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Chocolate Sheet Cake

by
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Introduction

I love an American sheet cake – it’s a great way to feed a lot of people and, in my book, the more people get to eat cake, the better. I’ve simplified what is an already simple approach, so that both cake, and icing/frosting are made in saucepans on the stovetop: in other words, no creaming and multi-stepped process, just melting, stirring and pouring. What’s more, this is an infinitely variable recipe (and see Witter for ways I alter this cake according to my whim) and a gratifyingly reliable one.

Traditional sheet cakes require buttermilk for sponge element, and this kind of icing/frosting needs regular milk. Rather than send you (or me) to the shops for an extra ingredient, I simply turn fresh milk into buttermilk by adding vinegar to the milk before I get on with the rest of the cake. It’s obviously not worth using an expensive vinegar, and if you wanted, you could equally use lemon juice. By the time you come to use it, the milk-now-buttermilk will look like a curdled mess, and that’s a good thing! The buttermilk is what helps keep the cake crumb so tender.

The batter is runny – and is meant to be, that’s what helps its fudgy texture later – and the cake will look woefully shallow once this mixture is poured into the tin. Do not be alarmed: it will rise, but not enormously; this is meant to be a shallow cake. It’s perfect for bake sales, birthdays, indeed any celebration, and now I happily offer it to you as a celebration of, and thanks, for reaching 1 million of you on my Facebook page.

I love an American sheet cake – it’s a great way to feed a lot of people and, in my book, the more people get to eat cake, the better. I’ve simplified what is an already simple approach, so that both cake, and icing/frosting are made in saucepans on the stovetop: in other words, no creaming and multi-stepped process, just melting, stirring and pouring. What’s more, this is an infinitely variable recipe (and see Witter for ways I alter this cake according to my whim) and a gratifyingly reliable one.

Traditional sheet cakes require buttermilk for sponge element, and this kind of icing/frosting needs regular milk. Rather than send you (or me) to the shops for an extra ingredient, I simply turn fresh milk into buttermilk by adding vinegar to the milk before I get on with the rest of the cake. It’s obviously not worth using an expensive vinegar, and if you wanted, you could equally use lemon juice. By the time you come to use it, the milk-now-buttermilk will look like a curdled mess, and that’s a good thing! The buttermilk is what helps keep the cake crumb so tender.

The batter is runny – and is meant to be, that’s what helps its fudgy texture later – and the cake will look woefully shallow once this mixture is poured into the tin. Do not be alarmed: it will rise, but not enormously; this is meant to be a shallow cake. It’s perfect for bake sales, birthdays, indeed any celebration, and now I happily offer it to you as a celebration of, and thanks, for reaching 1 million of you on my Facebook page.

Chocolate Sheet Cake

Ingredients

Makes: 12 big squares, 24 bars or 48 after-dinner bites

Metric Cups

For the Cake

  • 125 millilitres full fat milk or semi-skimmed / 2% milk
  • 2 teaspoons vinegar
  • 250 millilitres water
  • 200 grams soft unsalted butter
  • 20 grams best-quality cocoa powder
  • 200 grams caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 300 grams plain flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Icing/Frosting

  • 50 grams soft unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons full fat milk or semi-skimmed / 2% milk
  • 2 tablespoons best-quality cocoa powder
  • 150 grams icing sugar (sieved)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To Decorate

  • sprinkles of your choice

For the Cake

  • ½ cup whole milk or semi-skimmed / 2% milk
  • 2 teaspoons vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup soft unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup best-quality unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Icing/Frosting

  • ¼ cup soft unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk or semi-skimmed / 2% milk
  • 2 tablespoons best-quality unsweetened cocoa
  • 1½ cups confectioners' sugar (sieved)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To Decorate

