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This chocolate Texas Sheet Cake recipe is a potluck favorite that is baked in a single sheet pan! The light and fluffy cake base is topped with a poured chocolate icing that you can make with or without pecans for extra texture and crunch!

Be sure not to miss some of our other favorite chocolate desserts like Irresistible Mississippi Mud BrowniesBest Ever Moist Chocolate Cupcakes, and these Best Fudgy Chewy Chocolate Brownie Cookies!

An image of a sliced Texas sheet cake with pecans. 

Texas Sheet Cake

If you’re looking to feed dessert to a crowd at your next family gathering or potluck, look no further than this texas sheet cake recipe! My grandma used to make this every summer to take to our annual family reunion and it’s been a favorite all my life.

I have no idea why it’s really called a Texas sheet cake because I don’t know for sure that it originated in the Lone Star State, but the size and flavor of this cake is definitely larger than life! The warm, pourable chocolate frosting really sets Texas sheet cake apart from other chocolate cakes and creates a thin, almost fudgy layer on top of the cake beneath, especially after it sets all the way.

I always add chopped pecans to my frosting before pouring it over the cake, but you can leave them out entirely if you aren’t a fan of nuts or just sprinkle them over the top after pouring the frosting instead. 

An image of a slice of chocolate Texas sheet cake on a plate. 

What is a Texas sheet cake?

A Texas chocolate sheet cake is a large flat cake baked in a baking sheet. It’s a slightly dense, rich chocolate cake that is bordering on being brownie-like in texture.

Typically, Texas sheet cake isn’t as strongly chocolatey as other chocolate cakes, which gives it a unique flavor all it’s own and let’s the tanginess of the buttermilk shine through a bit more. I add slightly more cocoa powder than classic Texas sheet cake recipes, because that’s how I like it, but I don’t go so far as to overwhelm the classic taste of Texas sheet cake by turning it into just another standard chocolate cake. You will definitely notice a difference in flavor between this cake and my One-Bowl Chocolate Cake Recipe, which is a classic chocolate cake baked in a 9×13-inch pan.

Everything is bigger in Texas and this cake is no different! When you cut the cake into squares for serving, you’ll notice that you can easily cut it to feed a dozen people or more, depending on how large you cut your squares.

An image of a slice of Texas sheet cake with pecans next to a sheet pan. 

How to make Texas sheet cake

  1. Prep. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a large, rimmed 13×18 baking sheet.
  2. Whisk dry ingredients. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt, then set it aside.
  3. Heat butter, water, and cocoa. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the water, butter, and cocoa powder. Bring it to a boil and continue stirring to make sure that there are no lumps. Pour your chocolate mixture over the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
  4. Stir in remaining ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together the the buttermilk (or sour cream, which also works in this recipe), eggs and vanilla, then pour into the chocolate cake batter, stirring just until combined. You can do this with a hand mixer if you want to make sure that there are no lumps, but it’s pretty easy to manage by hand.
  5. Pour & bake. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread the batter into an even layer. Bake for 18-20 minutes until the cake springs back lightly when touched and has barely started to pull away from the sides of the pan. Do not overbake!

An image of a bowl of chocolate cake batter. An image of chocolate cake batter poured into a baker's half-sheet pan.

How to make Texas sheet cake icing

  1. Timing. Wait until the cake is almost done baking before you begin to make the icing. Because this is a cooked, poured icing that will set up as the cake cools, you don’t want to make it too early or it will start to set up in the pan. 
  2. Cook the butter, cocoa powder, milk, and salt. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, cocoa powder, milk, and salt. Stir constantly just until the mixture comes to a simmer, which is usually between 6-9 minutes.
  3. Whisk in remaining ingredients. Immediately remove from heat and add in the vanilla. Whisk in the powdered sugar until the icing is smooth. Stir in the chopped nuts if you plan on using them. If the icing is done before the cake is ready, keep it warm and stir it every so often so that the icing doesn’t crust over and harden on top.
  4. Pour & spread. Let the cake cool for 10-12 minutes after it is done baking, then pour the hot icing over the warm cake and spread it out with a spatula. Let the frosting set for at least 20 minutes before cutting the cake into squares. The frosting will continue to set up and harden after 1-2 hours, which provides a nice fudgy shell almost on top of the cake if you can wait that long.
  5. Serve. Texas sheet cake is delicious served warm or at room temperature and it’s great with a glass of cold milk or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

An image of a Texas sheet cake with warm chocolate pecan icing poured over the top.

