Marble Texas Sheet Cake
There are cakes to impress, and then there are cakes to act as a balm. I'm a fan of both, of course, but give me a cake that can comfort like none other and I'm sold. No fussy frostings, no putting on cakely airs, just bake, cut, and serve straight outta the pan. Preferably on a paper plate. Even better is when said comfort cake is actually beautiful enough to impress, dead simple and keeps on the counter for several days of "just a sliver" eating. If I'm being real, though, for me that means a sliver after breakfast, a sliver after lunch, a sliver around 3:30 p.m. when my exhausted self is dying for coffee and a little bit of sugar. And then of course a "real-sized" piece for dessert, after dinner. All of that adds up to a criminal amount of cake in a day, really. But when a cake is just that good, you're willing to be arrested for your eating habits.
My latest cake love affair comes courtesy of a book that also is equal parts impressive in its style, and balm-like to read. If you been anywhere need the food-related interwebs in recent weeks, I'm sure you've heard of my friend Jocelyn Delk Adams's first book called Grandbaby Cakes. This book is pure love, people. In its pages are, obviously, lots of great cake recipes, but also tons of sweet stories and lovely photos, both of the cakes themselves and from the author's personal photo album, which gives the book so much more character than your average heirloom recipe kind of cookbook. I don't think I've tagged up a book with so many post-its in quite some time. There's just so much to love here.
In the case of this heavenly Marble Texas Sheet Cake, you get both style and substance, and a cake more moist and fantastic than any other I've tasted in recent months. When I was working my way through the recipe, I had a bit of a raised eyebrow at first, because the batter was so much thinner than most, but that's what gives this cake its outstanding moisture and crave-worthy quality. It's buttery and sweet, with a tight crumb, but not at all dense, marbled throughout with vanilla and chocolate, both in the cake and on top with the glaze-y icing. That icing, by the way, firms up so glossy and gorgeous, the kind that has a thin, shattering crust right on top, so perfect and almost donut-like. A big hit of buttermilk in both the cake and the icing keep the whole thing from being overwhelmingly sweet. Gah, it's just SO GOOD, you guys.
And if you needed one more reason to love this cake, I'll tell you that if the idea of having an entire 11x17-inch sheet pan full of cake near your person makes you nervous, you can easily halve the recipe. If you don't already own an obsessive amount of quarter-sheet pans like I do, well, this recipe is the perfect excuse to finally buy one (or five).
Marble Texas Sheet Cake From Jocelyn Delk Adams's Grandbaby Cakes
Timing is everything to get the icing on the cake smoothly--it sets up fast! I found that I couldn't really "swirl" it with a knife per se, so I ended up alternately drizzling the vanilla and chocolate glazes over the cake in two or three batches, and gently smudged things around with a spoon. I also took the alternate drizzling approach with the cake batter.
This recipe can easily be halved and baked in a quarter-sheet pan. For the cake:
1 cup (2 sticks/8 ounces/224 grams) unsalted butter 1 cup (8 ounces/224 grams) water ½ cup (4 ounces/113 grams) vegetable oil 2 cups (8 1/2 ounces/240 grams) sifted all-purpose flour 2 cups (14 ounces/400 grams) granulated sugar 1 teaspoon salt 2 large eggs, room temperature ½ cup (4 ounces/113 grams) low-fat buttermilk, room temperature 1 teaspoon baking soda 2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce/15 grams) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
For the icing:
½ cup (1 stick/4 ounces/113 grams) unsalted butter ⅓ (2 5/8 ounces/75 grams) cup buttermilk, room temperature 3 ½ (14 7/8 ounces/420 grams) cups confectioners’ sugar 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce/15 grams) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
Position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 375°F. Spray a large rimmed 11-by-17-inch baking pan with nonstick spray, and line it with parchment paper.
In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring the butter, water, and oil to a boil. Once the mixture starts to boil, remove from the heat and set aside.
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together the flour, granulated sugar, and salt on low speed. Carefully add the hot butter mixture, increase the speed to medium, and mix for 5 to 6 minutes. Add the eggs 1 at a time, combining well after each addition and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add the buttermilk and baking soda. Mix the batter until just combined. Be careful not to overmix.
Turn off your mixer and transfer half of the batter to a medium bowl. To this bowl, add the cocoa powder and whisk until well combined.
Pour half of this chocolate batter into the prepared pan. Follow with half of the vanilla batter still in your stand mixer bowl. Using a skewer or butter knife, carefully swirl the two batters together, creating a marble pattern. Repeat this step with the remaining 2 halves of batter. (This process doesn’t have to be perfect. Have fun with it!)
Bake for 16 to 21 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean--don't overbake! Let cool to room temperature. Lightly cover the cake with foil or plastic wrap so it does not dry out.
When the cake is cool, make the icing. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the butter and buttermilk to a boil.
Whisk in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract. Stir well and remove from the heat.
Transfer half of the icing to a small bowl. To this bowl, add the cocoa powder and whisk until well combined.
Moving quickly, before the icing thickens, alternate adding spoonfuls of vanilla and chocolate icing onto the cake. Using a skewer or butter knife, create swirls in the icing like you did with the cake batter. Let the cake cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve at room temperature.