• Yield: Makes 24 to 48 squares

If you have never made a cake before and love chocolate, this is the cake that you should bake. Because it is an easy cake for a beginning baker, I sometimes refer to it as the world’s easiest chocolate cake—but don’t think that it doesn’t deliver in the flavor department! The results are spectacular. Plus, this is the cake that I always make for a crowd, as you can cut it into as many as 48 pieces. In this variation on a Texas sheet cake, I’ve loaded both the cake and the icing with ground cinnamon, giving it a distinctive Tex-Mex flair.

[Ed. Note: Cake recipe suggested to be served as a dessert for Cumin-Rubbed Flank Steak with Chimichurri Potatoes.]


For the Cake

  • Baking spray, for preparing the pan

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

  • 1 cup sour milk (1 cup fresh whole milk plus 1 teaspoon white vinegar; see Note)

  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 2 cups granulated white sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

For the Icing

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter

  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 6 tablespoons whole milk

  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

  • 1 box (1 pound) confectioners’ sugar, sifted

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • Pinch of fine sea salt

Pan: Half sheet pan (aka jelly roll pan)

Steak and Cake book cover Steak and Cake by Elizabeth Karmel


1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray the half sheet pan with baking spray.

2. Make the cake: Place the 1 cup of butter, sour milk, 6 tablespoons cocoa, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Bring to just under a boil, stirring to melt the butter and blend the mixture. Beat the eggs with the water, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and baking soda in a small bowl. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, granulated sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt together. Add the egg mixture to the flour, mixing gently until well combined. Add the butter-cocoa mixture and stir well.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and lightly tap the pan down on the counter to make sure the batter is evenly distributed and to remove excess air bubbles.

4. Bake until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.

5. While the cake is baking, make the icing, as you will want to spread it on the cake while both are still warm. Place the 8 tablespoons butter, 6 tablespoons cocoa, and whole milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Bring to just under a boil, stirring to melt the butter and blend the mixture. Remove the pan from the heat and add the 2 teaspoons vanilla. Whisk the confectioners’ sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and a pinch of salt together in a separate bowl. Add the butter mixture to the sugar mixture and blend thoroughly.

6. Spoon the warm icing over the warm cake 5 to 7 minutes after it comes out of the oven. Spread the icing using an offset spatula.

7. Let the iced cake cool completely in the pan on a wire cooling rack before cutting into squares.

Note: The consistency of sour milk is the same as the consistency of regular milk with a few little curdles on top. This is what you’re looking for.


German Chocolate Sheet Cake

German chocolate cake is always a crowd pleaser! I debated whether or not to offer the original German chocolate cake recipe in this book or the recipe that I use when I make it for friends and family. I decided that I would tell the truth and let you in on my German chocolate secret: I always use the Tex-Mex Chocolate Sheet Cake as the base for my German chocolate cake. Depending on my mood and whom I am making the cake for, I either keep the cinnamon in the batter or eliminate it. I like it both ways. The darker, moister sheet cake makes a better cake for this coconut-pecan frosting, but if you prefer a lighter German chocolate cake, you can find the recipe on the Baker’s German Chocolate wrapper. Make this in the sheet pan or more traditionally in round cake pans.


  • 1 can (8 ounces) evaporated milk

  • 1 cup granulated white sugar

  • 3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • Pinch of salt

  • 1 1/3 cups Baker’s Sweetened Angel Flake Coconut

  • 1 cup chopped pecans

  • Tex-Mex Chocolate Sheet Cake, warm (recipe above)


1. Place the evaporated milk, sugar, egg yolks, butter, vanilla, and salt in a medium-size heavy saucepan. Mix well like you’re mixing a batter. Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring continuously, until thickened, about 12 minutes. You may notice small particles in the mixture, but don’t worry. You will strain them out.

2. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the mixture through a fine sieve set over a large bowl. Stir the mixture vigorously with a fork so that it strains through the sieve. Work quickly so that the icing is still hot when you’re finished.

3. Mix in the coconut and chopped pecans. Spread the frosting on top of the warm chocolate sheet cake. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire cooling rack before cutting into squares.

Excerpted from Steak and Cake by Elizabeth Karmel (Workman). Copyright © 2019. Photographs by Stephen Hamilton.

Elizabeth Karmel is the executive chef of Hill Country Barbecue Market in New York City and Washington, D.C., and New York City's Hill Country Chicken. She writes for publications including Saveur and Better Homes & Gardens, and appears regularly on three network morning shows. She also writes a bi-monthly column for the Associated Press called "American Table." She is the author of three cookbooks and the founder of GirlsattheGrill.com.