This past weekend we celebrated The Hubs’ birthday. We hosted a party here at home. There was tasty BBQ to eat along with fun munchie foods, delicious salads (courtesy of my fabulous sisters-in-law) and an enormous pile of cookies from my mother-in-law. A pile of cookies that seemed to disappear almost instantly once she set it down. Now I can’t compete with those cookies, but I can say with confidence that the chocolate cupcakes I made were enjoyed with nearly equal enthusiasm. They were hands down the best chocolate cupcakes I’ve ever made. And I’ve made at least three times as many cupcakes as I have margaritas in my life so I’m pretty much an expert. An expert at gluttony, apparently.
If you’ve never had Texas Sheet Cake then you are in for a treat but you should know up front that this isn’t going to be crazy, gooey, devils-foody cake that you’re making. It’s rustic and homey. It’s totally unassuming and low-maintenance. It doesn’t require you to sift this or run out and buy dutch process that. It won’t ask you to pour it a cocktail and rub its feet while fast-forwarding all the commercials on the latest episode of True Blood. That’s just not how this cake rolls. This is the kind of cake you take to a barbecue, a pot luck or a picnic. You can also eat it straight out of the oven with no frosting at all while you congratulate yourself on your awesomeness. Coincidentally, that is my favorite way to eat this cake. A close runner-up would be at breakfast with iced foffee. Carpe Diem, people.
Texas Sheet Cake Cupcakes
Yields 24 cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
2 Cups flour
2 Cups sugar
1/4 tsp salt
4 heaping Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli)
2 sticks unsalted butter
1/2 Cup boiling water
1 Cup buttermilk
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two muffin pans with paper liners and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt. Set aside.
- In small saucepan, melt the butter. Once it is melted, stir in the cocoa powder and boiling water. Mix until well combined. Then add to dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
- In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk buttermilk, eggs, baking soda and vanilla. Stir into the chocolate/flour mixture and mix until fully incorporated.
- Fill the prepared muffin pans with batter and bake cupcakes for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Don’t over bake.
- Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.
For the frosting:
1 3/4 sticks butter, melted
4 heaping Tbs cocoa powder
6 Tbs buttermilk (or milk, but I think the very slight tang of the buttermilk is really nice)
1 tsp vanilla
4 Cups powdered sugar (you can go a little easy on this if you prefer. I used about 3 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup chopped pecans (classic for this type of cake, but totally optional)
- Melt butter in saucepan.
- Pour into large mixing bowl and add in cocoa powder, buttermilk and vanilla. Whisk until smooth.
- Add in powdered sugar and finally pecans, if using.
- Frost the cupcakes!
A couple of notes about the frosting; you could choose to mix it all entirely in a large saucepan if you didn’t feel like messing up another bowl. Just be sure to take the pan off the heat.
You might want to sift the powdered sugar into the frosting. I know, I know…I said no sifting! And you don’t have to by any means. You’ll just need to whisk a bit longer to work out the lumps if you don’t. I prefer the extra step of sifting to the extra time spent stirring but it’s totally up to you. It mixes up just fine either way.
Also, this frosting will be slightly runny (as opposed to fluffy like traditional frosting) and will firm up as it sets. Almost like a ganache. To keep your cupcakes looking smooth and glossy, frost them FAST. If your frosting starts to firm up while you’re still working, you can heat and whisk it just slightly to “loosen” it up again. The cupcake pictured above is one that I did not frost quickly enough. So you can see the frosting went on just fine – and tasted great – but it doesn’t have that smooth, glossy finish that the first dozen did.
Finally, a variation. Because I want you to have options. I am a firm believer in lots and lots of options.
This cake is traditionally baked as a sheet cake. Hence the name “Texas Sheet Cake”. We Texans are clever like that. Anyway, if you DO choose to bake it as a sheet cake, you can use a jelly roll pan or a large cookie sheet (Approx 11″ x 15″ and at least 1 inch deep). The additional perk to this method is that you can simply pour the frosting on the still warm cake and it practically spreads itself. None of that pesky “wait for the cake to cool completely” crap. Then let the frosting set, slice it into bars and enjoy!