Easy-Easy Chocolate Sheet Cake

My favorite make-ahead cake, a chocolate sheet cake that’s kid-friendly, especially covered with sprinkles! It's dark and moist and chocolate-y. I a-d-o-r-e how the chocolate frosting sort of melts into the cake! Plus? There’s no need to get the butter out ahead of time because the recipe calls for melted butter! Better yet? No mixer required! All you need is a saucepan, a bowl and a wooden spoon.

Easy-Easy Chocolate Sheet Cake ♥ KitchenParade.com, dark, moist, chocolate-y. No mixer required.

Quick to Make. Budget-Friendly. Make It Today, Take It to a Party Tomorrow Or Even In Two or Three Days.

An Innocent Start to "The Year of the Cake"

The Year of the Cake, that’s what one extra-good cake just might trigger, even for someone more likely to grab a carrot than a cookie, a chicken thigh before a cake slice.

It all started innocently enough.

We spent New Year’s at my sister’s in her tiny hometown in North Texas. How tiny a town? Well, think a mere 1.3 square miles. No grocery, not even a saloon since it’s a dry county. The welcome sign outside town announces a population of 512 people.

(The cake, Alanna, the cake!)

Well, what my sister’s tiny town does have is fine, fine chocolate cake. It’s made by a local lady and sold at the corner store that’s serves as the all-in-one gas station, convenience store, coffee shop, pizzeria and short-order grill.

So on New Year's Eve morning, Adanna (yes, we are Alanna and Adanna, sisters not twins!) advised hitting the corner store early, before the cake ran out. With post-holiday diet aspirations, I pitched the idea of maybe sharing a slice or two. She nixed that idea with a quick “No way!”

Smart sister!

As midnight flipped the calendar to the new year, we sat in serene silence, smiles on our faces, savoring the last bite of moist, chocolate-y cake as much as the first.

Easy-Easy Chocolate Sheet Cake ♥ KitchenParade.com, dark, moist, chocolate-y. No mixer required.

The Gateway Cake

Yes, my sister, she’s one smart woman. But that cake, I fear, twas the gateway cake. Later that week, two nights in a row we shared slices of Southern Belle Lemon Layer Cake at a tony restaurant in Natchez, Mississippi.

And by the end of that year, I’d made a dozen cakes, double, even triple my usual pace. Just two survived the (tee hee) cut because really, how many cake recipes does one cook need? There’s more than enough temptation out there.

But Chocolate Sheet Cake is special. It’s dark and moist and ever so chocolate-y.

And soooo easy to make, did I mention that yet? Just a saucepan, a bowl and a wooden spoon for mixing. Kids love it. Guys love it. We even have a Swedish acquaintance who swears that the cinnamon in Chocolate Sheet Cake makes it taste just like a traditional Swedish cake her mother makes!

Everybody Loves the Sprinkles!

Easy-Easy Chocolate Sheet Cake ♥ KitchenParade.com, dark, moist, chocolate-y. No mixer required.

At an outdoor party, this cake disappeared in a f-l-a-s-h. It had been baked two days before and was still so moist and fresh, no one knew! For extra casual, I leave the cake right in the sheet pan.

Easy-Easy Chocolate Sheet Cake ♥ KitchenParade.com, dark, moist, chocolate-y. No mixer required.

For a wedding party, I used waxed paper to form a heart with sprinkles. Cute and easy both!


Hands-on time: 35 minutes
Time to table: 1 hour!
Enough for a 9x13 cake pan, double ingredients for an 18x13 half sheet pan
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick, 227g) salted butter
  • 2 tablespoons (15g) unsweetened dark cocoa powder, preferably Hershey's Special Dark
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder or instant coffee, optional but recommended
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (50g) buttermilk, well shaken
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 7 tablespoons (1 stick less 1 tablespoon) salted butter
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons (40g) buttermilk
  • 2-1/2 cups (300g) powdered sugar
  • Multi-colored sprinkles, the kid favorite (and mine!)
  • ¼ cup pecans, toasted and chopped fine
  • Sweetened coconut


Mise en Place Heat the oven to 350F/180C. Lightly spray a 9x13 cake pan with baking spray. Gather your bowls, mixing tools and ingredients. This process? It’s called “mise en place” [pronounced mees-en-plass].

Start with a Saucepan In a saucepan, gently melt the butter on medium heat, not letting it boil. With a wooden spoon, stir in the cocoa powder and espresso powder. (Be sure to smash any tiny clumps with the back of the spoon, otherwise the cake will have powdery lumps. No wooden spoon? Use something about as big as a serving spoon.) Add the boiling water and stir to combine. Let cool while mixing the dry ingredients.

