Its origins are murky, but there’s no doubt Texas sheet cake is a funeral food
What’s the quintessential Texas dessert? A good argument could be made for Texas sheet cake. The origins of this dessert are murky. And there’s also debate about whether it’s a Texas invention at all.
“Many point to the recipe’s use of local specialties, such as pecans and buttermilk, and its large size as signs of its Texan heritage. Impressive portions are a point of state pride,” according to
atlasobscura.com. “Another argument is that the cake’s wide, flat shape resembles Texan topography. There was even a rumor that former first lady Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson was the cake’s inventor, but historians couldn’t find any recipes confirming this in the presidential archives.”
Its popularity rose in the 1950s at the same time as German chocolate cake, according to culinary historians. Texas sheet cake was similar to German chocolate cake, but easier to prepare, making it very popular. It’s the easiest chocolate cake to make and perfect for parties, potlucks and funerals.
The classic dessert is well-known for offering mourners comfort in the form of a moist chocolate base, gooey frosting and a crunchy topping of pecans.
“And if you are going to a funeral in Texas, you should show up with a cake,” according to Southern Living. “Specifically, a Texas-sized chocolate sheet cake, which has become such a common fixture at the tables at funeral potlucks that it has earned the name Texas Funeral Cake.”
Sheet cake is so named because it’s made on a sheet pan, also known as a jelly roll pan.
Texas Sheet Cake
For the cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup water
1⁄3 cup regular cocoa powder
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the frosting:
1⁄2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1⁄2 cup milk
1⁄4 cup cocoa powder
1 pound powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup pecans, chopped and toasted
Preheat oven to 350 F and grease a 13-by-18-by-1-inch sheet pan.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar and baking soda. Whisk the mixture until well combined. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add 1 cup of butter, water and 1⁄3 cup of cocoa. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, then remove from the heat and add to the flour mixture. Mix to combine, then add the sour cream, eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly.
Spread the mixture in the prepared pan and bake for 20-22 minutes or until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the center and the edges of the cake are coming away from the sides of the pan.
While the cake is baking, prepare the frosting. In a medium bowl, combine 1⁄2 cup of melted butter, milk and 1⁄4 cup cocoa powder and mix until smooth. Add the powdered sugar to a large bowl and add the butter mixture and vanilla.
Whisk until no lumps remain. Cover with plastic wrap until the cake finishes baking.
Pour the frosting on the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven. Spread the frosting to the edge of the cake, then sprinkle the pecans on top. Alternately, you can add the pecans to the frosting before pouring onto the cake.
Let the cake cool completely before serving.
Phil Newton is a Galveston baker/cook. He’s the owner/operator of Stiglich Corner with partner Cindy Roberts.