It Really is the Best Chocolate Sheet Cake. Ever. Really.

I recently made a cake recipe from The Pioneer Woman. She called it The Best Chocolate Sheet Cake. Ever. And she seemed pretty confident of that fact. I’ve tried some other recipes from her wonderful, funny blog, and they’ve all been what she promised they would be, so I knew I was in for a treat with this one. And, seriously, I was not disappointed (and neither was my family)!

First and foremost, before I get into how delicious this was, I have to praise how wonderfully easy it was! It’s just a mix-everything-up-and-throw-it-in-a-pan kind of recipe, which I think makes it even more impressive when you taste how wonderful it is! After falling in love with how easy it was to make, I promptly (very promptly, as you’ll see later) fell into a deeper love with how incredible it tasted! The cake itself has a perfect dense, yet somehow still light, crumb that is moist and chocolate-y. And the frosting? Absolute perfection. It’s the perfect compliment to the cake and is not so sickeningly sweet, or dark chocolate-y, that some would be put off. No one will be put off by this cake. It’s that wonderful. It’s no lie. This is the best chocolate sheet cake ever. Ever.

The first time I made it, I was impressed by the ease, but I decided to make a change or two. Originally the recipe called for heaping tablespoons of cocoa powder (for the cake, as well as the frosting). I’m pretty easy going about that, but I know a lot of people want specific measurements to feel more confident, including me sometimes. I decided to establish just what four heaping tablespoons of cocoa powder was equivalent to. I broke out my handy dandy kitchen scale and went to work. I weighed and re-weighed the heaping tablespoons and what I believed their equivalent was several times, and kept coming up with same result: one half cup. I made the cake each way: one with 4 heaping tablespoons and one with one half cup. They were identical! Yay!

In all honesty, with something like cocoa powder, exact measurements aren’t really important. Cocoa is added for flavor, rather than as a leavener, binding agent, etc., so you can really be easy-going about it, but if you like exact measurements (which, let’s face it, are reassuring), now you have one ! :)

All you need is all-purpose flour, unsalted butter, buttermilk (or cultured buttermilk powder), water, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, vanilla, and eggs.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in the cocoa powder, until incorporated. Whisk in the sugar and add the hot water, mixing until combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the saucepan, whisking until fully combined.

In a medium bowl (I just used the now empty flour bowl), gently whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla. Slowly pour the chocolate mixture into the buttermilk mixture, whisking thoroughly. Continue stirring until the mixture is fully incorporated.

The batter will be relatively runny, so don’t worry about that…it’s all good. Really good.

Pour the batter into a 16 1/2- by 11 1/2-inch rimmed baking sheet. It’ll seem like you have too much batter, but it’ll be just right, trust me.

You should have a good half inch of space left to the top of the pan (don’t mind my poor pizza stone that was broken in our latest move). You could use a slightly larger sheet pan, but your cake will be thinner and bake faster. Or you could divide the batter evenly between two half sheet pans. Bake the cake at 350 degrees for 20 to 22 minutes.

You can also make smaller, individual cakes. These are so much fun and perfect for something like Valentine’s Day. You can use any shape or size, but shallower, wider dishes work best.

Just pour the batter into them like you did the sheet pan, leaving about a half inch or so of room from the top of the container (the cake is going to rise and you need room for the frosting too). The deeper the container is, the longer the cake will take to bake, so be aware of that when you set your timer. To give you an idea of how these bake, the shallow brulee dish at the front of the picture baked for about 25 minutes. The others took longer. Also, I’ve found that a light spray of non-stick cooking spray is helpful when using stoneware dishes for this recipe.

While the cake bakes, mix up the frosting. All you need is unsalted butter, confectioners’ sugar, milk, vanilla, chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts), and cocoa powder. FYI-the nuts are totally optional. They add a lovely texture to everything, but definitely not required.

In a medium saucepan (I just used the same one from the cake, without washing, since it never had any eggs in it), melt the butter over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in the cocoa powder until fully incorporated. Add the milk, vanilla, and salt whisking to thoroughly combine. Add the confectioners’ sugar, one cup at a time, mixing until fully incorporated and smooth.

Stir in the chopped nuts. I’ve tried this with a lot of different options, but hazelnuts are my favorite. Set aside until the cake is finished baking.

While the cake is still warm from the oven, pour the frosting over it and allow it to spread over the entire surface of the cake. It should spread easily on it’s own without needing to dirty a knife or spatula.

