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Texas Sheet Cake Makes you a Potluck Hero

There’s nothing like Texas Sheet Cake. Even when you’re in the middle of that special chaos that comes along with raising young children. You often feel like you’re juggling six thousand things – household responsibilities, a job, and trying to give each kid (whether you have one or five) the attention they deserve.

As a military spouse, I and moms like me are often performing many of these tasks as a solo parent, far from whatever support system you had come to rely on. That is why so many military spouses wind up creating their own support system and friends become family.

When my now-teenage boys were only four and six, I lived in military housing in central California. One weekday afternoon when my husband was deployed, I glanced at my calendar and realized I had completely forgotten that I had a potluck dinner that night. I had already RSVPed “yes,” signing up to bring a dessert. There was no backing out.

I still had to walk my dog, pick my boys up from school, finish some job-related tasks, and prepare a dinner that my babysitter could serve to the boys while I was out. And now, I also had to make a dessert. Yes, I could have gone to the grocery store and bought a pie or cake, but I’m a baking snob and store-bought desserts don’t cut it for me. I needed an idea for something I could bake – and it had to be quick and easy.

I consulted my next-door neighbor, who was a member of my military “family.” An amazing baker and cook, she seemed to possess a never-ending arsenal of recipes for every possible occasion. Looking for a vegetarian entrée recipe for a dinner guest? She had one. Need a make-ahead soup to freeze for busy weeknights? She had that, too. Super quick and easy potluck dessert? Yup, she had that as well!

“I have a great recipe for Texas Sheet Cake,” she said. I’d never heard of Texas Sheet Cake. My neighbor wasn’t from Texas and neither am I!

I subsequently learned that no one is exactly sure why this potluck staple is called Texas Sheet Cake. One origin story says that it was first published in a Texas newspaper. Others speculate that the name comes from the size of the pan you bake it in, which is quite large (Get it? It’s big, like Texas). Regardless of why it has that name, it is no-kidding, amazingly delicious. I didn’t know this at the time, of course.

Later that afternoon, when I had 30 minutes to spare, I made the cake. I popped it in the oven to bake while I made my boys’ dinner. It took it out of the oven with just enough time to cool before I had to leave. I had no opportunity to taste it. I covered it with plastic wrap, put it next to me on the front seat of my car, and whisked it off to the potluck.

“I hope this is good,” I thought to myself.

Thanks to my neighbor, my reputation as an excellent baker remained intact. Everyone loved it (including me). Now, it’s one of my go-tos if I ever need a quick but very tasty dessert. I’ve never met anyone who has tried it and not loved it. Best of all, it’s extremely versatile.

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Texas Sheet Cake

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Makes about 20 servings




Cake ingredients

1 cup unsalted butter

1 cup water

4 tablespoons of cocoa powder

2 cups of all-purpose flour

2 cups of white sugar

½ tsp of salt

2 eggs

½ cup of sour cream

1 tsp of baking soda


Icing Ingredients

½ cup unsalted butter

4 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder

5 tablespoons of milk

3 ½ cup confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp of vanilla extract




To make the cake:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Grease a 15X10 inch jelly roll pan.

In a large saucepan, bring the water, 1 cup butter, and 4 Tbsp cocoa to a boil

While the mixture is still hot, remove it from the heat and add flour, sugar, and salt. Mix well.

Beat in the eggs, sour cream, and baking soda. Do NOT overmix.

Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.


To make the icing

Bring the butter, cocoa, and milk to a boil in a pot.

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Pour it onto the cake while it’s still hot.


Vanilla Variation

  • For the cake, eliminate the cocoa powder and add 1 tsp of vanilla
  • For the icing, use your favorite vanilla buttercream icing and spread it on after the cake has fully cooled.


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