Sunday, May 17, 2009

Tommie's Brownies aka Buttermilk Chocolate Texas Sheet Cake

A long-held southern favorite, Texas Sheet Cake, is the lightest, fluffiest, perfectly sweet, rich and delectable, melt in your mouth, best chocolate cake ever. No matter how hard you try you will not be able to eat just one piece.

Tommie's Brownies aka Buttermilk Chocolate Texas Sheet Cake

I got this big batch brownie recipe several years ago from Tommie, a friend of mine from Oklahoma, but it's essentially one of those recipes that has been around in one form or another, and by one name or another, for as long as I have, and probably longer.

It originated with Hershey many years back, and was on the back of the cocoa tin. One year, I can't even remember how many orders of this sheet cake Tommie said she did for a church bake sale, but it had to be a few dozen all told. As soon as somebody would find out she was making them for the bake sale, they'd be calling to place an order for a full tray before the bake sale even started! I can certainly see why.

Tommie calls them brownies, but most of you know it as Texas Sheet Cake. Most often, it becomes associated with whoever it is that brings it most often to family gatherings, as in Aunt Mary's Chocolate Cake. Some folks refer to this as Lunchroom Ladies Brownies, based on what they had in school. I don't remember being that lucky to have these in school!

Some call this Big Batch Brownies, Mexican Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Candy Cake, Chocolate Sheet Cake, Dream Cake - which I believe may be the original name from Hershey and I can see why. It's also been called "Cocoa Sheath Cake" - in fact, in one of my old Bell's Best cookbooks from the early 80s, it's listed as a Cajun Sheath Cake. Have no idea how they slipped a Cajun name in on this one, but you'll see it by all sorts of odd names, some that make no sense!

The cake is fairly rich, so it is traditionally made as a thin, single layer cake baked in a half sheet pan - what we call a jelly roll pan (11 x 17 inch or 13 x 18) - which makes it ideal for taking to a party, to the classroom, or a Sunday School class, potlucks and to treat your coworkers. Just bake it on the tray, slice into small squares and place it on a platter or on cupcake liners. At home, it is sometimes made in a 9 x 13 inch pan, though the sheet pans are much more traditional for this cake.

I don't make this cake often just to have around the house, because frankly it's dangerous. Seriously. This is a take somewhere, gathering, giveaway and share with a boatload of folks hanging around to help you eat it kinda cake, meant to tote to a pot-luck, or church supper, reunion, or for a funeral. My picture does not do it justice, because it is the lightest fluffiest cake, that is perfectly sweet, rich and delectable, melt in your mouth awesome and chocolaty, and I guarantee no matter how hard you try you will not be able to eat just one piece. One row maybe. But not just one piece.

If you do brave making this one just to have, I assure you, every time you pass this tray, you'll grab a piece. In fact, you'll probably find excuses just to pass the tray because you will not be able to stop thinking about this cake sitting in that other room. I know it looks so innocently simple, but it is deliciously addictive. So, there. I have sufficiently warned you. If you eat the whole pan over the course of a day or three, don't blame me! ;)

You'll use butter and cocoa twice, but since this is done in stages I've separated the amounts in the recipe according to when you need them. If you're making this for yourself and not a gathering where you have to worry over nut allergies, you can add 1/2 to 1 cup of chopped nuts to the icing, whipping them in just before you pour the icing over the cake, or simply sprinkle them all over the top right after you pour on the icing.

So go on ... I'll bet that you have everything in the pantry you need to make this cake honestly and it really doesn't take long to pull together. Then come back and tell me how you feel about me it. {smile} This is a perfect dessert that goes over well at any gathering, so make one and that way you'll have plenty of folks to share it with and you won't hate me forever.

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Recipe: Tommie's Brownies aka Buttermilk Chocolate Texas Sheet Cake

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 15 min |Cook time: 25 min | Yield: About 12 to 15 servings


For the Cake:
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, optional
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) of unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 6 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
For the Frosting:
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) of unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoons of milk
  • 4 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 (1 pound) box of powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of chopped pecans, toasted,optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. For a sheet cake, spray a jellyroll pan (a half sheet, sheet cake pan approx. 18" x 13" x 1") with butter flavored non-stick spray, or spray a 9 x 13 inch pan for a regular cake. In a measuring cup, measure out 1/2 cup of buttermilk. Add 2 eggs to that and beat until well blended; set aside. Whisk together in a large bowl, 2 cups sugar, 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the cinnamon. Make a well in the center and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the 2 sticks of butter, the 2 tablespoons oil and 1 cup of water and bring to a near boil. Remove pot from the heat and whisk in 6 tablespoons of cocoa, until smooth. Stir in 1 teaspoon of vanilla and add this mixture to the sugar and flour mixture; stir until well blended. Slowly add in the buttermilk and egg mixture and stir well.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees until the center is set, about 20 to 25 minutes for a sheet cake, about 35 to 40 minutes for a regular 9 x 13 inch pan. While the cake is cooking, toast the pecans in a dry pan, tossing regularly until fragrant, about 5 minutes, set aside to cool.

