Aug 18, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Texas Sheet Cake

One of my aunts gave this recipe to my mom many years ago, and it was among the recipes I made sure I snagged before I departed for Tennessee as a new bride.

It has two big things going for it in my book:  1) it is fast and easy, and 2) it turns out consistently good results - a cake-like brownie (or is it a brownie-like cake?)  It's perfect for taking to potlucks or picnics or anywhere you're serving a crowd.  The boiled chocolate icing is delicious, but I'm also providing an alternative caramel frosting that is also wonderful on this cake.

 Dianna's Texas Sheet Cake

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
4 tablespoons powdered cocoa
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup buttermilk or sour cream
1 teaspoon soda
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla

Grease a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet with sides (roughly 12 x 18).  Preheat oven to 375.  Sift together flour and sugar in large bowl and set aside.  In heavy saucepan, combine water, cocoa, butter and oil.  Bring to a boil and immediately pour over sifted ingredients.  Add remaining ingredients; stir well and pour into prepared pan; bake for 15-20 minutes or until top is springy to touch.

While cake is baking, prepare the frosting.

Aunt Dianna's Frosting
3/4 stick butter (6 tablespoons)
4 tablespoons cocoa
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 pound powdered sugar
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans, walnuts or black walnuts* (optional)

Combine all ingredients except nuts in heavy medium saucepan and heat to boiling.  Stir in nuts, if desired, and pour over cake as soon as it comes out of the oven.  Allow to cool before cutting into squares.

Quick Caramel Frosting 
(from Southern Living September 2005 issue)
An optional frosting that is exceptionally good on chocolate cake, apple muffins, or anything else you want to smother with a rich caramel glaze...

2 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine all ingredients in heavy saucepan; bring to a boil stirring constantly, over medium-low heat.  Cook for 3-5 minutes or until mixture reaches a pudding-like consistency.  remove from heat and pour over cake as it comes out of the oven.  (You can also stir in a cup or two of chopped pecans as you remove from heat, if desired.)

*My grandma harvested black walnuts every fall and she used them in many baked goods and in confections such as divinity.  I was never sure if she really liked black walnuts, or if she used them because they were plentiful and free for the taking.  We have a black walnut tree on our property, and I now appreciate what is involved in getting just a few black walnut meats.  Whatever her reasons were, shelling and storing the black walnuts was truly a labor of love on her part.  

Anytime I bite into anything with black walnuts in it, my memories are immediately taken back to seeing my grandma in her  kitchen, where she produced countless great meals for her family, and served us with much love and humor.