A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from September 09, 2006
Texas Sheet Cake

Texas sheet cake is a brownie-like cake, only one-inch thick and often served on a cookie sheet. “Texas sheet cake” is recorded from the 1960s, but “sheet cake” is recorded earlier. The below article claims that this cake is a cousin to German Chocolate Cake, and that Texas ingredients such as buttermilk and pecans helped to make it popular.

Similar to “Texas sheet cake” is “Texas sheath cake” (a name used since at least 1950). Why the different names? ‘Sheet” often sounds like something that cannot be printed here, and the name was probably changed because of that.


relish magazine
Cake as Big as Texas
by Jean Kressy
Relish the American Table is a weekly column that appears in newspapers across the country.
Give this recipe a try.

Texas Sheet Cake

The first time you eat a piece of Texas sheet cake, chances are you’ll say to yourself, “This cake tastes familiar. Where have I run into it before?” It’s a reasonable reaction because Texas sheet cake is very closely related to German Sweet Chocolate Cake, so close that with your eyes closed, it could be a bit of a push to tell the difference.  Both are chocolate cakes covered with a sugary coconut-pecan frosting. One is baked in layers, and the other in a single pan, but you don’t know that until you open your eyes.

The connection, say culinary historians, is that German Sweet Chocolate Cake was what inspired Texan cooks to create their famous sheet cake. The origin of Texas sheet cake is unclear; the story behind German Sweet Chocolate Cake is easier to explain.  (...)

Both the German Sweet Chocolate Cake and Texas sheet cake recipes call for two of Texans’ favorite ingredients: buttermilk and pecans.  The big difference is that the sheet cake is infinitely easier to put together.  Instead of melting chocolate, creaming butter, and beating egg whites, all of which are involved in making German Sweet Chocolate Cake, everything for Texas sheet cake is stirred together in one large bowl.  The frosting recipe for both cakes is similar. The German Sweet Chocolate Cake is a stacked 3-layer structure filled with frosting, which takes a little more doing. Given our druthers, we go for the sheet cake.  It’s a big old-fashioned cake, easy to transport and a real crowd pleaser. 

Everything2
The Texas Sheet Cake is a brownie-like chocolate overload of a cake. It’s a low, flat cake with a metallic-like shiny chocolate icing. When I was younger I used to demand it for my birthday. Now I just make it myself (although not as well). It’s sweet and yummy and just plain good…

30 May 1936, Galveston (TX) Daily News, pg. 9, col. 1:
Chocolate Cake.
(Large Sheet Cake.)
1-2 cup fat
1 cup sugar
1 cup thick sour cream
3 squares chocolate, melted
3 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1-8 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon soda
Cream fat and sugar. Add rest of ingredients and beat 2 minutes. Pour into shallow pan lined with waxed paper and bake 35 minutes in moderately slow oven. Cool and frost.

Frosting.
1 egg white, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon hot cream
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
Mix ingredients and heat until creamy. Spread on cake. 

22 June 1962, Washington Post, pg. B1:
Jeanne Miller bought a sheet cake which she and Annie decorated to resemble the Texas countryside where Tom and Ida Mai Miller are stopping to visit relatives on their way to the West Coast. 

1 October 1965, New Castle (PA) News, “Lincoln Menus,” pg. 12, col. 6:
Tuesday—Meatball sandwich, green beans, fruit salad, Texas sheet cake and milk. 

21 October 1969, Derrick (PA) section C, pg. 14, col. 5:
TEXAS SHEET CAKE
1 cup oleo (2 sticks), 1 cup water, 4 heaping tbsp. cocoa, 2 cups sifted flour, 2 cups sugar, 1.3 tsp. salt, 2/3 cup (1/4 pint) dairy sour cream, 1 tsp. baking soda, 2 eggs.

Combine oleo, water and cocoa in 2-quart saucepan. Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add flour, sugar and salt. Beat until well mixed. Add sour cream, soda and eggs. Mix until blended. Pour into greased 15 x 11 x 1 1/2” pan. Bake in preheated oven 375 F. for 22 min., meanwhile prepare frosting. Remove cake from oven when baked. Spread frosting over cake while hot. Cool cake and cut into squares. Store in refrigerator—if desired. Gives cake a fudge like texture.

Frosting
1/2 cup oleo (1 stick), 6 tbsp. milk, 4 tbsp. cocoa (if desired), 1 pound (1 box) confectioners’ sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1 cup chopped nuts.