When cake is about 5 minutes from being done, prepare the frosting. Do not do the frosting ahead of time because it will quickly stiffen. Heat the stick of butter and 6 tablespoons of milk in a saucepan just until it comes to a boil. It will need to be very hot. Remove from the heat and whisk in the remaining 4 tablespoons of cocoa. Mixture will thicken. Add in the powdered sugar and vanilla and quickly beat with a wooden spoon until smooth, returning to a low burner if mixture thickens too quickly. Immediately pour the frosting all over the cake. Working quickly, use a spatula to gently push the frosting out to the edges and to cover the cake evenly. Sprinkle top evenly with the cooled toasted pecans, if desired. Set entire pan aside on a wire rack and allow the cake to cool completely before slicing.

Cook's Notes: When the cake comes out of the oven, quickly poke holes all over it and then pour the icing on top. For brands, I prefer White Lily flour, Hershey's cocoa, Land O'Lakes butter and Domino sugar. May also use cake flour if you like.

Tips: This will be a very moist cake, so you aren't looking for a dry surface when it is done. As always, take care to not overcook your cake. If you shake the pan and the cake doesn't jiggle, it's done! Frosting will set fast, so ya gotta move fast! If your frosting stiffens too quickly, you can also thin it with a little additional milk if needed, and return it to a low heat.

Pecan Praline Icing: Heat one stick butter with one cup of light brown sugar; bring to a boil. Remove from heat and whisk in milk, beat in 2 cups powdered sugar and vanilla and quickly beat with a wooden spoon until smooth, returning to a low burner if mixture thickens too quickly. Quickly stir in pecans and immediately pour the frosting all over the cake and gently push the frosting out to the edges and to cover the cake evenly.

Chocolate Buttercream Icing: If you prefer not to use the classic or praline icing, my buttercream frosting is also good on these. Click here for the full recipe with instructions.


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©Deep South Dish
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Posted by on May 17, 2009
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  1. Oh my! That cake looks so delicious! I will definitely be making this cake sometime this week. Yummy!

  2. We call this "Texas Sheet Cake" here in Indiana. Becky

  3. I make this cake and it is my absolute favorite chocolate cake!
    It' addictive!

  4. Lynda, I know - it is isn't it?!!!

  5. That looks delicious! My mom (back home in Indiana)makes almost the exact same recipe. We call it Texas Sheet Cake too. I wonder if that's an Indiana thing? It was always one of my favorite desserts and I love that it's easy too!

  6. I don't know Krista - all I can say for sure is that it's not a Mississippi thing LOL!! We just call this kind of cake a sheet cake - bet it got the name because of the size when making it in a jellyroll pan.

  7. You have to stop doing this. I won't fit through the door if I keep going at this rate. It looks like a terrific recipe.

  8. :) I know. I sent a big chunk of it over to my neighbor across the street, and another big chunk to my mother in law!

  9. It looks yummy! What size jelly roll pan did you use? From the picture, it's hard to tell if it's a 1/2 or 1/4 sheet.

  10. Oh--that looks so good. I am going to definitely try that one. I have a banana cake recipe--if I can find it--that uses buttermilk--it is my most favorite cake ever!! I bet this one will come in a close second though!! I like to make sheet cakes then cut them into pieces and put them in the freezer in individual packages--that way I can take out one piece at a time and make it last longer!!Sheila in NC

  11. Hi Dawn, it's a half - 18" x 13"

    Sheila, I do that alot with desserts too. If I didn't, well, it wouldn't be pretty LOL!! I usually slice whatever it is up, lay it out on a sprayed cookie sheet and freeze it. Then I can stick it all in one large ziploc. It's kinda fun to find assorted treats in there on down the line.

    I love buttermilk for cooking with. My Mama used to drink it plain at night - I never quite got that though!!

  12. Oh My Mary this looks so good. I love sheet cakes and it has buttermilk I love baking with buttermilk. Thanks for sharing I have a new pan begging for me to make this.

  13. We LOVE that cake around here. I use Pioneer Woman's recipe and we just go ga-ga over it. Yum YUM!

  14. Hi Kameron - I'm not familiar with her recipe, but I'll bet it's similar. Most of them are pretty close. Thanks for stoppin' by!!

  15. Yum! Made this cake yesterday and it's almost gone. Everyone loved it. Makes a lot so was able to share with extended family. A great cake for a crowd. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Hi Renee'! Thanks so much for coming back and letting me know!!

  17. I've made this lots of times for my husband. I discovered this in a cookbook when we first got married and it's our addiction.

  18. Thank you thank you thank you!!

    I'm making this for my daughter's 26th birthday cake today, I think I just gained 10 pounds from looking at your photos!


