Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Texas Sheet Cupcakes!

About eight years ago I found myself at my first Texas church potluck. It was there that I was first introduced to the "Texas sheet cake". Funny that in all my years of baking and having my Daddy share all of his Southern recipes with me, this one somehow passed on by me. I first started noticing this odd looking sheet cake at church potlucks. Then when we'd go to friends' houses for parties I'd see it there too. I never saw it in the bakeries and quite honestly, it never looked that appealing to me. Then one Sunday, as I was last in line at a church picnic and the peach cobbler was all gone (and I just don't care for bananna pudding), someone handed me a slice of this Texas sheet cake. It was then that I found pure joy in this little slice of heaven (and not because I was standing on Holy ground - well, maybe). My fork went deep into this fudge-like consistency before hitting this dense, moist, chocolate and almost brownie-like cake with a subtle hint of cinnamon. Wow! Who Knew? It was then and there that I felt somehow deprived of a Texas specialty. It was also in that moment that I decided to learn more about the "Texas Sheet Cake". Some say it got its name from being as "big" as Texas because it's made in either a 13"x9" or sheet cake sized pan. Or that Lady Bird Johnson brought it with her to the White House. Some say it's so sweet that you only need one little piece to satisfy the sweet tooth, which means one cake is enough to feed a crowd, and Texans are always feeding crowds. Which brings me to my theory. I think - and I will quote from "Steel Magnolias" - it's because "it freezes beautifully" as well as transports easily, whether it's to a church potluck, a graduation, a funeral or a family reunion.

So not too long ago, I got a request to make this recipe. My friend Meaghan's family celebrates her Mother's birthday on Thanksgiving every year. She wanted to surprise her Mother this year with her favorite cakes. Earlier in the month, she secretly got her Grandmother's Texas Sheet Cake recipe from her Mom (as well as her recipe for German Chocolate Cake, as I was asked to make that too). Normally on a recipe so tried and true, I will not change anything - I mean, why mess with perfection, right? Besides, this was all about Meaghan's Grandma so I needed it to be baked from the heart. That said, I couldn't help but to try and put a new spin on it (insert sheepish grin here). I thought, why not cupcakes? Everyone loves cupcakes and I knew this cake would be sharing a dessert table with many traditional Thanksgiving desserts. My twist on this traditional cake turned out as I had hoped and was enjoyed by all.

Here's a list of things you need to know if you want to make these delicious cupcakes.
1) Make sure you only fill the cupcake liners 3/4 full of batter. You'll need to use the top of the liner as a lip to keep the warm molten icing in place as it sets up.

2) I do not suggest using Texas-sized cupcake liners. I put the same amount of batter in each one but they baked inconsistently - some were higher and fuller and some sunk down when the icing was poured on.

3) It's important to make your icing as soon as you put those cupcakes in the oven since the icing needs to be finished and cooled a bit to spoon on the cakes as soon as they are out of that warm oven.

4) Last but not least - don't feel the least bit embarrassed over the final product if they look a little off. After all, this is just one of those recipes that every Texan knows tastes better then they look. I'm jus' sayin'!

Texas Sheet Cake
(Recipe from Meaghan's Grandmother)
Archived from Cooking Light

Cooking spray
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup butter or stick margarine
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs

6 tablespoons butter or stick margarine
1/3 cup fat-free milk
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375°.

To prepare the cake, coat a 15x10-inch jelly-roll pan with cooking spray and dust with 2 teaspoons flour. Set prepared pan aside.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 2 cups flour and next 4 ingredients (2 cups flour through salt) in a large bowl; stir well with a whisk. Combine water, 1/2 cup butter, and 1/4 cup cocoa in a small saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; pour into flour mixture. Beat at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended. Add buttermilk, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and eggs; beat well. Pour batter into prepared pan; bake at 375° for 17 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Place on a wire rack.

To prepare the icing, combine 6 tablespoons butter, milk, and 1/4 cup cocoa in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and gradually stir in powdered sugar, pecans, and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Spread over hot cake. Cool completely on wire rack.

Note: You can also make this recipe in a 13x9-inch baking pan. Bake at 375ยบ for 22 minutes.

Cupcake Variation
Line cupcake pan with 24 cupcake liners - fill 3/4 full of batter. Bake 15-18 minutes (depending on your oven). When you touch the top and it springs back it will be done. Pull cakes out and spoon 1-2 Tbs. of warm icing on each cake. No worries if some sink down. I also garnished mine with a dollop of regular chocolate butter cream icing (I know it's a bit over the top but what can I say - it's a sugar thing! I also purchased a cute little State of Texas chocolate mold to garnish each cake with. You can get that here. Oh and because I was trying to "mask" some of the cupcake's inconsistancies, I put a few white chocolate curls on top by just using my potato peeler over a cube of white almond bark.

Meghan's Grandmother's Down Home German Chocolate Cake
(Archived from the original Bakers German Chocolate bar)