A Cake for Dad


On this Veteran's Day, I'd like to remember my father, who served in the U.S. Army as a major in the early 1970s. We lived in San Antonio, Texas, and I was born at Fort Sam Houston.  He passed away four years ago, and the world lost an incredibly compassionate man who served his country proudly.  

To commemorate his legacy, and to celebrate and honor vets everywhere, I share this recipe for a Texas Sheet Cake: Texas because it was where my father was stationed, and a sheet cake because it's a crowd-pleaser.  Be sure to roast the pecans for both the icing and the nut topping while the cake is baking so that you can assemble everything at the end.

Texas Sheet Cake

from United Cakes in America (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2010)

Yield: one 12-inch round cake or a 9x13 inch sheet cake

Dry ingredients

16 ounces (~2 cups) superfine granulated sugar
8 ounces (~1.5 cups) all-purpose flour
2 ounces (~1/2 cup) cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt

Wet ingredients

8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp brandy
2 tsp vanilla extract

For the Chocolate Pecan Icing

5 ounces (~1.25 cups) raw pecans
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
16 ounces (~4 cups) confectioners' sugar
1 ounce (~1/4 cup) cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract

For the Sugared Pecans

10 ounces (~2.5 cups) pecans
2 tbsp honey
4 ounces (~1/2 cup) superfine granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

For the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 335 degrees Fahrenheit and place the rack in the middle position.  Grease a 12x2-inch round pan or a 9x13-inch baking dish.
  2. Measure the dry ingredients into a bowl and whisk to combine.
  3. Combine the wet ingredients in a second bowl and whisk lightly to combine.
  4. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir well for about 20 seconds.
  5. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean and the top of the cake bounces back slightly when gently pressed.

For the icing:

  1. Roast the pecans on a baking sheet for 4-5 minutes while the cake is baking.  Remove the nuts from the oven, cool to room temperature, and chop.
  2. Combine the butter, sugar, and cocoa powder in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Begin beating on low speed and then increase to high.
  3. Slowly add the milk and vanilla and beat well.  Stop the mixer and fold in the roasted pecans by hand.  Set aside.

For the sugared pecans:

  1. Combine the ingredients in a bowl and mix well with a rubber spatula.
  2. Roast the sugared pecans on a baking sheet, while the cake is baking, until crisped and fragrant, approximately 10 minutes.  Remove the nuts from the oven and cool on a heat-resistant surface before using.
  3. Cool the cake completely before spreading the icing onto the top using a flexible spatula.  Add the sugared pecans across the top, pressing them slightly into the icing.

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