"Because life is good, home cooking is best, and there is always something to be grateful for." - Christy Jordan

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Texas Sheet Cake... and why I'm proud to be a Texan.

Is there a better state than Texas? Here's the short answer....no!

Texas is one of a kind.  Did you know Texas is the only state in the United States that is allowed to fly its state flag at the same height as the American flag? That's how great Texas is.

I'm proud to say that I'm a native Texan. I've lived here for over 23 years now (holy cow... that made me feel old) and I love everything about being a Texan. Have you ever seen those bumper stickers that say "I wasn't born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could?" Everyone wants to be a Texan! 

I love saying I'm from here. I love seeing Texas wildflowers in the spring. I love Texas chili. I love my Texas Rangers. I love Shiner Bock beer. I love Dr Pepper. I love Texas barbeque. I love Texas country music. I love the Texas State Fair. I love how finicky the weather can be. (I've seen days where you'll be bundled up one day and wearing shorts the next.) I even love those hot, Texas summers.

 Beautiful Texas Wildflowers

I have to say though, one of the best things about Texas is the people. Everyone is just so nice here. It's not unusual for a stranger to smile and say "hi" to you as you're walking by and we just take care of each other. I remember when I went to New York for the first time a few years ago to dance in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. A big group of us were riding the subway and were a little confused about when we should get off. This woman heard us discussing when we should get off, and she yelled at us and told us we were on the wrong train in the rudest way possible and she acted like we were bothering her. New York is just not for me. And when people bump into you up there, don't expect them to stop and say "sorry". In fact, they'll probably tell you the collision was your fault. Now I'm not saying all New Yorkers are like this, but most of the ones I encountered were. I think New York is one of the few other states who are as prideful as us when it comes to their state. There are tons of great things about New York that are worth being proud of, but I think I'll stay down here where I feel at home and everyone is friendly!  

The other day I made Texas Sheet cake because my dad requested it for his Poker Night he was having at our house. It's safe to say that I didn't protest :) I told him I'd make it as long as he saved a piece for the cook! I did some research to find out where the name came from because I was curious and no one seems to know.  

Texas Sheet Cake has become a staple at family gatherings and I'm sure most Texans have had it at one point in their life. There was an article done by Laura H. Ehret at the Dallas Morning News where she researched the origin of the name and she found that Lady Bird Johnson seems to get the credit most of the time. I guess Lady Bird was known for making this cake, however, she called her cake "Mexican Chocolate Cake" because she puts cinnamon in it (I do that, too!) I'm fine with giving Lady Bird the credit for this cake because she was a wonderful Texan. She's also responsible for all the beautiful wildflowers we see every spring!

Another source I found said that she heard this cake got its name because it's big, rich and hot. Apparently, a long time ago it was believed that rich people lived in Texas and we all know that "Everything is bigger in Texas!" And we all know how hot our Texas summers are. So that explanation makes sense too! Either way, this cake is moist, delicious, and it's one that you'll make once and keep making for years to come. 

Texas Sheet Cake 
Recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman 

2 c. flour
2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
4 heaping tbsp. cocoa powder
2 sticks of unsalted butter
1 c. boiling water
1/2 c. buttermilk (I'll show you how to make your own!)
2 whole eggs, beaten
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon (Feel free to leave it out if you're not a cinnamon person)
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a sheet pan (a.k.a. jellyroll pan) with some non-stick spray or butter. This is a pan that is rectangular and shallow. I think mine was 15'' x 10" and an 1" deep. You need the sides to be at least an inch high. The reason why it's called a "sheet cake" is because it's thin and wide... Texas sized :)

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Stir together with a fork so everything is evenly incorporated.

Before I stirred...obviously :)

In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once it's melted, add the cocoa powder and stir together until combined.

 In go the HEAPING tablespoons of cocoa.

 Stir the cocoa into the melted butter. 