    I get soooooooo many recipes from your page, but the funny thing is, it's usually not at the time you post them when I use them (does that make sense?) - so I'm leaving this today, kinda much later after you posted it, so thank you, also, for the links you make on your other pages referring me to these great older ones~

    Off I go to the kitchen, thanks!!

  19. OMG this sounds sinful. cannot wait to make it !
    Thanks, Mary!

  20. Right this minute I'm roasting a bunch of romas in the oven...this cake is next to have this weekend. Can't count how many times I've made it through the years!

  21. I'm an Okie myself. It's known far & wide around here as Texas Sheet Cake here. Usually does have nuts sprinkled on top, but I realize so many have allergies these days.

  22. Yeap that is what i want to make but i think i will use your peanut butter icing. What do you think??

  23. I've been looking all over for a version of this recipe that fits my half-sheet pans. Thank you! We just tried it tonight and it is great.

    1. Isn't it just such a simple but sinful cake? Glad y'all enjoyed it!


    1. For something so simple it's just downright decadent isn't it? I'm so glad y'all enjoyed the cake & thank you so much Janay for taking the time to come back and let me know!

    2. This looks fabulous! I'm from Illinois, and have always known this as Texas Sheet of my favorites!! Going to make this for my co-worker, Janay's birthday on Monday. I think she will really love this! I'm not really eating many sweets these days, but I will probably have a nibble or two! Thanks for sharing!

    3. That is the best way to have it Jodi - sharing!! I am totally not safe around this one. It's hard to resist just another bite!!

  25. Well Mary, I did it. I made this cake last night, and of course we did have to do quality control before I share it w/ others. I mean, I wouldn't want to be responsible for making anyone sick; I believe in taking one for the team! Anywho, I used Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder for both recipes and 1 stick of unsalted butter for the icing; OMG, this cake is decadent, there is no other word...just DECADENT!! Thank you so much for sharing...I will be getting the rest of it out of my house though, as I do not trust myself around it; this could throw my change in eating habits waaayyy off track!!

    1. LOL Jodi!! I'm the same way - glad you have some folks to share it with!

  26. Mary, I just made this delicious cake for my family. As long as I've been cooking, I think this was my first time to make a sheet cake. It was really easy and my family loved it. Just finished off a big piece with a cold glass of milk. Thanks for the recipe!

  27. My step mom raised me through my teenage years, I loved her very much. She passed away in December and this was her favorite cake! We lived in separate states and the last time I talked to her, I told her that I would make her one for her birthday. She said no one else made her birthday cakes. My step mom and dad were supposed to visit in April, I never got to see her again before she died.
    ....SO in honor of her birthday, I made this delicious cake today! I was very happy, mine turned out just like your picture, I had never made a sheet cake before. I know she would have loved it! I can't thank you enough for this recipe!! It was great! However I have to take 98% of it to work, dangerously good and there is a lot of it! :)

    1. Oh LaDawna, don't I know what you mean!!! The reason I haven't made new pictures is that this cake is not safe around me at alla.

      It's such a great recipe and though it can be made in a 9 x 13 inch pan, it's not quite the same to me and really a bit too rich that way. I'm so sorry for your loss but I'm happy that you found this recipe to be able to reminisce about your step mom. I'm sure that she was right there with you!

  28. Growing up in a little close knit rural community, our closest neighbor (across the field), always made a version of this cake to take to the funeral home when somebody passed away. It became lovingly known as "Death Cake" in our little circle. When my own parents each passed away, this cake was there, and while grieving and trying to get thru visitation, funeral & all the necessary functions, that was about the only thing I was able to eat. It is such a comforting cake. I try to make it for the funeral home visits some times and always think of my dear sweet neighbor who has now passed on as well.

    1. It's called funeral cake around here too because of that very reason Vicky!

  29. Here it is my bedtime and I'm thumbing through all of these DELICIOUS recipes here on your blog and now I see this delectable cake recipe and now I'm hungry. I'm whipping this up tomorrow. I'll be back to let you know how I did.

    1. I have got to get some better pictures taken of this because these just do not do this dessert justice. It is DIVINE and I have a feeling you are gonna love it too Gina!

  30. Oh Mary, I now know what you meant when you advised us to make this for a gathering. I get it. And you are right. Lol. It is DIVINE!!! I have been eating on this all afternoon and I'm not going to lie to you I had it for supper. Thank you for this and all of your wonderful recipes and all of your hard work!! God bless you dear. :)

    1. LOL, I can totally relate Gina!! I literally cannot pass this with taking just another little piece!

  31. I forgot to add that I think your pictures are fine! I'm no photographer but they look good to me.
    As a woman who is a bit of a perfectionist myself, I think your being hard on yourself and I know some people are so judgemental but to heck with them. Your pics are fine and I appreciate all of the work that you put into this website. I've visited other sites and this is my personal favorite. Everything here is great: recipes, your personalizing stories with each recipe and your pics. Two thumbs up!


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