So, What Exactly Makes Sheet Cake Different From Regular Cake?

If there's a party, there had better be a sheet cake. They're delicious, easy to make, and an efficient way to whip up a dessert big enough to feed a crowd. While homemade sheet cake is often a single layer, it's also common to see layered, rectangular party cakes at grocery or warehouse stores labeled as sheet cakes. What distinguishes them from other cakes?

Cake pans come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and one certain group is the go-to for sheet cakes. To transform the batter into that large slab, home bakers use a large sheet pan with a rim, also called a jelly roll pan or a baking sheet. The size of the pans varies — some recipes call for a 9x13-inch sheet pan, also called a quarter-sheet pan. Other recipes specify half-sheet pans that are 13x18 inches. When baked in these pans, the cake comes out as a very thin layer. 

Sheet cakes are also easier to decorate than layer cakes because the frosting is just spread over one, big surface. Bakers can stop there or go on to decorate the cake with more icing and designs. Frosting lovers tend to go wild for sheet cake because the single, thin layer means a higher ratio of frosting to cake.

And then there's Texas sheet cake

When it comes to a Texas sheet cake, it's not just the size that matters. (Although its size is likely one reason this cake has "Texas" in the name.) This particular sheet cake is unique because it consists of a chocolate cake topped with chopped pecans and chocolate. The liquidy chocolate icing, made with butter, sugar, and cocoa, is poured over the still-warm cake, then allowed to set into a shiny, firm layer. (Try our recipe for Texas sheet cake.)

The overall experience of a Texas sheet cake is of a delightfully tooth-aching sweetness. The cake is traditionally made with buttermilk (or sometimes sour cream) which helps create a light texture and also contributes a little tang to counter the sweetness. This regional sheet cake is a favorite dessert to bring to parties, to welcome new neighbors, and even to console mourners at funeral receptions.

Whether home bakers choose the Texas variety or another flavor, the just-right-sized slices, good proportion of frosting to cake, and simple preparation makes the humble sheet cake an invaluable addition to your recipe box.