Do the same for the individual cakes, dividing the frosting evenly among them.

The cake should cool for at least 15 minutes before serving so it doesn’t fall apart while serving it, but otherwise this can be served warm. And trust me when I say…

…you won’t want to wait. Shhh…don’t tell on me. I seriously couldn’t wait to try this. Besides, as the baker, I reserve the right to taste test all the food that comes out of the oven…whenever I want to. Er…right?

The only problem is stopping myself after just one bite…especially with this cake. Holy yum! I’ll say it again…it’s no lie or exaggeration – this really is the best chocolate sheet cake ever.

This is so amazing. It’s absolutely mouthwateringly delicious, so very, very easy to make, and there’s lots to go around! Just when I didn’t think it could get any better, I topped it with fresh, homemade vanilla ice cream, and smooth salted caramel sauce. I know it’s silly to say that I drooled over this, because really, who drools besides babies? But seriously…this dessert made me drool. It is absolutely, positively one of the biggest dessert hits I’ve ever made. It’s already been requested by both the hubster and the kiddo! And they want it just like shown above. Soft, rich chocolate cake with crunchy hazelnuts and sweet frosting, topped with creamy vanilla ice cream, and drizzled with sweet and salty caramel. I’ll say it again…I drool. You will too. And so will everyone you serve this too. Enjoy!

Best Chocolate Sheet Cake
with Perfect Chocolate Frosting

Makes 1 sheet cake
Ingredients

FOR THE CAKE
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
1 cup hot water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 2 tablespoons powdered buttermilk, plus 1/2 cup water)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon Vanilla

FOR THE FROSTING
3/4 cup, plus 2 tablspoons (1 3/4 sticks or 14 tablspoons)unsalted butter
1/2 cup cocoa powder
6 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts, optional (any desired, but hazelnuts, walnuts, and pecans are best)

Salted Caramel Sauce

Creamy Vanilla Ice Cream

To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in the cocoa powder, until incorporated. Whisk in the sugar and add the hot water, mixing until combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the saucepan, whisking until fully combined.

In a medium bowl (I just used the now empty flour bowl), gently whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla. Slowly pour the chocolate mixture into the buttermilk mixture, whisking constantly. Continue stirring until the mixture is fully incorporated.

Pour the cake batter into a rimmed sheet pan. Bake for 20-22 minutes.

To make the frosting: While the cake is baking, prepare the frosting. In a medium saucepan (I just used the same one, without washing, since it never had any eggs in it), melt the butter over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in the cocoa powder until fully incorporated. Add the milk, vanilla, and salt whisking to thoroughly combine. Add the confectioners’ sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing until fully incorporated and smooth. Stir in the chopped nuts and set aside until the cake is finished baking.

When you remove the cake from the oven, pour the frosting over the top while it’s still warm and allow it to spread evenly until the entire cake is covered. The cake should cool for at least 15 minutes before serving so it doesn’t fall apart while serving it, but otherwise this can be served warm.

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

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Comments

    • says

      It’s very versatile! It tastes great with just about anything, but especially with chocolate.

      I store mine in an airtight container (an old, clean jam jar) in the refrigerator. It’s hard to say how long it lasts, because we always finish it pretty quickly! ;) I would say that it would refrigerate well for at least 2 weeks, though. Just nuke it in the microwave at 10 second intervals until the desired temp is reached.

  1. Rebecca says

    My grandma used to make this exact cake, but with 1 tsp cinnamon added to the batter. It seriously takes the cake to a whole other level :)

  2. Grace says

    My Nana use to make this cake for all of her grandchildren on their birthdays. She would always save some frosting so that we could put it on graham crackers. That was my favorite part of the cake. It really is the best cake ever!!!!!!

  3. says

    hej darla,
    waaaaaaaaah, yesterday evening i tried this receipe … and oh … my … i … it’s SO CHOCOLICIOUS!!!!! thanks so much for sharing/giving the hint to pinoneer woman’s magic chocolate cake! greets from hamburg/germany :)

  4. Harmony says

    I made this cake tonight and it is really yummy! I am never successful with “from scratch” cakes but this one is so easy to make. I used powdered buttermilk and added a TBS. of cinnamon. The frosting did not turn out for me but I think it was a (low quality) butter issue. Wonder if this could be made into cupcakes??
    Thanks for the new recipe :)

  5. Sarah says

    Yum! I made your ice cream recipe yesterday, and it was delicious! It tasted like waffles, but I think that’s because I used Mexican vanilla. I just got one of those ice cream makers where you roll it around, and it’s so fun! I can’t wait to try the coffee-mint one since I just tried the vanilla. Love your recipes!

