We love the idea of making heirloom recipes passed down by our grandmothers, but we often find that the instructions are vague and the results less impressive than we’d hoped for. So the next time we get a hankering to make a timeless dessert, we’ll reach for expert baker Julie Richardson’s Vintage Cakes. In her new cookbook, the Portland, Oregon-based baker retools old favorites like stack cake and Champagne cake for modern tastes. We were immediately drawn to her party-size Texas Sheet Cake, which utilizes premium cocoa to yield a deeply chocolaty cake with gooey chocolate frosting and a moist, tender crumb.
Texas Sheet Cake
Recipe adapted from "Vintage Cakes" by Julie Richardson (Ten Speed Press)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
½ cup (1¾ ounces)
lightly packed premium
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup water
2 cups (10 ounces)
2 cups (14 ounces) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 large eggs
½ cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons pure
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
¼ cup (1 ounce) lightly packed premium unsweetened cocoa (preferably Dutch-processed)
⅓ cup whole milk
2 teaspoons pure
3 cups (12 ounces) sifted confectioners’ sugar
½ cup toasted chopped nuts, such as walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts
1. Arrange an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°. Grease a 10-by-15-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Make the cake: In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the cocoa until combined. Add the canola oil and water, then bring to a rolling boil for 30 seconds. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set it aside to cool slightly.
3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, sift the flour with the granulated sugar, baking soda and salt, then whisk until combined. Pour the warm cocoa mixture into the flour mixture, then whisk until just combined.
4. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs with the buttermilk and vanilla. Using a rubber spatula, stir the buttermilk mixture into the batter until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake on the center rack for 32 minutes or until the top is firm and a tester stick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out with moist crumbs.
5. Make the frosting: When the cake is nearly done, in a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the cocoa and bring to a rolling boil for 30 seconds. Remove the saucepan from the heat, then whisk in the milk and vanilla. Add the confectioners’ sugar, 1 cup at a time, whisking constantly.
6. Remove the cake from the oven and pour the frosting evenly over the top. Sprinkle with the nuts. (Try not to jiggle the cake before it sets or you’ll leave waves in the frosting.) Let the cake cool to room temperature before cutting into squares and serving.