The Origins Of Texas Funeral Cake

Texas sheet cake in a pan
Texas sheet cake in a pan - Trending Now/Shutterstock

The Lone Star State is known for bourbon and barbecue, but if you've been sleeping on Texas's cakes, allow us to open your eyes and stoke your sweet tooth. Texas funeral cake (aka Texas sheet cake or buttermilk brownies) is a chocolate sheet cake topped with a layer of fudgy chocolate frosting and coarsely chopped pecans for texture, adjacent to a German chocolate cake sans coconut. It comes together quickly to feed a crowd, and leftovers hold up well, which might be part of why this hearty cake is so commonly found at funerals. The tradition can be traced back to the seed-loaded funeral cakes of northern Europe, which had more in common with cookies and were more about utilitarian nourishment than soul comfort. Today in Texas, showing up with a massive chewy chocolate sheet cake remains proper form for attending a funeral.

The cake's ties to Texas might be due to the pecans, which are indigenous to south-central North America. Still, the cake's actual origins remain a little murky. Alternate theories include that the cake is physically "big like Texas" and that it was invented by Lady Bird Johnson. Whatever the case, recipes for Texas sheet cake or comparable thin, chocolatey, nutty cakes started cropping up in cookbooks around 1930 and continued appearing through the '50s and '60s. By the 1970s, the Texas funeral cake that fans know and love today had officially taken shape.

Read more: 30 Types Of Cake, Explained

A True Comfort Food Through And Through

Slice of Texas sheet cake
Slice of Texas sheet cake - Trending Now/Shutterstock

Unlike most cakes, Texas funeral cake is thin like a brownie. Either a 2-inch deep sheet pan measuring 18 inches by 13 inches or a jelly roll pan can be utilized. The secret is to pour the icing over the cake while it's still oven-warm, allowing the fudgy frosting to slightly seep into the cake for a moist, luxurious bite. The rich batter often includes a dairy component like sour cream, buttermilk, or evaporated milk as well. Some folks use walnuts or almonds, or leave out the nuts altogether. The most important part is the chocolate-on-chocolate, a comfort food tailor-made for soothing an aching soul.

The Texas funeral cake is a symbol that demonstrates care for the living as well as a celebration for the recently deceased (much like the Mormon funeral potatoes popular in Utah). They're such a staple that in many Southern households it could be considered disrespectful if the cake is absent from the funeral potluck table. As now-retired Dallas-based pastor Mark Wingfield insisted in the Baptist News Global back in 2013, "[F]unerals call for a certain kind of food. There had better be chocolate cake involved, or the family is going to be left to scramble on their own for comfort foods."

Read the original article on Tasting Table.