  6. Kendra says

    Rebecca, I was about to say the exact same thing! This is totally my mother’s chocolate sheet cake recipe without the cinnamon! At one of my bridal showers, the mother of my best friend (who is a fantastic baker and cook) gave me a recipe box full of their families recipes – and it contained this recipe! A true southern classic. This is the cake that everyone requests on their birthdays – it really is the greatest cake ever.

  7. Driscoll says

    I’m not a big cake fan, but I love caramel so I thought I would give it a try. I made it for Superbowl and it was hands down everyone’s favorite. Since it made so much I distributed pieces at work and all I heard was “oh, my god”. Definitely will be making many more times. The caramel sauce is super easy to make and to die for, I’m trying to find a way to dip chunks of it in chocolate. A few years back Trader Joe’s had Sea Salt Chocolate Caramels, and this is the closest match I’ve found.

  8. Cheesy says

    Gave it a try today for the boyfriend’s birthday — delicious! I use a combination microwave-convection oven, so I used two 24cm round silicone cake pans (practical for a tiny apartment) and added 10 minutes to the cooking time for the extra thickness. If others try this, consider reducing the amount of icing you make — unless you need lots of leftover icing ;)

  9. Polai Vue says

    Hi! I came across your blog while doing a google search for chocolate cake and yours looks really delicious; I would really love to try it out for a birthday this weekend. I was wondering if you know of any way to incorporate oranges or the flavor onto the frosting. Thanks.

  10. MB says

    I’m thinking of trying to make this into a layer cake for a birthday. I would use this frosting for the middle but was wondering if you had a recommendation for a frosting for the outside or a reason it wouldn’t work in two 9 inch cake rounds.

    Always wonderful recipes! Thanks for sharing.

    • Kristen says

      I’m a little late to the party, I know.. but I was googling this cake recipe to see if anyone had tried it as a layered cake and came across this site.
      Just wanted to let you know that i’ve made it then cut the leftovers into squares, wrapped each in saran wrap and put in a freezer bag. They keep for months in the freezer this way and even taste really amazing still a little frozen ;)

  11. rose says

    Hello Darla! I came across your blog not too long ago and I absolutely love your blog! your work is truly inspiring! I absolutely love baking and love trying new recipes. I finally decided to stop being afraid of making cakes, cupcakes from scratch and have been experimenting a lot! :). I’m trying to perfect the basic flavor cupcakes (from scratch) and have been searching for a delish chocolate cupcake recipe and came across this recipe! it looks marvelous!! Could I use this recipe for cupcakes?? and if so any tips on how to make the cupcakes moist? I want to make this for my fathers birthday tomorrow sooo I would love the help!! thanks :)

    • says

      Hi Rose, I wouldn’t recommend this recipe, as-is, for cupcakes. It’s a very moist cake, and I don’t think that it would hold up well as cupcakes. However, I think there are some tweaks you could make to make the recipe work. I would cut the butter, sugar, and buttermilk in half. Also, instead of melting the butter, I would combine the cocoa powder with the hot water, and sit it aside to cool. Once it’s cooled, stir int he buttermilk. Then, I would combine the butter (which is just softened, instead of melted) and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Then I would stir in the eggs and vanilla thoroughly, then add the dry ingredients and the chocolate in alternating amounts, mixing until just combined after each addition.

      Make sure that you don’t over mix once the flour is added. Bake at the same temperature for about 18 to 20 minutes.

      You could also try my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe, which is very similar to this one after the changes are made.

  12. rose says

    Thank you so much for the immediate response Darla! :) Thank you so much for the great tips, I will be trying this today I will let you know how it goes! thank you again<3

  13. Laura Shaw says

    I have made this cake for years. – Just recently got a new larger cake pan & had problems with it. so I am so happy to see your recipe for the larger pan size. I will try it yet today. thank You so much. I am going to use the unsalted butter also. I have always used oil & margarine. thanks for the new tips.

  14. Ela says

    Hi, how did you prepare your baking pan? Did you butter or butter and floured it? Or did you use parchment paper? Thanks!