Combine oleo, milk and cocoa in saucepan. Heat to boiling, stirring frequently until mixture bubbles. Remove from heat. Beat in sugar, vanilla and nuts.

Mrs. Richard Ochs, Jr.
Box 55-C
Lucinda

27-28 May 1970, North Hills News-Record (Warrendale, PA), Cook Book “The winners!,” pg. 2:
Mrs. Anthony Plesnick, Madison Drive, Zelienople, Texas Sheet Cake.

19 November 1971, Valley Independent (Monessen, PA), pg. 5A:
TEXAS SHEET CAKE
Bake together:
1 cup water
4 Tbsp. cocoa
2 sticks oleo
Remove from heat and add:
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups flour
Beat in:
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp. baking powder
Bake on a cookie sheet 15x10x1 at 250 degrees for 15 min.

Icing:
1 stick oleo
6 Tbsp. milk
4 Tbsp. cocoa (bring to a boil)
Remove from heat and pour over 1 box powdered sugar. Beat for 10 min. or until smooth. Add 1 tsp. vanilla and 1 cup chopped nuts. Pour over cake while still warm.

7 February 1973, Bucks County Courier Times (Levittown, PA), pg. 17:
TEXAS SHEET CAKE
2 sticks margarine
1 cup water
4 tablespoons cocoa
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
nuts—optional

Heat margarine, water and cocoa until melted. Cool slightly.

Add sugar, flour, sour cream, eggs, baking soda, salt and nuts.

Bake in large greased and floured pan at 325 degrees for 20 minutes. Batter should be very thin (this is a brownie-like cake) and only fill the pan about one-inch high.

Frost with chocolate icing and cut in squares.

CHOCOLATE ICING
1 stick softened margarine
4 or 5 tablespoons cocoa (to taste)
1 box confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Combine all the ingredients. A little milk may be added to reach the desired spreading consistency.

30 May 1974, Washington Post, “Any Cake at All, as Long as It’s Chocolate,” pg. D16:
TEXAS SHEET CAKE
In answer to F.G.’s request for a Texas chocolate cake, this may be the popular recipe she is looking for:

2 sticks butter or margarine
1 cup water
4 tablespoons cocoa
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon soda

Mix the butter or margarine in a saucepan with 1 cup water and cocoa and bring to a boil. In a large bowl put the flour, sugar and salt. Add the hot liquid to this and beat well.

Add the two eggs, sour cream and soda. Beat well. Pour into greased and floured jelly roll pan or cookie sheet with sides, and bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, until cake tests done.

Icing
1 stick butter or margarine
4 tablespoons cocoa
6 tablespoons milk
1 1-pound box powdered sugar
1 teaspoon milk

Mix margarine, cocoa and milk in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon milk and beat well. Ice the cake as soon as you take it out of the oven, while it is hot. You may add nuts to the icing, if you like.

American Century Cookbook:
The Most Popular Recipes of the Twentieth Century
by Jean Anderson
New York, NY: Clarkson Potter
1997
Pg. 459:
Texas sheet cake. One of my all-time favorite cookbooks is a little spiral-bound paperback called Food Editors’ Hometown Favorites published in 1984 by the Newspaper Food Editors and Writers Association. It is appears this heavenly chocolate cake spread with fudge-pecan icing. it was contributed to the book by Dotty Griffith, food editor of the Dallas Morning News. But the accompanying headnote says the recipe was also submitted by food editors all over the country. Some attribute the cake to Lady Bird Johnson. Others say it got its name because it’s as big as Texas—well, not quite. The cake couldn’t be easier to make, it’s suprisingly light, but my, it is sweet.”

28 January 2001, Charleston (SC) Post and Courier, “A chocolate cake from the land of the supersized” by Ann Burger, section G, pg. 6:
WHAT’S COOKIN’?
Question: Where does Texas Sheet Cake get its name?

A) From the super-chocolatey taste, as big as Texas.
B) From the fact that the taste is so intense, people can eat only a small piece—meaning one cake will serve a Texas-size crowd.
C) From its overall richness—a big taste in a big cake from a state that was supersizing things long before fast-food places were.
D) All of the above.

The answer, if you’ve ever tasted the famous cake, has got to be D. Texas Sheet Cake is chocolate through and through, rich and decadent. As for whether it originally came from Texas, I couldn’t find a definite answer. But Lone Star cooks were smart to get their state’s name on something that tastes so good.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Saturday, September 09, 2006 • Permalink