 Next add the boiling water. I just turned on the kettle and once it was boiling I measured out a cup and poured it on in. Allow that mixture to boil for 30 seconds (you may have to turn the heat up a little bit), and once it's boiling turn off the heat. Pour this mixture over the flour mixture and stir gently to cool.

It'll be pretty thick.
Now let's make the wet ingredients. I promised I'd show you how to make your own buttermilk. This trick will save you, guaranteed. There are tons of recipes out there that call for buttermilk and I never, ever have it!
Okay, this is easy. Since we need 1/2 cup of buttermilk, get out your liquid measuring cup and pour enough regular milk in to make a scant half cup. That means just below the half cup measure line.
 Like this!

Now go to your pantry and get your vinegar. Yes, vinegar! I know it sounds weird, but this really works. I'm pretty sure you could also use lemon juice. You need something really acidic to help curdle the milk a little bit and make it tangy. Pour enough vinegar in so it fills to the half cup measure line.

 Now you have buttermilk! So easy!

Now when you see recipes that call for buttermilk, you can just use this trick. I know, you're welcome :)

Let that sit for a few minutes so the vinegar can do what it's supposed to. In a small bowl, crack your two eggs and beat them a little so they're combined. Stir the "buttermilk" a bit so it's combined. It should look a little thicker on top, almost curdled. Don't worry, it's supposed to look like that! Dump your eggs in and stir. Then add the baking soda and vanilla. Stir again so it's all one big gooey mess.

 I know it doesn't look very appetizing right now. Just you wait!

Pour the wet mixture into the butter/chocolate/flour mixture. Stir gently until everything is combined. This will probably take you a minute because it takes a second for the chocolate and everything to absorb the milk.

 Keep stirring! It'll get there, I promise.

Now it's all combined!
Pour the batter into your prepared pan. You'll probably see a bunch of bubble floating on the top. What I do (I learned this from my girl, Paula Deen) is just lift the pan a few inches off the counter and drop it. CAUTION: Don't lift it too high off the counter! You'll end up with cake batter everywhere! Just lift it about 3-4 inches. When it lands on the counter the bubbles will pop. Cool trick, huh? I'm just full of them today!
Bake this gorgeous cake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. The top of the cake will look baked, as well.

While the cake is in the oven, we need to make the frosting. The best part about this icing is that you pour it over warm cake. Normally you have to wait impatiently patiently for the cake to be cooled and then you can ice it. Not this one!

Chocolate Pecan Icing (the best part!)
1 c. finely chopped pecans
1 3/4 sticks butter
4 heaping tbsp. cocoa powder
6 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 tsp. cinnamon, or to your taste
1 lb. powdered sugar (3 1/2 cups)

Melt the butter in a saucepan. I just washed out the one I used before and used it again. Make sure you use 1 3/4 sticks and not 1 3/4 cups of butter. Use a stick plus 6 tbsp.
 I ran out of butter and had to use margarine for the 6 tbsp. Whoops! Oh well, it's practically the same thing.
Chop up the pecans finely. They don't have to be teeny tiny pieces.

The left side is chopped and the right side isn't! Does that help?

Add the cocoa powder to the melted butter and stir to combine. Then turn off the heat. Add the milk, vanilla, cinnamon and powdered sugar. Stir all that together.

I had a helper! This is Cody, we've known each other since kindergarten. Can you believe I've put up with him for that long?! Just kidding :)

 Stir, stir, stir!

Now stir in your chopped pecans and your icing is done! Just let it sit until the cake is out of the oven. Once it's out, I let it cool for about 10 minutes just so it's not piping hot. Then pour the icing over the cake and spread it so it covers it all.

 Yum! I think I could eat the icing all on its own.

 The finished product! You will fall in love when you try it, and so will everyone else! 

Let the cake sit out at room temperature for a little while so the icing can set and thicken up a bit. This cake will seriously rock your world!

I hope y'all enjoy. If you make this, please let me know what you think! And feel free to share what you love about Texas with me!

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