Baked Sunday Mornings: Chocolate Texas Sheet Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

I've eaten Texas sheet cake a couple of times, but I had never made it before. And if "Chocolate Texas Sheet Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting" wasn't on the Baked Sunday Mornings schedule this week, I doubt I would ever have given it a try -- sheet cake just doesn't seem that interesting. Boy, was I wrong.

This recipe is a shallow chocolate cake baked in a half-sheet pan, with poured peanut butter frosting that is applied with the cake is still hot. It doesn't require an electric mixer, but it does require you to dirty a lot of bowls and pots. The most challenging part of the recipe for me was making the cup of coffee required for the cake batter. I don't drink coffee, so my husband Tom is the barista in our house. I can work our Nespresso machine, but we don't own an electric coffee maker; Tom uses the old school method of a pourover dripper. Unfortunately, Tom was on a business trip when I made this cake. I had never made pourover coffee before, but I was pretty happy with the cup of coffee I managed to brew after Googling myself some instructions.

To make the cake batter, you mix together flour, sugar, brown sugar, and salt; make a well in the middle; and pour in a hot mixture of butter, coffee, cocoa powder, shortening, and baking soda that has been brought to a boil. You fold the wet and dry ingredients together and then add a mixture of buttermilk, eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla. You pour the batter in a parchment-lined pan and bake. The recipe says to bake the cake for 15-18 minutes and admonishes you to not overbake it, but the center of my cake was still jiggling at 18 minutes. I took it out of the oven after 21 minutes.
While the cake is in the oven, you make the frosting. You sift powdered sugar into a bowl and then pour over a mixture of evaporated milk, butter, peanut butter, and salt that has been brought to a boil. I whisked the wet ingredients hard with the sugar to try to get out any lumps; the recipe suggests sifting the sugar twice to get extra smooth frosting, but I doubt that would have helped (and the only thing I hate more than sifting powdered sugar once is sifting it twice, because it's always full of static and sticks everywhere; I actually shocked myself a few times during sifting). You add some vanilla, pour the frosting over the hot cake, and then sprinkle on some finely chopped peanuts.

The recipe instructs you to chill the cake to set the frosting before slicing it, so I cooled it to room temperature and then left it in the fridge over night. The following morning I trimmed off the edges of the cake to get nice neat sides and cut it into 24 pieces. The cake was almost completely level and I thought it looked great -- especially with the color contrast between the cake and frosting, and the chopped nuts on top. I was surprised how moist the cake was; it seemed to be on the verge of being underbaked and I had to keep cleaning off my knife between cuts.

I took a bite right after I sliced the cake, when it was still cold from the fridge. I was totally unprepared for how delicious it was. Even though the recipe notes Matt and Renato's preference for serving this cake cold, I was skeptical -- after all, most cake tastes terrible cold. Cold cake often has a dry texture, with hard frosting and a dulled flavor. But this cold cake was fan-freakin'-tastic. I also tried a piece a room temperature and it turns out that my preference is also for cold cake. I can't explain why this is, but the flavor seemed a bit more pronounced when the cake was chilled, and I liked the slightly firmer texture of the frosting when it was cold.

This cake is outstanding, and incredibly tender and moist. Because it was applied hot, the frosting is physically fused to the cake, and from a flavor point of view the combination is seamless as well -- the cake and frosting are perfect for each other. I wouldn't change a thing.

Recipe: "Chocolate Texas Sheet Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting" from Baked Occasions by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, recipe available here at Baked Sunday Mornings.


Louise said…
Can you taste the evaporated milk in the frosting? I don't care for that taste and avoid making fudge, etc. that includes it.
Robyn said…
My cake is chilling in the fridge right now so I can try a cold piece. It was pretty amazing at room temp, so the idea that it's going to taste even better cold is pretty amazing!
Anonymous said…
Good to know that this should bake for longer than 18 minutes-will be setting my timer to around 20 next time. Also after reading this, I am glad I didn't take the time to shift my powder sugar twice. Although mine was slightly lump it was well hidden.
I hate fudge myself and I have to admit that the frosting was a bit fudge-like with regard to texture -- but I loved it all the same. I can't say that I could specifically taste the evaporated milk, but the frosting was a bit caramel-y. Regardless, I would encourage you to give the cake and frosting a try!
Susan said…
I agree - so much better than I expected. I don't drink coffee, either, but I make it for my husband every day in a French Press!
Unknown said…
I was pretty hesitant prior to taking a bite of a cold cake..
Anonymous said…
"Because it was applied hot, the frosting is physically fused to the cake..." that sounds like the key to a delicious cake, I'm looking forward to trying this recipe!
Anonymous said…
Ha-- I too find the coffee to be the hardest part. We have a coffee maker, but I'm not the coffee brewer in the house, so I don't even know how to make it. I was going to Starbucks right before making this cake anyway, so I just bought a size larger than I normally buy and split it into two cups. Then... my chocolate/coffee/butter mixture boiled over and was ruined, so buying coffee was all for nothing! Fortunately I had some Starbucks instant coffee packs, so I just had to boil water-- LOL. Ditto on sifting powdered sugar-- hate it! I'm glad you liked this cake so much, it was very tasty! :)