Move to a Mixing Bowl In a large bowl big enough to become your primary mixing bowl,stir together all the dry ingredients (that’s the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and baking soda) with a whisk or a spoon until well combined. (Use the cinnamon as a guide, once it’s evenly distributed, the other ingredients should be too).

Pour the saucepan’s butter-chocolate mixture into the mixing bowl and stir gently until just combined. (Just set the saucepan aside, you will use it again for the frosting. No need to wash it!)

Small Mixing Bowl In a small bowl, whisk the egg until well combined, then whisk in the buttermilk and vanilla. (No whisk? Use a fork!) Stir the egg mixture into the large bowl until no egg-y streaks can be seen but no more.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake pan, spreading it to the edges, smoothing the top.

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until the center is done and the edges are just beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan.


Back to the Saucepan While the cake bakes, make the icing. In the saucepan, melt the butter on medium low, just don’t let boil. Stir in the cocoa and cinnamon, breaking up any lumps, then turn off the heat. Stir in the milk and vanilla, then the powdered sugar.

Frost the Warm Cake As soon as the cake is out of the oven, pour the frosting over top, spreading gently to the edges. (It will be soft.) Sprinkle the sprinkles, pecans or coconut over the top.

Let cool completely before cutting.

MAKE-AHEAD CHOCOLATE SHEET CAKE I’d love this cake anyway but the fact that it keeps so well for serving on the second or even third day is an a-m-a-z-i-n-g bonus. Just leave it in the pan, cover and refrigerate to keep firm.

ALANNA’s TIPS Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder is essential for this cake, it adds a richness that just doesn’t happen with regular cocoa powder. Once or twice, I made it with another unsweetened cocoa powder and thought, hmm, why isn’t this sheet cake as good as I remember? I soon learned, it’s the Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder. (For the record, this isn’t a sponsored post, I’m just telling it like it is, in my kitchen.) Be sure to have the frosting ready by the time the cake comes out of the oven, you want to spread it over the hot cake so that some sort of “melts” into the cake itself. Honestly? I serve this cake straight from the sheet pan, it’s that easy, that casual. Once, for a wedding party, I sprinkled sprinkles lightly over the entire cake, then used wax paper to cut a heart-shaped template to cover just the heart area with a heavy dusting of sprinkles. Easy and kinda cool!
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Piece, assumes 30 2x2 inch pieces: 133 Calories; 6g Tot Fat; 4g Sat Fat; 22mg Cholesterol; 106mg Sodium; 19g Carb; 0g Fiber; 15g Sugar; 1g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS Old Points 3 & PointsPlus 4 & SmartPoints 7 & Freestyle 7 & myWW green 7 & blue 7 & purple 7
Adapted from a 1960s-era church cookbook

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Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Your hometown’s gas station had the town’s best [what we call] sticky buns, but I think there they were “caramel” or something else.

  2. moo ~ I don’t remember that! Maybe before my time? Maybe 15 or 20 years ago, there were great sticky buns at a cafe in Kelliher, we used to “time” our south-bound departures to best case, arrive when the sticky buns were still warm, or worst case (but still very good) before they ran out for the day!

  3. Anonymous4/09/2014

    When first married we lived in a town pop. 311; they were happy to see me since the pop. increased to 312! I received my chocolate sheet cake recipe (which is almost the same as yours) in 1965 in that little town from the town's best baker, our next door neighbor. Everyone loves this cake, and it makes enough for a small army or 15 senior citizens! kk

  4. KK ~ especially since you brought the energy of FIVE people! And yes, it’s enough for an army, that’s why I started halving the recipe for a 9x13 and I suppose I should go down even further to a 9x9. But then again … it’s a cake I make only for occasions when there’s lots of kids so it’s just perfect as is. I’m so glad you wrote, what a sweet memory. I love sharing recipes with you, Auntie Karen! :-)

  5. Alanna, Thanks so much for the recipe. It made me think of a similar cake I had at a friend's home. It was so good, I asked for the recipe. The two recipes are very similar. Seeing your recipe has made me decide this will be going to the next pot luck lunch. Thanks again.

  6. Maxine4/14/2014

    Sounds great, Alanna, but I've never seen Hershey's Extra Dark Chocolate Powder. Am I blind? Could you mean Dutch Processed?

  7. JudyGold ~ You’re so welcome, lucky potluck people!

    Maxine ~ The Hersheys product is right there on the shelf with other cocoa powders. So yes, you must be blind. :-)

  8. Alanna,
    I'm craving cake now--I inherited from mom a weirdly shaped pan, 16.5x11.5x1.25 inches, and I keep thinking it would be great for a Texas sheet cake, a Mississippi Mud Cake or similar. This looks so moist and tasty!

  9. Maxine ~~ I had to go to three grocery stores to fine Hershey's Extra Dark Cocoa. Keep looking! It's worth the search.


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna