My Gram’s Sunday Chocolate Cake is the easiest, most comforting chocolate cake recipe ever. This moist chocolate cake is frosted while it’s still warm and the results are flaky, fudgy, and delicious. Make. This. Cake. Your Sundays will be better for it!
Can’t get enough homemade chocolate cake? Try my recipe for Ridiculous Chocolate Cake!
Grandma’s Retro Chocolate Cake Recipe
I’ve been rummaging through the archives. And by archives, I mean my grandmother’s recipe box. A while ago I stumbled across this recipe for a simple chocolate sheet cake, and it’s easily become the most-made cake in our house ever since. My Gram always made this cake on Sundays, hence the name. It’s her version of a Texas sheet cake, made from basic ingredients for everyday baking. It might not look like much, but this moist and decadent chocolate cake recipe is a classic, right down to the flaky layer of chocolate icing on top.
One bite of this homemade chocolate cake and you’ll be making one every Sunday, too!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
My family doesn’t mess around when it comes to chocolate desserts. Here’s why this chocolate sheet cake is always a winner:
- Basic ingredients. This cake hails from an era when home baking meant simple, easy ingredients with tasty results. You probably have what you need in your pantry already.
- Moist and fudgy. Pouring warm icing over fresh-from-the-oven chocolate sheet cake is a sight to behold. The rich chocolate frosting literally melts into the chocolate cake as it cools.
- A true classic. Who doesn’t love a classic, all-rounder cake recipe? This sheet cake is perfect as an everyday cake or a crowd-pleasing dessert. Make it for no reason or bring it to potlucks, it’s seriously the best!
What You’ll Need
We’re not trying to be fancy with this chocolate sheet cake – just delicious. Below are the ingredients you’ll need, with the full amounts available in the recipe card.
- Sugar and Flour: The basics. Use regular granulated sugar and all-purpose flour for the most consistent baking results.
- Baking Soda and Salt: You’ll need baking soda for leavening and salt for balancing the flavors of the cake.
- Eggs: Eggs give the cake structure and extra richness.
- Whole Milk: You can use either whole milk or 2%.
- White Vinegar: White vinegar does wonders for this moist chocolate cake, see below for details.
- Vanilla: I’ll always recommend pure vanilla extract over imitation.
- Butter and Shortening: My Gram’s recipe calls for both. This retro recipe is from back in the day when Crisco was king. If you’d prefer to use all butter, that will also work.
- Cocoa Powder: For the best, fudgiest flavor, use a good quality unsweetened cocoa powder.
- Powdered Sugar: Also called confectioner’s sugar, powdered sugar forms the base of the chocolate frosting along with butter and cocoa powder.
Why Add Vinegar to Chocolate Cake?
Adding vinegar to cakes does a couple of things. Firstly, the vinegar reacts with baking soda and helps a cake rise up nicely. Secondly, vinegar combines with the milk in this recipe as a “shortcut” to buttermilk.
For the same reason I use buttermilk in my Best Red Velvet Cake, including vinegar in this chocolate cake brings rich flavor and added moisture. My go-to hack is to mix it right into the wet ingredients.
How to Make the Best Chocolate Sheet Cake
This cake is basic in the most beautiful of ways. It’s so easy, you don’t even need a mixer. Here’s how quickly the cake comes together:
- Mix the Dry and Wet Ingredients Separately: First, go ahead and whisk your dry ingredients in one bowl, and your wet ingredients in another, separate bowl.
- Melt the Butter: Next, melt together the butter and shortening in a saucepan on the stovetop, then whisk in the cocoa powder. If you think vegetable shortening is the devil, go ahead and substitute it with more butter instead.
- Combine: When the cocoa mixture is all melted, stir it into your dry ingredients. Finally, pour in the wet ingredients and stir to form the batter.
- Bake: Pour the batter into a greased 9×13 baking pan, then bake at 400ºF for 15-20 minutes. When your cake is just about done, you’ll whip up a quick batch of chocolate frosting.
