With the months of May and June come graduations, weddings, birthdays, and… summer heat. There’s always some kind of celebration that calls for cake — especially chocolate cake. But no one wants to hang out in the kitchen for too long now. What better way to celebrate an occasion than with a dense, rich, moist cake topped with a velvety-smooth chocolate icing. Decadence — your name is Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake.
Made, baked and frosted in less than an hour, this homemade chocolate cake is big enough to feed the graduating class, the bridesmaids, the birthday bashers… You get the picture. I have made this cake for various functions, and wherever it was sampled, someone invariably requested a copy of the recipe.
Crossing a few state borders, passed down from generation to generation, the Texas Sheet Cake arrived in my kitchen via my Aunt Catherine. She had spent some time in Lubbock, Texas, when my uncle was in the service. A friend there had shared the recipe for this chocolate cake with her, which she later shared with my family. A million chocolate crumbs later, and the rest is history.
Curiosity about the real origins of the cake took me to the Internet, where several recipes similar to mine appeared. Some food historians tried to link Lady Bird Johnson with the origin. Other recipes insisted that one teaspoon of cinnamon be added to the cake and to the icing. Some recipes added sour cream. Other foodies believed the cake to be a variation of the German Chocolate Sweet Cake.
Another curiosity was in the name. My aunt had written the recipe as a “Sheath Cake.” We always thought there was a typo in the name, but lo and behold on page 89 of Our Fair Lady: Recipes, published by Associated Women For Christian Education, Galveston, Texas, I found her exact recipe listed under Texas Sheet Cake as Cocoa Sheath Cake. One of the contributors to the cookbook was a college in Lubbock, Texas. And so, the recipe has come full circle. Not only did the recipe originate in Lubbock, Texas, but my aunt had it right from the get-go.
My Aunt Catherine, a very good cook, hosted several holiday dinners at her house. To this day, I have to chuckle when I remember her in the kitchen with my mother after clearing and cleaning the holiday dishes. She would take off her apron and, with a sigh, say to my mom, Sophie, “Well, Kid, looks like we’re all finished here. Let’s relax. How about a highball?”
Some recipes evoke good memories of the people who made and shared them. They’re a culinary trip down memory lane. Texas Sheet (Sheath) Cake is one of them.
TEXAS CHOCOLATE SHEET (SHEATH) CAKE
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 stick butter (broken up)
½ cup shortening
4 Tbsp. cocoa
1 cup water
½ cup buttermilk (or use 2 tsps. vinegar and remainder of milk to fill to ½ cup. Let rest a few minutes before use.)
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Sift flour and sugar together. Set aside.
- Put butter, shortening, cocoa and water into a large saucepan. Stir and bring to a rapid boil.
- Cool slightly.
- Add flour mixture to saucepan, and using a hand mixer, beat to incorporate.
- Add buttermilk, eggs, vanilla and baking soda, and beat well.
- Pour into a greased and floured jellyroll pan. (16”x11”x1”)
- Bake 25-30 minutes.
*SAVE SAUCEPAN AND BEATERS TO MAKE ICING. NO NEED TO WASH THEM. USE THEM AS IS.*
1 stick butter
4 Tbsp. cocoa
1/3 cup milk
1 box (1 lb.) confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup nuts, chopped – walnuts or pecans
- Mix butter, cocoa and milk. Stir and bring to a boil. Remove from heat.
- Add confectioner’s sugar, vanilla and nuts. Mix well with beaters.
- Pour icing onto cake and spread evenly.
- Ice cake while ICING and CAKE are WARM.
Icing firms up quickly.
Eat well, live long, enjoy!
(Questions or tips can be sent to Donna Zitter Bordelon at WhatscookinNEPhilly@gmail.com or in care of the Northeast Times, 3412 Progress Drive, Suite C, Bensalem, PA 19020)