After quite a stretch without much chocolate in my life (wha?!), sanity has returned this week. I really have no rational explanation for the two months or so that I wasn’t craving chocolate—basically since the holidays. The exorbitant doses that I consumed from October-December may have caused me to reach some sort of hitherto unknown “chocolate threshold”, but I’m not ready to come to terms with such a shameful reality. Let’s just hope this never happens again. Fortunately, this week’s Baked Sunday Mornings recipe for Chocolate Texas Sheet Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting came along to shake me out of my funk. This cake from Baked Occasions celebrates Texas Independence Day, when Texas declared its freedom from Mexico on March 2, 1836, before joining the United States.
One of the things that Texas is known for is the classic American dessert known as Texas Sheet Cake. Its origins are somewhat vague, as is the case with many desserts that have been around for a while. Most versions that I was able to find on the interwebs were very Betty Crocker-ish. The traditional version seems to resemble German Chocolate Cake with a gooey, pecan-studded frosting. Because BAKED often throws a fun twist into their recipes, they’ve made this a peanut butter-topped cake, nixing the pecans and substituting chopped peanuts. I am all for this updated version, with its sweet-and-salty thang going on. I’ve never actually made a sheet cake in my life for some reason, so I had nothing to compare it to, but it was definitely a tasty little cake, and if you are a chocolate-peanut butter lover, this is right up your alley.
This cake method is unlike any cake I’ve ever assembled, but most of the recipes that I found while researching seemed to follow similar steps, so I presume that the method is part of what qualifies it as a Texas Sheet Cake. It seems that they generally contain buttermilk, though some used sour cream instead. BAKED added a cup of coffee to deepen the chocolate flavor, which I can always get behind.
Despite meticulous mise en place preparation, I had one major setback with this recipe. After combining the flour, white and brown sugars, and salt in a mixing bowl, and the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla in another bowl, you’ll cook a mixture of butter, coffee, cocoa powder, vegetable shortening, and baking soda in a medium saucepan. In my mind, “medium” is about a 2-quart capacity… You can probably guess where I’m going with this. It wasn’t much liquid in the beginning, so it never occurred to me that the 2-quart pot would not suffice, but as the mixture approached boiling, it steadily rose up the sides of the pan; as I snapped photos of the steaming pot, I observed the growing mixture getting close to the rim, and I kept thinking, “Nah, it’s going to stabilize…”, but before I could even put down the camera, it had hopped the edge and bubbled onto the stovetop. So much for my careful ingredient prep! I had to re-prep that part of the recipe—using a 4-quart pot this time. Even despite this delay, it still went fairly quickly after that.
Once your mixture has boiled for 20-45 seconds, remove it from the heat and pour it into the bowl with the dry ingredients. It should be about room temperature after you’ve folded everything together into a homogenous chocolaty mix. Finally, whisk in the buttermilk/egg mixture to thicken and emulsify the cake batter.
You’ll then pour the batter into a rimmed parchment-lined half-sheet pan and bake the cake for 15-18 minutes. Mine baked in 16 minutes, with a turn about halfway through. For some reason, it baked up lopsided, with one long side slightly higher than the other, but this was easily hidden by the frosting. It was flatter than I expected, resembling a giant brownie.
While your cake is baking, you’ll make the frosting. Timing at this point must be carefully executed because you have to pour the frosting on while the cake is hot in order to bond the frosting to the cake. Because of the mishap with the cooked mixture, I was a bit rattled and forgot to start on the frosting as soon as the cake went into the oven. Consequently, the whole thing was a little frenzied, and I really wasn’t sure what the final cake would be like, as my cake came out of the oven a full 10 minutes or so before the frosting was ready. Fortunately, it was still warm enough and there was no problem, so there seems to be a little bit of a window there.
The frosting is very easy to pull together and also includes a cooked mixture, this time consisting of evaporated milk, butter, peanut butter, and salt, which you’ll then whisk into sifted confectioners’ sugar, with a little vanilla added at the end. It’s a totally liquidy mixture, not at all a proper “frosting”, so you’ll pour it right out of the bowl and onto the cake, then spread with a spatula. It will start to set quickly, so you need to scatter the chopped peanuts on immediately. I decided to toast mine because I like the roasted flavor, and I was happy to spread a blanket of peanuts onto the thin, gooey frosting, which by itself is not particularly attractive.
Once the cake cools completely, it needs 45 minutes in the fridge to set up. BAKED recommends eating it cold, though it’s perfectly fine at room temperature; I tried it after an hour (still basically room temp), and again the following day after 24 hours in the fridge– I concur with the Gentlemen Bakers. 🙂
So how did it taste? It did, in fact, remind me of a German chocolate cake with the sticky frosting and nuts, though of course a peanut-flavored version. The best part is where the cake and frosting fuse together in gooey harmony. It’s a fun, satisfying cake that works for any casual cake occasion, and it’s great for snacking, as it’s not nearly as rich as BAKED’s layer cakes.
Whether you’re celebrating independence or just fiending for chocolate and peanut butter, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings for the recipe for Chocolate Texas Sheet Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting. Take a look at my homies’ tasty sheet cakes while you’re there! 🙂
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2015.