- Prepare the Chocolate Icing: Heat butter, milk, and cocoa powder together in a medium saucepan. When the mixture is just at a boil, stir in powdered sugar and vanilla. Whisk it all up until it’s smooth.
- Frost the Cake: When your chocolate cake is out of the oven, pour the icing over it while it’s still hot in the pan. Then, allow your cake to cool. The frosting will get wrinkly, and that’s perfectly fine. Those wrinkles mean that the moisture in the frosting has soaked into the cake underneath. That’s a good thing!
Tips for Success
This is a simple, fudgy chocolate cake that anyone can make. It’s practically failproof, but a few helpful tips to get it perfect never hurt:
- Measure the flour correctly. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, use the spoon and sweep method: spoon the flour from the bag into the measuring cup, and then use the back of a knife to level it off.
- Don’t overmix the batter. An overly mixed batter may result in a dense, chewy chocolate sheet cake. Make sure to only mix until the ingredients are just combined and free from clumps.
- Frost the cake while it’s still warm. I know this technically goes against the rules of cake baking, but trust me! Smother that frosting all over your cake when it’s hot from the oven. It’s worth it, wrinkles and all.
Variations and Ways to Decorate
My family’s sheet cake is a chocolatey treat just as it is. But when it comes to decorating your cake, you can’t go wrong with the classics. Dress this sheet cake up in its Sunday best with whipped cream and sprinkles, and you have the ultimate chocolate birthday cake to feed a crowd.
Below are some more easy ways to change up your chocolate sheet cake:
- Frosting: If you don’t want to go the boiled frosting route, wait until the cake is cooled and frost it with a thick layer of Creamy Chocolate Frosting instead.
- Ganache: Drizzle the finished and cooled cake with Pourable Chocolate Ganache.
- Chocolate Chips: Stir mini chocolate chips into the cake batter.
- Mint Chocolate: Replace the vanilla extract in this recipe with mint or peppermint extract, and frost with Mint Chocolate Chip Frosting.
How to Store Chocolate Sheet Cake
Store your finished chocolate cake airtight on the counter for up to 3 days.
Can I Freeze a Sheet Cake?
Yes! You can freeze this cake frosting and all. The best way to do it is to prepare the cake as directed, then leave it in the pan to cool completely. Wrap the pan in a layer of plastic wrap, plus a layer of foil, and then freeze the cake for up to 1 month.
Whenever you’re ready to serve it, unwrap and thaw the cake at room temperature.Print
My family’s Sunday Chocolate Sheet Cake is the easiest, most comforting chocolate cake recipe ever. This simple chocolate cake is covered in chocolate icing fresh from the oven and the results are flaky, fudgy, and delicious!
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening (you can sub in butter if you prefer)
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1/4 cup milk + 2 Tbsp
- 5 cups powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a 9×13 baking pan with nonstick spray and set aside.
- In a large bowl whisk together sugar, flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
- In another bowl whisk eggs, milk, vinegar, and vanilla together. Set aside.
- In a saucepan melt butter, shortening, and cocoa powder together, whisking until completely melted and smooth.
- Remove from heat and pour into the flour mixture, and then add the other liquid ingredients. Stir together until smooth and there are no more lumps.
- Pour into prepared pan and bake for 15-20 minutes until the center of the cake is set.
- Prepare the icing when the cake is almost ready.
- Melt butter, cocoa powder, and milk together over medium heat. Bring just to a boil and remove from heat. Whisk in powdered sugar and vanilla until there are no lumps.
- Pour icing over the hot cake in the pan.
- Allow the cake to cool before slicing.
Store airtight at room temperature for up to 3 days
- Serving Size: 1 slice
- Calories: 773
- Sugar: 118.6 g
- Sodium: 236 mg
- Fat: 25.2 g
- Carbohydrates: 136.6 g
- Protein: 5.3 g
- Cholesterol: 94.9 mg
Keywords: easy chocolate cake recipe, homemade chocolate cake, sheet cake recipe
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