Chocolate Fudge Sheet Cake

These are some of my favorite... reminds me of that scene from the animated Alice In Wonderland.If you were to peruse my files of frequently-used recipes, a couple of patterns would probably be noticed right away — “Does this guy make dessert every night?!!”. Not all first impressions are true — at least not completely true.

I typically make a dessert once a week and stretch it to last for the entire week. Most often, the dessert is relatively simple. If not, I try to make it on the weekend when time allows making something more high-maintenance. Regardless of the level of difficulty, however, I try to gear our desserts toward “healthy” choices.

Today’s recipe is an example of a healthy and easy dessert. For comparatively minimal effort, you get 12 servings of dessert, and you could have a slice a day all week without breaking the calorie budget. That’s a good deal any way you look at it, in my opinion.

“Can homemade cake be easy?” you might ask.

I happen to think so, but — as with any kitchen endeavor — preparation is key while experience is merely helpful. Be sure to assemble all of the ingredients and have them pre-measured — the way you see the cooks on TV do it, actually. You notice you never see one of them stopping the mixer, dashing across the kitchen, tripping over the mixer cord, all because they forgot to get out the cake flour! Ugh! And you mean I have to SIFT it now??! (I mention this because I’ve done it!)

You’re reading the blog of a gentleman who once put a cake into the oven and then turned around to notice the bowl of pre-measured flour & leavenings still sitting there pristinely on the counter, waiting to be added to the batter. [face-palm] Modern recipes give you all of the ingredients in perfect marching order… all you have to do is make sure they’re ready to go (right down to having those two eggs cracked and in a bowl ready to be added)! Of course, remembering to add your prepped ingredients is another matter altogether.


Method to the Madness

I prefer to use Dutch-Process Cocoa Powder in most recipes that call for unsweetened cocoa powder. I feel it adds a richness and depth to the flavor of the chocolate. Chemistry lesson: since the Dutch process neutralizes some of the acidity of the chocolate, it’s best to use Dutch-Process cocoa only if there are other acidic ingredients in the recipe to make sure the cake rises. In this instance, the buttermilk definitely provides enough acidic oomph to guarantee a fluffy cake. If you don’t have Dutch-process cocoa or can’t find it in your grocery store, never fear: you can use regular unsweetened cocoa (but do get some if you can find it).

Technically speaking, when you add boiling water to a recipe, you should measure the water once you’ve brought it to the boiling point. It’s amazing how much water evaporates if you put 1/2 cup of water in a pot, boil it, then add it to a recipe. In this instance, you could lose about a tablespoon of water and that’s a no-no when it comes to baking.


In my adventures of browsing cookbooks, I’ve noticed a few patterns and secrets, myself. I’ve discovered, for instance, that espresso powder (when used in small amounts) turns up the volume on chocolate flavor without adding the taste of coffee. I was skeptical, too, until I tried it. Don’t confuse instant coffee with espresso powder (sometimes called instant espresso). Espresso has a much finer and darker appearance and imparts a more intense, chocolaty flavor. Be careful, too, a little goes a long way.

A lot of modern home cooks knock buttermilk, relegating it to other forms of granny voodoo. I happen to love it. It tenderizes baked goods, adds an unbeatable flavor, and there’s no substitute for it, in my opinion. That being said, you can approximate its role in this recipe by adding 1 tablespoon of vinegar to a cup of regular milk and letting it sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes. You won’t get the flavor but you will match the acidity. Personally, I vote you pick up some buttermilk and keep it in the fridge. Even when it has gone beyond its expiration date by 1-2 weeks, it’s still quite flavorful and useful and you can’t beat it when making impromptu pancakes or biscuits.

One last note: because it uses cake flour and very little fat, the texture of this cake is light and airy — nearly like the texture of cake made from a boxed mix, except that you can definitely pronounce all the ingredients and you have bragging rights because you made it from scratch. To keep it moist, make sure you frost the cake as soon as it has cooled and keep it covered.

Chocolate Fudge Sheet Cake
adapted from Cooking Light
Serves 12

    1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-Process cocoa
    1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
    1/2 cup boiling water
    2 cups sifted cake flour
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
    1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    2 large eggs
    1 cup low-fat buttermilk
    Cooking spray

    1 1/4 cups sifted powdered sugar
    1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-Process cocoa
    1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
    2 tablespoons 1% low-fat milk
    1 teaspoon unsalted butter, softened (yep, a single TEAspoon)
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 13×9-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

    To make the cake, combine 1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa, espresso powder, and water in a small bowl; cool to room temperature.

    Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat the granulated sugar, butter, and 2 teaspoons vanilla; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended, fluffy even. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the cooled cocoa mixture (MUST BE COOLED otherwise you’ll get a choco-omlette). Add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beating until nearly incorporated after each addition.

    Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 350° 30-35 minutes or until the cake springs back when lightly touched. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack.

    While the cake cools, prepare the icing. Combine the powdered sugar, all-purpose flour, Dutch-process cocoa, and espresso powder in a medium bowl; stir well with a whisk. Add milk, butter, and vanilla; stir with a whisk until smooth. When cake is cool to the touch, spread icing over cake. This cake keeps best in the refrigerator and can be stored for about 4-5 days.


Finally, in my opinion, the difference between icing and frosting is the role it plays in the cake. Icing is like a finishing touch whereas frosting is more akin to a pivotal role in a dessert drama. This particular slice of drama is good served by itself, but the dialogue will receive critical acclaim when partnered with a very small scoop of premium vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.


~ by Jason on June 7, 2010.

One Response to “Chocolate Fudge Sheet Cake”

  1. Jason I’m not much on Chocolate BUT wow that picture would look mouth watering with a BIG glass of milk. Next time put a wet-looking glass of milk beside it yummmmmmmmmmm!

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