So, What Exactly Puts The Texas In Texas Sheet Cake?

Funerals may be morbid and sad affairs, but they also give families and friends the chance to gather together for a post-funeral meal, known as a repast. While these meals are typically light, families also serve comfort food for the occasion.

Throughout the South, that comfort food comes in the form of a giant sheet cake called the Texas sheet cake, also known as funeral cake and church lady cake. Traditionally, Texas sheet cakes are single-layer chocolate sheet cakes that are iced with a fudgy chocolate frosting and sprinkled with chopped nuts. Unlike other decorated cakes, the chocolate icing is applied while the cake is still warm from the oven, slightly absorbing into the cake before cooling to a gooey consistency. Some bakers poke holes in the warm cake to help the frosting soak in easier.

While there's no doubt that Texans have embraced this sweet cake as their own, the name's origins are less clear. The Food Timeline placed the recipe from the early 20th Century when the price of chocolate became affordable enough that everyone could enjoy it. Articles from the 1980s mention the Texas sheet cake but speculate how it got its name. Between the over-the-top richness, intense chocolaty flavor, and giant size, a cake of this caliber must be from Texas, where portion sizes are a matter of state pride. 

The supersized cake from Texas

That sentiment was echoed by Ann Burger of The Post and Courier (via Food Timeline), calling the Texas sheet cake "A chocolate cake from the land of the supersized." Although presidential historians couldn't prove it, there are whispers that former first lady Claudia "Lady Bird" Johnson invented the recipe. Whatever the truth may be, the Lone Star State has made the cake its own.

Versions can be found at more joyous church gatherings like communions and birthday celebrations adorned with sprinkles, Christmas with crushed peppermint candies, and Easter with your favorite egg-shaped chocolates on top. Meanwhile, the state of Colorado has its own version called the Denver chocolate sheet cake.

An authentic Texas sheet cake is easy to make but must use buttermilk and natural unsweetened cocoa powder. The thin chocolate cakes are made in a half-sheet pan (13" x 18"), giving plenty of surface area to the main attraction, the icing. While the cake is warm, icing is poured over the surface to form a glaze that hardens as it cools. Although pecans are traditional, other chopped nuts have been used and should be applied directly after the icing is poured to stick to the cake. Texas sheet cakes are served straight from the pan and travel well, and the cake can last for days covered on the countertop.