What’s the difference between sheet cake and regular cake?

A sheet cake is a large flat cake cooked in a pan with the intention of only frosting the top (or not frosting it at all). A regular cake is typically a cake made from smaller pan sizes with the intention of stacking, filling, and/or frosting the layers.

Can you make Texas sheet cake a day ahead?

Yes! While Texas sheet cake tastes great warm, it can also be served at room temperature, so it’s perfect as a make-ahead dessert. Just be sure to cover it well so that it doesn’t dry out. You don’t even need to remove the cake from the pan, just wrap it all in plastic wrap and you’re good to go. I find that this sheet cake is good for up to about 3 days when covered this way.

What size of sheet cake pan do you use to make Texas sheet cake?

You will want to use a standard baker’s half-sheet pan, which is 13×18 inches. It’s probably the most common size baking and the one most of us have 2 or 3 or 8 of floating around in our kitchens that we use for baking cookies or making sheet pan dinners.

If for some reason you don’t have a half-sheet pan handy, you can also use different sized baking pans to make this sheet cake. A 10×15 inch jelly roll pan or a 9×13 baking dish will both work, but keep in mind that you will need to adjust the baking times since both pans are smaller and will take longer for the cake to bake through.

An image of a slice of chocolate sheet cake on a white plate.  

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An image of a slice of chocolate Texas sheet cake on a plate.
Yield: 16 Servings

Texas Sheet Cake

This chocolate Texas Sheet Cake recipe is a potluck favorite that is baked in a single sheet pan! The light and fluffy cake base is topped with a poured chocolate icing that you can make with or without pecans for extra texture and crunch!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Ingredients

Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup salted butter
  • 6 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk*
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate Glaze

  • 6 tablespoons milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup chopped toasted pecans or walnuts, finely chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a large, rimmed 12x18-inch baking sheet (aka a half sheet pan).
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the water, butter, and cocoa powder and bring to a boil, stirring to make sure there are no lumps.
  4. Pour the chocolate mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until combined.
  5. Add the buttermilk (or sour cream, see note), eggs, and vanilla, and mix until combined. You can do this with a hand mixer to make sure there are no lumps.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread in an even layer. Bake for 18-20 minutes until the cake springs back lightly to the touch and has barely started to pull away from the sides of the pan. Do not overbake!
  7. Icing: When the cake is almost done baking, start to make the icing. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, cocoa powder, milk, and salt. Heat, stirring constantly, just until the mixture comes to a simmer.
  8. Immediately remove from heat and add the vanilla, then whisk in the powdered sugar until the icing is smooth. Stir in the chopped nuts. If the cake isn't ready yet, keep the icing warm and stir it every so often so it doesn't harden on top.
  9. Let the cake cool for 10-12 minutes, then pour the hot icing over the warm cake and spread it evenly with a spatula. Let the frosting set for 20 minutes before cutting the cake into squares. The frosting will completely set after 1-2 hours.
  10. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature.

Notes

* Sour cream can be used in place of buttermilk in this recipe.

I will sometimes sub in 1 tablespoon of Dutch-process cocoa powder for 1 tablespoon of the unsweetened cocoa powder, if I have some on hand, for a deeper chocolate flavor in the cake and frosting.

You can also make this sheet cake in a standard 10x15-inch jelly roll pan by baking for around 20 minutes or in a 9x13-inch baking dish by baking for 23-25 minutes.

You can store any leftover cake in an air-tight container for up to 3 days, either at room temperature, or in the fridge.