An Afternoon of Baking – White Texas Sheet Cake

Yesterday afternoon I used six sticks of butter in less than an hour. That kind of boggles my mind. A pound and a half of butter gone in no time! Well, not gone, but you know what I mean.

I was making a White Texas Sheet Cake for a dinner meeting we are having at our church tonight. I also made a batch of Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars for the people who are setting up for the meeting. The cake alone took three sticks of butter, with the icing taking one more. I made 1½ times the recipe so it would fill a larger pan and make a taller cake to serve more people.

We first started making this cake a few years ago when I was looking for something to make with Calvin on a lazy summer day. I hadn’t been planning on baking and the only butter we had was in the freezer, so I was looking for a recipe that used melted butter, or oil. I found this one in a fundraising cookbook and away we went. Based on the amounts of ingredients, I figured we could make half a recipe into twelve cupcakes that would bake in about 15 minutes. Calvin was in first grade, I think, and pulled up a stool to watch them bake through the oven door window. We made cream cheese icing for the tops and everyone was happy.

The original recipe calls for a 10 by 15 by 2 inch pan. I don’t have a pan that size, so I usually make the full recipe into 24 cupcakes. I made it in a 12 by 17 by 1 inch pan (1/2 sheet size) last week to test it, and it worked beautifully. The cake is only about ½-inch thick when you do it this way, but it makes for a nice ratio of cake to icing. Feel free to increase the recipe by 1½, if you want a taller cake in the larger pan, though be warned – this is what took three sticks of butter.

Look at the lovely sheen on the top of the icing. Easy as pie – just pour it on, smooth it out and it levels itself and dries shiny.

The original recipe also called for sour cream, which isn’t something I usually have on hand. I don’t think I have ever used the sour cream, substituting plain nonfat yogurt in equal amounts. It works perfectly and makes a beautiful cake with a fine, moist crumb.

I apologize for not siting the source. I have since given away the cookbook and only kept a typed copy of the recipe. I did a quick Google search and every recipe that came up was exactly the same, except for slight variations in the extract amounts. Thank you to whoever came up with it in the first place!

White Texas Sheet Cake
from The Cook’s Life
serves 24-30

If you don’t like almond extract, substitute equal amounts vanilla extract for the almond extract. Do NOT skip sifting the powdered sugar for the icing, or you will have lumps in your icing. Trust me – SIFT the powdered sugar!

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup water
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs, well beaten
½ cup sour cream or nonfat plain yogurt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 15 by 10 by 2 inch pan OR a 12 by 17 by 1 inch pan OR 24 muffin cups, and set aside.

Bring butter and water to a boil in a saucepan or the microwave. In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, sour cream or yogurt and extracts.

Once you have everything ready, the cake stirs together in no time. No mixer required.

Add hot butter and water mixture to dry mixture and stir until smooth. Add egg mixture and stir until well combined. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 15-22 minutes depending on the size of your pan. Cupcakes and the larger pan will take the shorter amount of time. Cake is done when it is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 30 minutes before icing.

½ cup butter (1 stick)
¼ cup milk
4 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract, optional
1 cup finely chopped pecans, optional

In a saucepan, bring milk and butter to a boil. Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients and stir until smooth.  Pour and spread over the cake. Let icing cool and totally set up before cutting or covering the cake.

This icing really is easy, as long as you SIFT your powdered sugar. Those aren’t lumps in the icing, but bubbles. See above picture for smooth, lump-free icing.

Make this a day ahead of time, if possible. Cake improves with age and is a good keeper, staying moist for 3-4 days.

Download the recipe here.

Featured gadget – The Cookie Scoop

The other day I started thinking about the kitchen tools I use all the time. You know, the utensil you will search the dishwasher or drainer for if it isn’t where it is supposed to be. I am going to occasionally feature a gadget or tool that I find especially helpful or that I just like. It might be anything from my favorite wooden spoon to the small appliance I can’t do without.

This week’s lucky winner from the drawer is the cookie scoop, known to some as a disher. They look like ice cream scoops, but keep mine away from the Cherries Garcia, please. I don’t want to risk bending them on rock hard ice cream.

I have three and I use them mostly for baking.  My tiny one holds 2 teaspoons, the middle-sized one holds 1½ tablespoons and the big one holds a quarter cup. I acquired them at different places and times for various uses. I would love to have more, but these really seem to fill just about every need for me.

Scoops/dishers often come in standard sizes, based on how many it takes to fill a quart, but this varies between manufacturers. Mine are not standard. I filled each with water and then measured that to see their capacities.

I use the big one for muffins and cupcakes mostly. Scoop, squeeze the handle and repeat. I make fewer drips on the pan than when I used to use a measuring cup or spoon. And my muffins/cupcakes are more likely to be the same size, avoiding the tedious spooning of batter from too full cups to the ones with only a layer of batter on the bottom.

I use the small one and the medium ones most often for cookies. The small one makes nice cookies for mailing. They hold together in shipping much better than larger cookies. And when I make small cookies, I can eat more and feel like I am indulging without totally pigging out. The medium one makes about a 3-inch cookie, but I don’t use that one as often.

You can also use these for measuring out meat for meatballs, making melon balls or serving mashed potatoes, if you want that perfect cafeteria lady mound on your plate.

What’s your favorite kitchen gadget?