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Texas sheet cake is a sheet cake which may or may not be native to the state of Texas, although it has become a symbol of Texan hospitality and friendliness. In addition to being made in Texas, this sheet cake is also popular across the American South, and it appears in many cookbooks which feature traditional American foods. For cooks, the big advantage of this cake is that it is very easy to make and serve, and it tends to be a big hit.
Sheet cakes are cakes which are served as single-layer cakes, covered with a layer of simple frosting. While sheet cakes are basic, they don't necessarily have to be dull, and there are many different ways to prepare, serve, and decorate a sheet cake. By tradition, a sheet cake is square, although one could technically use a cake pan of any shape.
In the case of Texas sheet cake, the key characteristic is the fact that the cake is served in the pan it is baked in, with the cook frosting only the top of the cake, since this is the only part which can be reached. The decision to bake and serve in the same pan makes this cake a snap to serve, and it also makes it convenient for potlucks and parties, since cakes are much easier to transport in their baking pans.
There is no specific recipe for Texas sheet cake, although people may have regional preferences. For some people, Texas sheet cake is a rich, buttery yellow cake with lots of vanilla. Others use buttermilk or sour-cream based recipes for a cake with a hint of tang. Dense chocolately cakes are popular in other regions. The key to the cake is that it is a cake which can be assembled easily by hand, with a start to finish time of 40 minutes to an hour from the moment the first egg is cracked to the time the cake is taken out of the oven to cool.
The frostings used for Texas sheet cake are also quite varied. Many cooks like sugary, gooey, rich sheet cakes with intense buttercream frosting, but it is also possible to use cream cheese frosting, chocolate ganache, or simple glazes. The cake may be decorated or left plain, depending on the occasion.
Southern cooks often have a cake pan with a snap-on lid which they use to make Texas sheet cakes for potlucks and other events. The snap-on lid helps to protect the cake during transport, and it provides a convenient space for a cook to write his or her name, ensuring that the cake pan makes its way back to the cook after the cake has been consumed.
The Texas sheet cake recipe sounds a lot like a southern version of bars in Minnesota and other northern midwestern states. A "bar" is virtually anything that can be cooked in a brownie pan; often the recipes are just slight variations of a cookie recipe, a sweet bread, or a simple brownie. Wherever you go in Minnesota or Wisconsin, there are also regional differences and preferences, although no matter what they're made of, when you ask people what's in them, they often merely say, "they're bars."