Welcome back to Comfort Week! We finally got some rain last night so I’m feeling extra cozy.
It wouldn’t be a comfort week without some sort of comfort food, and what’s more comforting than a decadent chocolate sheet cake?
Not just any ol’ chocolate sheet cake, though. I’m talking about a cake that contains a memory in each bite. A chocolate cake with the best dang icing. The only chocolate cake worth making from scratch.
I’m talking, of course, about Dorothy’s Chocolate Sheet Cake:
Who is Dorothy, you ask?
When I was a girl, I began visiting the local Baptist Church where I was introduced to the wonders of bonus grandparents and potluck dinners. At nearly every potluck, this chocolate sheet cake was perched on the dessert table alongside the green jello salad and fruit cocktail cobbler. It was also one of the first desserts to go. More beloved than the cake, however, was the baker herself: Dorothy. You’ll never meet a more gentle and comforting soul.
Even though this recipe isn’t Dorothy’s creation, I will always associate this cake with her…and Baptists. In fact, when I’m not calling it Dorothy’s Chocolate Cake, I’m calling it Baptist Chocolate Cake. Perhaps you’ve enjoyed such a cake yourself at a church potluck or picnic.
Originally titled “Texas Sheet Cake,” this confection is familiar with many. Still, just because this recipe is common doesn’t mean that everyone has had a chance to taste the gospel. I believe that every household needs this chocolate sheet cake recipe in their baking arsenal.
Which is why I am sharing it with you today. 🙂
Dorothy’s Chocolate Sheet Cake
For me, the comfort of any baking starts with the baking equipment itself:
- A wooden spoon (the more seasoned the better)
- My Texas Ware mixing bowl similar to my Grandma’s (snagged at a yardsale for $3)
- A shiny aluminum 9×13 cake pan (they produce the best results and can usually be spotted at Goodwill for pennies)
In a small saucepan (my favorite is one of Grandma’s hand-me-downs), add 2 sticks of salted butter, 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup cocoa powder.
Cook’s Tip: Salted butter balances the sweetness of this cake. If using unsalted, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally until smooth. Once the mixture starts to boil, remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a separate bowl add 2 cups all-purpose flour minus 2 tablespoons. In other words, once you’ve measured your flour, dump it in the bowl and remove 2 tablespoons of it. To the flour, add 2 cups of sugar and 1 teaspoon of baking soda. Whisk until well combined.
Pour the chocolate mixture into the flour mixture and beat until smooth.
Next, stir in 1/2 cup buttermilk, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 2 large eggs (lightly beaten). Beat batter for a minute until smooth. Do not overbeat.
Confession: As much as I prefer the richness that buttermilk gives bakes goods, I NEVER have it on hand. And if I DID have it on hand, I’d feel pressured to either use it immediately or freeze it. But whenever I freeze milk, I forget I have it or forget to thaw it out. That’s a lot of drama for such a magical ingredient.
Which is why I love this stuff:
This powdered buttermilk is a lifesaver and the results are delicious–much better than a vinegar and milk substitute.
Cook’s Note: When using powdered buttermilk, you must whisk the powder in with the dry ingredients first, and then add the required amount of water to the mixture after.
Pour the batter into a greased 9×13 pan. Batter will be thin.
Bake at 350˚ for 20-25 minutes. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with fudgy crumbs. Do not overbake. Set pan on a rack to cool.
While the cake bakes, mix the icing:
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/4 cups cocoa powder
- 4 Tablespoons salted butter, room temperature
- 3 Tablespoons milk or half-n-half
- Crushed pecans, optional
Beat until smooth.
Dorothy’s original chocolate icing recipe calls for double the ingredients, but I’m not gonna lie to you, folks: this icing is RICH! Any more than the halved recipe is too much, in my opinion. But if you’re part elf, then by all means double it.
Ice cake warm.
Allow cake to completely cool to room temperature before covering pan tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for an hour before serving. This gives the flavors and textures time to meld.
Mm! Just look at that icing! Crinkly on top and silky underneath–you can’t beat it.
For a lower calorie version, cut one piece out for yourself (can be any size) and share the rest with as many people as possible.
Here’s to comfort food and bonus grandmas and biological grandmas and nostalgic utensils and old recipes.
And good friends.
Have you ever enjoyed a cake like this?
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour minus 2 Tablespoons
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 2 large eggs, room temperature and lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 3 Tablespoons milk
- Preheat oven to 350˚.
- Combine 2 sticks of butter, 1/2 cup cocoa powder and 1 cup water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk the flour, sugar and baking soda until well combined. Pour chocolate mixture over the flour mixture and beat until smooth.
- Add vanilla, eggs and buttermilk and beat for 1 minute until smooth. Do not overbeat. Batter will be thin.
- Pour batter in a greased 9×13 pan and bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted int he center comes out with fudgy crumbs. Allow cake to cool a few minutes while you make the icing. In a mixing bow, beat powdered sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa, 4 Tablespoons of butter and 3 tablespoons of milk until smooth. If icing is too dry or stiff, add another splash of milk.
- Ice cake warm. Allow cake to cool completely, cover pan tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour before serving.