  • sprinkles of your choice

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF and grease and line a shallow 33cm x 23cm / 13 x 9 inch roasting tin. A 30cm x 20cm / 12 x 8 inch one would also do. Measure out the milk in a jug big enough to take the eggs later as well, and add the vinegar. Stir and leave while you get on with the rest of the cake.
  2. Into a heavy-based saucepan (large enough to take the rest of the cake ingredients later), pour the water, then spoon or slice in the butter, and add the cocoa and put over a medium heat - stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon until the butter melts and the cocoa dissolves. Remove from the heat.
  3. Measure the sugar, bicarb, salt and flour into a bowl, and fork to mix.
  4. Add the eggs and vanilla to the ‘buttermilk’ in its jug and whisk well to combine. The eggs should be fully incorporated.
  5. Now, add the dry ingredients to the slightly cooled pan, beating well with a wooden spoon or a little whisk, followed by the jugful of wet ingredients. Keep on beating until everything is smoothly combined and pour into the prepared tin and place on a middle rack in the preheated oven.
  6. Measure out everything you need for the frosting/icing, but do not mix together until the cake is just out of the oven as the icing sets quickly and the cake needs to be iced while it’s still hot. Make sure your decorations are to hand, too.
  7. The cake needs 20 minutes but it’s always wise to start testing earlier, as ovens do vary. When a cake tester comes out clean, it’s cooked. Sit tin on a wire rack.
  8. To make the icing, melt the butter, milk and cocoa in a medium-sized saucepan over a low to medium heat, keep stirring with a small whisk and do not let boil.
  9. Once everything is melted and smooth, take the pan off the heat and whisk in the icing sugar and vanilla. Keep whisking till all is glossily amalgamated, and a good consistency to cover the cake. Immediately, pour over the waiting cake, spreading it out with a little spatula as you need. Without further ado, add whatever decorations you desire and leave in tin to cool.
  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF and grease and line a shallow 33cm x 23cm / 13 x 9 inch roasting tin. A 30cm x 20cm / 12 x 8 inch one would also do. Measure out the milk in a jug big enough to take the eggs later as well, and add the vinegar. Stir and leave while you get on with the rest of the cake.
  2. Into a heavy-based saucepan (large enough to take the rest of the cake ingredients later), pour the water, then spoon or slice in the butter, and add the cocoa and put over a medium heat - stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon until the butter melts and the cocoa dissolves. Remove from the heat.
  3. Measure the sugar, bicarb, salt and flour into a bowl, and fork to mix.
  4. Add the eggs and vanilla to the ‘buttermilk’ in its jug and whisk well to combine. The eggs should be fully incorporated.
  5. Now, add the dry ingredients to the slightly cooled pan, beating well with a wooden spoon or a little whisk, followed by the jugful of wet ingredients. Keep on beating until everything is smoothly combined and pour into the prepared tin and place on a middle rack in the preheated oven.
  6. Measure out everything you need for the frosting/icing, but do not mix together until the cake is just out of the oven as the icing sets quickly and the cake needs to be iced while it’s still hot. Make sure your decorations are to hand, too.
  7. The cake needs 20 minutes but it’s always wise to start testing earlier, as ovens do vary. When a cake tester comes out clean, it’s cooked. Sit tin on a wire rack.
  8. To make the icing, melt the butter, milk and cocoa in a medium-sized saucepan over a low to medium heat, keep stirring with a small whisk and do not let boil.
  9. Once everything is melted and smooth, take the pan off the heat and whisk in the confectioners' sugar and vanilla. Keep whisking till all is glossily amalgamated, and a good consistency to cover the cake. Immediately, pour over the waiting cake, spreading it out with a little spatula as you need. Without further ado, add whatever decorations you desire and leave in tin to cool.

Tell us what you think

What 32 Others have said

  • Easy to make and hopefully good to eat! Tell you next time.

    Posted by Mamia on 10th August 2016
  • Made this yesterday, it's been found to be very addictive in this household and we've not got much left, definitely one to make again.

    Posted by Josiejo72 on 17th April 2016
  • This cake is so good. Go and make it right now.

    Posted by fionagirl on 3rd January 2016
  • Made this & loved it! As I adore buttermilk cakes (& pancakes) however do not always have some in the fridge,it was great to learn that adding vinegar to milk equals hey presto buttermilk without leaving the house! Want to experiment & make a coffee sheet cake next. So good to see you back on tv Nigella plus reignited my love for kitchen aid mixers that has been burgeoning for many years...surrendered to it now & we've ordered one :)

    Posted by Babels on 28th December 2015
  • It sounds very delicious, although the use of the term icing sugar threw me for a loop, I had to look that term up, I had heard it referred to as confectioners and powdered sugar, but now I can add a new term to my book ????

    Posted by BakerCait on 13th August 2015
  • Hi Nigella, Where have you been all my life ...sorry, corny. But I have only just discovered you and your wonderful world and passion ....cooking, life ...and so much more. I cook with my heart, my feelings at that moment. I think you are so, so connected with yourself ... it inspires me. I will use this recipe as a base and add my own "touch" I hope to connect with you as I have much to share ...but I realize I am one of so many followers. You have open a new chapter in my life .... Thankyou Michael ... Queensland, Australia

    Posted by Ruffy on 6th August 2015
  • thank you Nigella for this awsome recipe!

    Posted by Katerinaki on 27th April 2015
  • This recipe was so cool, easy to follow and give amazing results. It was my first ever cake and came out amazing.

    Posted by Rbmkhtr on 20th February 2015
  • You are amazing Nigella. I love the care and excitement you put into your baking/cooking - such an inspiration. I shall be making this Sheet Cake for tea tonight. Congratulations on your successful online website. X

    Posted by on 8th February 2015
  • Nigella you must open Instagram!! I really want to see you there.

    Posted by SumaiyaRashid on 19th December 2014
  • This cake looks super sumptuous..love such cakes. Thank you for sharing the recipe Nigella. Will surely try it and yes congratulations on reaching the 1 million mark.

    Posted by kirmani on 6th December 2014
  • Just seeing ur cake pics...makes me crazy...good recipe mam... I would love to try that at home...esp with those sprinkles.....so cute...but I'm sure it wont be available at any outlets here...

    Posted by rachanakb on 9th November 2014
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