Chocolate sheet cake

If you’ve ever needed cake for a crowd, this is your recipe. I made it recently for a baby shower with fifty people and still had cake to send home with the expectant parents. It tastes like a really good birthday cake from your childhood: sweet, moist, chocolatey, and uncontroversial. It doesn’t require sophisticated tastes or fancy equipment, and it’s just fine without them.

chocolate sheet cake

Note that this cake is designed to be baked in a 18×12 half-sheet or jellyroll pan. I baked it in one with 1-inch sides, and even though it seemed like a plan that doomed me to hours of oven-scrubbing, it was completely fine. If you don’t have one, it also works well in two 9×13-inch pans. If you stacked these to make a layer cake, I wouldn’t tell anyone.

Chocolate Sheet Cake
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummond, via Serious Eats

For the cake:
2 c. flour
2 c. sugar
pinch salt
1/2 c. buttermilk
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1 t. baking soda
2 sticks (1/2 lb.) butter
4 heaping tablespoons cocoa powder

For the frosting:
1 3/4 sticks butter (that’s 7/8 c., for those keeping track)
4 heaping tablespoons cocoa powder
6 T. milk
1 t. vanilla extract
1 lb. powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Put one cup of water on to boil in a kettle or pot.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the cocoa until smooth. (Normally, I’m all for using a fork in place of a whisk, but the whisk is really the right tool for this job.)

Now pour the cup of boiling water into the cocoa mixture. Stir to combine, then remove from the heat.

melting chocolate for cake

In a large, heat-tolerant bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt. Pour in the chocolate mixture, and stir to combine.

Add the buttermilk and baking soda and stir again, then mix in the vanilla and eggs. Mix until roughly smooth; lumps are totally not the end of the world, but it’s good to get out the big ones.

Pour into the ungreased sheet pan (or two 9×13 pans) and bake for 20 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, make the frosting by melting the other butter in a saucepan and whisking the cocoa in until smooth. Add the milk and vanilla, and then the powdered sugar, stirring until smooth and well-combined.

Just after the cake comes out of the oven, pour the warm frosting over the top. Ideally, you won’t have to spread much, so try to drizzle into all the corners. Use a rubber or silicone spatula if you need to encourage it a little.

Serve straight from the pan.

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