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Chocolate Sheet Cake

Chocolate Sheet Cake

Renée Robinson

In the Mood for a Mouth Watering Chocolate Sheet Cake that will Feed a Crowd?

There are many many recipes for chocolate sheet cakes. This one has been in my family for over 50 years. I still remember the first time my mother made it. We had been visiting family in Arkansas and she got the recipe from a family member there. It seems that a couple decades later people started calling this type of recipe Texas Sheet Cake. Not in my family. It’s always been called Brownie Cake, not that it actually bears any resemblance to a brownie.

There are numerous variations and I’m sure many of you also make and enjoy this kind of cake. I’ve tried other recipes, but this is the one I first tasted and it remains my favorite. While I’ve baked much more elegant and complicated cakes, this is the type of cake I love eating the most. It’s moist, tangy and tender from the buttermilk, and it’s good to the very last slice.

Buttermilk is essential to the texture and tang of both the cake and the icing. I always use a good quality buttermilk. And while I use higher end good quality chocolates for other desserts, I’ve tried this recipe with those chocolates and I’ve never been satisfied. I make this with Baker’s Unsweetened Baking Chocolate squares. Perhaps it’s because this is the way I first tasted it, but it doesn’t taste right when I’ve substituted other chocolate.

As to the icing, it’s straightforward and simple. Just remember to have it made and ready to go so that you can pour the warm icing over the warm cake. This cake is one of the simplest things I bake and it’s one of the best. I hope you enjoy it, too!

Chocolate Sheet Cake

Recipe by Renée Robinson



The very best chocolate sheet cake of all time. This recipe has been in my family for over 50 years. Buttermilk is the key ingredient and it's in both the cake and the icing.

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  • 2 cups all purpose unbleached flour, such as Gold Medal

  • 2 cups granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 2 sticks salted butter (16 tablespoons)

  • 2 ounces Baker's Unsweetened Chocolate Baking Bar

  • 1 cup water

  • 2 large eggs, room temperature

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 1 1/2 sticks salted butter (12 tablespoons)

  • 1 ounce Baker's Unsweetened Chocolate Baking Bar

  • 6 tablespoons buttermilk

  • 1 pound powdered sugar, sifted

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in the center.
  • Spray a half sheet pan (18" x 13" x 1") with Baker's Joy and set aside.
  • In large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, and baking soda. In a medium saucepan bring to a rapid boil the butter, water, and chocolate. Pour over the dry ingredients and whisk together. Add the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla. Whisk until combined.
  • Pour into the sheet pan and bake for 18 to 20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean when stuck into the middle of the cake. Be careful to not over bake the cake. Place the cake on a cooling rack.
  • Put the sifted powdered sugar into a medium sized bowl. Bring to a boil in a small saucepan the butter, chocolate, and buttermilk. Pour the hot mixture over the powdered sugar and beat with a hand held mixer until smooth. Add the vanilla and stir in the pecans.
  • Pour the warm icing over the warm cake. I will be the first to admit I can never wait for this cake to completely cool before cutting into it. The icing may still be a little too soft, but I find it irresistible.

12 Responses

    1. Hi, Amy! Yes, I’ve made this before for people who have nut allergies and it is still delicious. I prefer it with the nuts because they help to cut through the sweetness, but as I said, it’s still delicious without them.

  1. Hi Renée-
    I am going to make this tomorrow and you probably won’t see this question in time – but here it is: I used to make this cake with the Ghirardelli Mocha powder and I don’t think they make it anymore. My daughter loved that cake and she does not like chocolate. SO, what do you think if I sub your 1 cup water with 1 cup slightly sweetened coffee?
    Thank you!!!!

    1. Frances, I only just now saw this comment! My one question is this: didn’t the mocha powder have some chocolate in it? After all, mocha flavor is always a combination of chocolate and coffee? I can’t imagine it had no chocolate in it. I’d still add at least a little chocolate to the cake and icing. I think you really need it in order to balance out the flavors. I’m afraid that you’ll end up with too much bitterness without some chocolate to round out the flavor. Please let me know how it turns out!

      1. Hi Renée-
        I think I said it wrong – yes, the mocha powder was a combo of chocolate and coffee flavors, mostly chocolate. It was a baking powder, not a powder to be used for drinks.

        1. I’m sorry Frances. I think I misunderstood what you were saying. Yes, by all means, you can substitute the water for coffee. I don’t think the coffee needs to be sweetened as there’s already plenty of sugar in the recipe. If you have some espresso powder on hand you could add a tablespoon to the cake instead of the regular coffee. Either way, it should work just fine. I hope your daughter enjoys the cake!

  2. Jared and I finally got our act together and made it. And delicious doesn’t even begin to describe it. Jared will attest to that having eaten a quarter of the cake in his first sitting.

    1. I’m starting to think Jared may be my biggest fan. Lol!!! So happy you liked it. As I mentioned, I’ve been making it for many decades and it never gets old. Thank you, Sherie!

  3. I have made this cake several times, and it’s our favorite. I’m making it for my son’s birthday and am wondering if I can make it advance and, if so, how to store it both before and after we serve it. Thanks so much.

    1. Hi, Karen! I’m so happy to hear you love this as much as we do. You can definitely make this the day before you serve it. I’ve done it many times. I simply sit it somewhere it won’t be ‘bothered’, like in the microwave or a cold oven. You can also lay a piece of plastic wrap on top. The nuts in the topping keep it from sticking to the icing. As I’m sure you know, this cake is still very moist for a few days after it’s made. I hope this answers your question. Happy Birthday to your son!!

  4. Hello! A question: I’ve made your orange sheet cake and it was amazing. I gave some away and kept some. I want to make your chocolate cake as well, but I don’t want to give my half-sheet pan to the firefighters who I will be giving the cake to. If I cut it into pieces, will it be okay to stack the pieces, or will the icing be too sticky? Let me know if you recommend that it only be served in one layer.

    Thank you for all the wonderful recipes and good advice!

    1. Hi, Melissa! I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed my orange cake and I just love that you’re going to be making my chocolate cake for your local firefighters. As to stacking the squares, I’ve found that it isn’t a very good idea. How about if you buy a disposable inexpensive tray from the grocery store or dollar store and present it to them in a single layer on that? I think it’s the best way to go.

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