelleux au Chocolat (Molten Chocolate Cake). In general, rich, dark, often oozing with chocolate. A chocolate cake so intensely chocolate-y that I can’t eat a piece of it without having vanilla ice cream (or whipped cream) to lighten it. So, this cake is actually not like that at all. It’s much sweeter than your typical chocolate cake that you can only eat one bite of. Neither ice cream nor whipped cream is needed as an accompaniment. The chocolate sponge cake is definitely chocolate, but it’s light and not thirst invoking. It’s more like a birthday cake or any other sheet cake for its texture. And the secret to it’s wonderful flavor and texture is the buttermilk (and shortening) used in the actual cake. This produces a cake that you will absolutely receive compliments. For whatever it’s worth, I guarantee it. In fact, I’ve never made this for anyone and NOT heard incredible feedback. Even from those you typically prefer the richer chocolate cakes. I think it’s just the perfect combination of ingredients that illicit chemical happy responses in the human brain.
The last differentiator is the frosting. Oh, the frosting. Actually this is probably what is really triggering the chemicals in the brain. I mean, it’s just the best frosting that exists. Even better than cream cheese frosting in the frosting world. It’s sweet, chocolate-y, and as smooth as velvet. Like the wet ingredients for the cake, it gets made on the stovetop and then poured directly over the finished cake. Give it some time to set and it turns into a beautifully matted and slightly wrinkled at the edges, yet smooth and icing-like everywhere else finish. This frosting is truly the perfect compliment to the chocolate cake. So don’t bother making whipped cream or double checking to make sure you have vanilla ice cream in the freezer. You can however, top with a few whole pecans like my Grandma used to do when she made this.
While a famous Texas dessert, in my family it’s most famous as “Jodi’s Famous Chocolate Cake”. My mom’s neighbor growing up used to make this and shared the recipe with our family and it’s been our family birthday cake ever since. Occasionally the Wacky Cake will show up too. But if it’s my birthday, I’m asking for this one and you’ll see why. Stay tuned for the traditional (larger) sheet cake version of this recipe. Coming soon.
Small Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake
Your favorite Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake baked in a smaller cake pan for a smaller crowd. If you're unfamiliar with this chocolate cake, just know it's famous for a reason. Quite honestly, it's the only chocolate cake recipe you need. It's a simple chocolate sponge cake and topped with an icing-like sweet chocolate frosting.
- 1 cup Flour
- 3/4 cup Sugar
- 1/2 tsp. Baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. Salt
- 1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
- 1/4 cup Shortening*
- 1/4 cup Butter
- 2 tbsp. Cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup Water
- 1/4 cup Buttermilk (or milk with 1 tbsp. of vinegar added)
- 1/2 tsp. Vanilla
- 1 Egg (slightly beaten)
- 1/4 cup Butter
- 2 tbsp. Cocoa powder
- 1/4 cup Milk (any type)
- 1/2 tsp. Vanilla
- 2 cups Powdered sugar, sifted
- Whole Pecans for decoration on top (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Grease an 8 or 9-inch round baking dish (or any dish that is about half the size of a 9×13-inch pan; if you want to double recipe, use a 9×13-inch pan).
In a medium sized bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
In a small stove pan, melt shortening, butter, cocoa powder, and water. Once melting and combined, pour this mixture over your dry ingredients and whisk together until incorporated. (Save your stove pan for the frosting later).
Add the buttermilk, vanilla, and egg. Whisk until smooth.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 28-30 minutes, or until center is set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (Bake between 30-35 minutes if recipe is doubled).
Once baked, cool on wire rack while you prepare the frosting. In the same small stove pan from earlier, bring the butter, cocoa powder, and milk to a boil, stirring frequently and then immediately remove from heat. Add the vanilla and powdered sugar and whisk until smooth. (Add or decrease the sugar depending on the taste and texture of your frosting. You want a pourable thick liquid, like soupy European hot chocolate).
Pour the frosting over the cake, while both are still warm. Place your optional pecans over the top in a pretty pattern. Cake can be served as soon as icing sets or serve at room temperature for later.
*Shortening: I know, I know. I avoid this ingredient on principle. However, I made an exception. And I don’t regret it. You won’t either. If you flat out refuse, fine. Use oil, butter, or margarine in its place. But honestly, just follow this recipe at least once.
This is a Family Recipe that we call, Jodie’s Famous Chocolate Cake.