I grew up in Houston, so I have a real soft spot for Texas sheet cake (sometimes called Texas funeral cake, sheath cake, or Texas brownie cake). With a thin layer of tender cake and an icing that’s reminiscent of chocolate donut glaze, it’s the best chocolate cake (in my honest opinion!). Plus, it’s fuss-free, thanks to a batter that doesn’t call for any creaming and a frosting that comes together on the stovetop.
Its only flaw (if you’d even call it a flaw) is that it makes too much cake if you’re only aiming to serve a few people. On those days, I make this smaller skillet version of Texas sheet cake, which yields the perfect amount of cake for four (maybe six) people. The addition of Dr Pepper (another Texas creation!) in the batter and frosting delivers a truly unique boost of flavor.
The Origin of Texas Sheet Cake
Despite its name, the exact origin of the cake is hard to pin down. Although there are similar cakes with origins in Colorado and Alabama, this cake may have first appeared in regional cookbooks in the late 19th century. Others say it may have shown up in a 1930s issue of the Galveston Daily or in a 1950s issue of a Dallas paper. Despite murky origins, the cake is an integral part of Texas cuisine.
Key Ingredients in Skillet Texas Sheet Cake
Buttermilk: Buttermilk lends a tangy flavor and helps keep the cake tender and moist. Here’s a quick buttermilk substitute if you don’t have any in the fridge.
Baking soda: Baking soda reacts with the buttermilk to create an airy, fluffy cake.
Cinnamon: This spice is quintessential to Texas sheet cake.
Dr Pepper: The cola adds a boost of flavor to the cake and frosting, plus the carbonation gives the cake an extra lift.
Cocoa powder: The rich, chocolatey flavor comes from unsweetened cocoa. I prefer Dutch cocoa powder, but natural cocoa works well too.
Sugar: Use granulated in the cake and powdered to make the fudgy frosting.
Pecans: Toasted pecans in the frosting add nutty flavor and texture.
How to Make Skillet Texas Sheet Cake
Combine the dry ingredients. Whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, kosher salt, and cinnamon in a heatproof bowl.
Make the cake batter. In an 8-inch cast iron skillet, heat butter and Dr Pepper until boiling. Pour over the dry ingredients and whisk until combined (the heat from the butter-cola mixture draws out the richness of the cocoa powder). Then, add buttermilk, vanilla, and an egg.
Bake the cake. Return the cake batter to the cast iron skillet and bake until just set.
Toast the pecans. While the cake cools slightly, toast chopped pecans in butter until fragrant. Add cream, cocoa powder, and Dr Pepper and bring to a boil.
Make the frosting. Whisk in powdered sugar until smooth like donut glaze. Pour over the still-warm cake.
Skillet Texas Sheet Cake Recipe
Make Texas sheet cake in a skillet with a rich, chocolatey cake, roasted pecans, and fudgy frosting.
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 45 minutes
Serves 4 to 6
For the cake:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch processed
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup Dr Pepper cola
1 large egg
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the frosting:
1/3 cup pecans
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch processed
1 tablespoon Dr Pepper cola
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch kosher salt
Vanilla ice cream
Finely chopped roasted pecans
Make the cake:
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350ºF.
Place 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon in a medium heatproof bowl and whisk to combine.
Place an 8- or 9-inch ovenproof or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add 1 stick unsalted butter and cook, stirring occasionally, until melted. Add 1/2 cup Dr Pepper cola and bring to a boil.
Pour over the flour mixture and whisk until just combined. Add 1 large egg, 1/4 cup buttermilk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and whisk until just smooth. Scrape the mixture back into the skillet and smooth out the top.
Bake until the top is dry and the cake is no longer jiggly, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, make the frosting.
Make the frosting:
Coarsely chop 1/3 cup pecans. Melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the pecans and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and lightly browned, about 4 minutes.
Add 2 tablespoons heavy cream, 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1 tablespoon Dr Pepper cola, and whisk to combine. Bring to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat.
Add 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1 pinch kosher salt. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved.
If the cake looks too high in the skillet, gently press down slightly. Spread the frosting over the warm cake and let sit until the frosting is set, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with ice cream and finely chopped roasted pecans if desired.
Substitutions: Diet Dr Pepper can be used in place of regular Dr Pepper.
Ingredient/Equipment Variations: If you don’t have an 8-inch ovenproof skillet, you can heat the butter and Dr Pepper in a medium saucepan, then transfer the cake batter to an 8-inch cake pan before baking.
Storage: Leftover cake can be covered with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.