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Not Your Grandma’s Chocolate Sheet Cake

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A while back, my cousin, Pattie, shared a recipe for chocolate sheet cake with me that our Grandma Davis had written in her own hand, and allowed me to scan it so I could keep a copy for myself.  (Thank you, Pattie!)  This is precious to me, because my Grandma was and is precious to me, I love to bake, especially cake, recipes are precious to me, and this one is doubly so because it was written and used by her.

However, I don’t think I will ever make it as written.  I have had this old-fashioned chocolate sheet cake before (not baked by Grandma, but the same recipe), and I was not impressed with the lack of chocolate flavor, and thought it wasn’t quite moist enough.  I hate to say it, but it was, in fact, the worst homemade cake I’ve ever had.  Not that it was a terrible gag-worthy cake, it just wasn’t as good as all the others I’ve had.

Yes, my name is Veronica, and despite liking cake mixes, I am a cake snob.  I won’t even touch a store-bought cake (gag) unless I’m at a party where it’s being served, and I’ll take a slice so as not to offend.  But don’t you dare try to buy me one for my birthday.  I require that cakes have great flavor, great texture, delicious homemade frosting (preferably made with real butter), and be very moist.  This cake met none of those requirements, although the icing was almost good enough.

When I ran across Paula Deen’s recipe for Savannah Sheet Cake on From Apples to Zucchini recently, I could tell right away that it would be more moist, sweeter, and more chocolatey than Grandma’s recipe.  I combined that recipe with my Grandma’s directions for baking, and switched the regular cocoa powder with Dutch process to make it even more chocolatey.

I’m pleased to report that this cake is everything I hoped it would be: insanely moist and perfectly chocolatey.  It’s so good, I’m thinking of using the cake recipe to make a layer cake and seeing if it is as good as my favorite chocolate cake.  And I’m not sure how I know this, but when served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it is sheet cake nirvana.

Super Chocolate Sheet Cake

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 cup water
1 cup unsalted butter
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup Dutch process or Hershey’s Dark cocoa
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
½ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Chocolate Pecan Icing:
½ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup Dutch process or Hershey’s Dark cocoa
6 tablespoons milk
16-oz. box confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted*

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease and flour an 18″ x 12″ jelly roll pan. In a small saucepan, combine water, butter, oil, and cocoa. Bring the mixture to a boil; remove from heat. Stir together the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs, sour cream and cocoa mixture. Add the vanilla. Mix until very smooth, about 2 minutes.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake for 15 minutes, until the center appears firm and the cake has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Five minutes before the cake is done, start the icing. Bring the butter, cocoa, and milk to a boil in a medium saucepan; remove from heat. Stir in the sugar and beat with an electric mixer until smooth, about a minute. Stir in the vanilla and pecans. Pour warm icing over warm cake and spread quickly with a spatula. Let cool about 2 hours before cutting. Laugh after reading that and dig right in, topping the warm piece with ice cream and let your eyes roll back in your head as you take your first bite.

*To toast pecans, place on a microwave-safe plate and microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until nuts are toasted and fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.

Recipe source: Adapted from Paula Deen’s Savannah Sheet Cake

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