Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pioneer Woman's Best Chocolate Sheet Cake Ever

Pioneer Woman calls this sheet cake "the best chocolate sheet cake, ever." While I can't confirm that with 100% certainty (there are a lot of chocolate sheet cakes out there, and I think it is my duty -- YES, DUTY -- to reserve judgment until I have tasted all of them so I can make an informed decision), I can't imagine this cake isn't at least in the running for the title.

Chocolate Sheet Cake

The cake is moist and chocolatey, with a wonderful frosting that's dotted with pecans (to be honest, the pecans were so good that next time I'd double the amount used). What I can say with some certainty is that this was one of the easiest, most rewarding cakes I've ever made. It's really ridiculously easy, and if you're someone who thinks that something easy can't be all that good, I'm here to tell you you're very wrong.

Chocolate Sheet Cake

First of all, this cake uses melted butter, instead of softened. I don't know about you, but softened butter is the bane of my existence when it comes to baking. Oh, I understand the importance of it -- it's just having some handy when I want it that's the problem. With softened butter, you have to plan in advance, and more often than not my baking is a spontaneous thing. Anyway, you mix your wet ingredients, you mix your dry ingredients, and you mix them together. Nothing tricky about it. Same goes for the frosting (which is a little sweet for me, but has a wonderful flavor, and as I said, the pecans really add something) -- you mix the ingredients together, let it cool a bit, then spread over your cake.

Chocolate Sheet Cake

The one kind of fussy thing about this recipe is that it requires buttermilk. If you don't have buttermilk on hand (and I know very few people who have buttermilk on hand on a regular basis), I have two suggestions. One is to buy Bob's Red Mill dry buttermilk. I keep some in the freezer. It's so convenient, when I need buttermilk I just whip some up, rather than having to go out and buy a carton, only part of which gets used, so then I have to think of where else to use it. The only thing is that this is a sweet buttermilk rather than sour. Which leads me to the suggestion Pioneer Woman has, which is to fill your measuring cup almost to the required amount of buttermilk with regular milk, then add white vinegar until it reaches the right amount. I haven't tried this myself, but she says it works.

Chocolate Sheet Cake

I only have photos of the whole finished sheet cake because despite the fact that immediately after it was done I wanted to cut into it -- it smelled sooooo good -- I had to resist as I'd made it for a coworker's birthday and I didn't want to ruin his cake (or at least, couldn't figure out a way to do it without the embarassment of someone noticing that there was a piece missing). Then once it got to my workplace the cake sort of evaporated.

Pioneer Woman's Best Chocolate Sheet Cake Ever (adapted from Pioneer Woman)


For the cake:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp (heaping) unsweetened, natural cocoa powder
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla

For the frosting:
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 14 tbsp (1 3/4 sticks) salted butter
  • 4 tbsp (heaping) unsweetened, natural cocoa powder
  • 6 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 lb (minus 1/2 cup) powdered sugar
  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt.
  2. In a saucepan, melt the butter, then add cocoa (don't be shy with the amount). Stir together.
  3. Add boiling water, allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds, then remove from heat. Pour this into the flour mixture, stirring gently just until combined.
  4. In a measuring cup, pour the buttermilk and add beaten eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate mixture.
  5. Pour into ungreased sheet cake pan and bake at 350°F for 20 minutes.
  6. While the cake is baking, make the frosting. Chop the pecans finely. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add the cocoa, stir to combine, then remove from heat. Add the milk, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Stir together. Add the pecans once the frosting has cooled a bit (you don't want to cook the nuts), stir together, and pour over the warm cake.

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