Old Fashioned Chocolate Sheet Cake

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You know that feeling when you’ve just come home from a whirlwind road trip to Omaha, Nebraska and then you wake up and watch a travel show where they’re diving off the coast of Thailand and you’re like, “Hrmph.  Nebraska was almost as cool as that…”?

Yep, I’m there.

Don’t get me wrong, our “stay-cation with a mini-roadtrip” vacation was nice, relaxing and easy, but I’m a total beach-vacation kind of girl.  We had a great time in Omaha, but I need that sand, surf, walk-along-the-beach-at-night kind of experience to feel like I’ve really had a vacation.

Know what you do when you have vacation-envy?  Me neither.  But I know what I did...

I made a chocolate sheet cake.  A chocolate sheet cake celebrates all that is Midwestern, right?  It makes my stay-cation feel complete.  I mean c’mon, you know they don’t have Chocolate Sheet Cake in Thailand.

I’m reaching, aren’t I?  Even so, stay-cation is over, and chocolate sheet cake happened.  Success all the way around. (Minus the sand between my toes.  Sigh.)

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I know this recipe is as old as time, and you probably have your own version in your recipes boxes.  This particular version of the recipe was given to my by my Mother-In-Law, who got the recipe from her Mother-In-Law.  It’s very similar to every other sheet-cake recipe out there, minus the pecans and extra butter.

I just wrote the word “recipe” way too many times.

Anyway, this cake is easy, it’s delicious, and there’s a reason that it’s been around forever.  You just need a large, high-rimmed cookie sheet or sheet pan.  No mixer required, and it goes together in about 25 minutes.  Do it!


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Old Fashioned Chocolate Sheet Cake
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A Midwest classic, this traditional recipe is easy and delicious. A thin but moist chocolate cake is topped with a decadent chocolate powdered sugar icing. This is as classic as it gets! Enjoy! Recipe source: Adapted from a family recipe - who knows where it originally came from! :)
Serves: 24 servings
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup shortening
  • 4 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • ½ cup buttermilk (no buttermilk? Fill measuring cup almost to the ½ cup line, the fill the rest of the way with vinegar to make "sweet milk" - it works like a charm!)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 4 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup plus 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 pound powdered/confectioners sugar
For cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F).
  2. Grease a half sheet pan (approx 18x13) and set aside.
  3. In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and shortening together.
  4. Once mostly melted, add water and cocoa powder. Use a wire whisk to stir until smooth. Remove from heat.
  5. In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar.
  6. Pour warm chocolate mixture over the flour mixture, and beat on low speed until just combined.
  7. Add buttermilk, eggs, vanilla and baking soda, and beat until completely combined and smooth.
  8. Pour into greased sheet pan, and bake for 18-20 minutes.
For icing:
  1. While the cake is baking, using the same heavy-bottomed pan as before, melt butter over medium heat.
  2. Add cocoa powder and milk, and whisk until smooth.
  3. Add powdered sugar (sifted, if possible) and whisk vigorously until all of the lumps are gone and icing is completely smooth. Allow to sit on stovetop until cake is done baking.
  4. When cake comes out of the oven, whisk icing again to smooth it out, and then pour over the warm cake.
  5. Use an offset spatula to spread the icing evenly.
  6. Cake is best after it sits for 4-6 hours, and is delicious the 2nd day. Store in an airtight container.
  7. Enjoy!

leave a comment your way - using facebook or disqus:

  • Amanda

    Looks delicious!

  • Ron Grover

    I think your mother-in-law’s, mother-in-law and my mother used the same recipe. 😉

    • lemonsugar

      I’m pretty sure you’re exactly right, Ron. 😉

  • scannan11

    My mom always made this cake. Brings back some good memories.

  • Felicia R.

    Yum! This satisfies my prego cravings!! :)

  • Ann

    As soon as I get money, I’m gonna try this recipe! c:

  • Jodi Boulier

    Thank you for the recipe !s I’m going to make it today for our Sunday dinner desert! It brings back memories years ago when I worked with a gal from Texas. She used to make it and bring it into work and I was hooked on it. I lost the recipe but and so happy to find it again! Thank you!

  • nea7801

    I will make this tonight…I guarantee that as soon as it cools off enough…My husband and son will have eaten half of it before I can stop them! This look delicious!

  • stacy

    This is my all time favorite!