Sunday, August 21, 2011

It's Vegan Y'all/Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake

Rick Perry may be gobbling up some Texas-sized attention these days, but we Texas vegans have something he just can't imagine. We've got the legacy of Shirley Wilkes-Johnson's decades-long project to create the best darn vegan recipes this side of the Rio Grande. Perry needs to posture, and those 22 pairs of cowboy boots he's been given don't seem to be helping him these days (supposedly he has resorted to some much more comfortable black tennis shoes). But, hey, even though Shirley died before we could get a picture of the two of us in our vegan cowboy boots, all is not lost. For more than two years Shirley and I worked on identifying her best of the best recipes. This blog inaugurates my posting of these recipes with the permission of her right hand man, friend, partner, and creative cook, himself, Ben Johnson.

As I said in my remembrance of her, Shirley never met a recipe she couldn't veganize. Her instincts and taste were exquisite. She wanted to create down home, stick-to-your-ribs, traditional and contemporary Texas recipes. I miss her, especially on Mondays, the day we used to talk about vegan cooking and her recipes. But her legacy is secure, and we've got some gobbling, chewing, tasting, and enjoying to do! Bring your Texas-size appetites because it's vegan, y'all.

Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake

Shirley called this “a rather decadent old fashioned recipe.” Shirley always used Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Spread for the margarine. Many concerns have been raised about where Earth Balance gets its palm oil. Shirley consulted Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. Colleen concluded that if you buy organic Earth Balance you are supporting sustainable farming practices that are not destroying the habitats of Orangutans.

Shirley recommends using a jelly roll pan, which is approximately 10x15-inches with 1-inch sides. It’s like a large cookie sheet. I went out and purchased one just to make this cake. Shirley says you can use a 9 x 13-inch pan, but the cake will be thicker. I think the jelly roll pan is the way to go. It makes the cake just the right thickness. One morning this summer, I made three cakes for a family celebration. EVERYONE loved it (even those who didn’t think they would). But how could they not? It’s a recipe from Shirley Wilkes-Johnson, and it’s vegan y’all.

1 cup soy milk
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

2 cups of flour
2 cups of sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup vegan margarine
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1  cup water

2 teaspoons vanilla

Chocolate Pecan Icing (see below)

1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Grease a 10x15 inch jelly roll pan.  (Shirley used PAM spray; I use Spectrum spray.)
2. In a mixing cup, combine the soy milk and the apple cider vinegar, and set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, and baking soda and mix well; set aside.
4. In a medium saucepan, mix together margarine, cocoa, and water. Heat to boiling over medium heat, stirring often. Pour over flour and sugar mixture. Add vanilla to the soymilk and vinegar mixture, and then whisk into other ingredients. Turn batter into prepared pan.
3. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately frost top of hot cake with Chocolate Pecan Icing. Usually, you wait until a cake cools before icing it - but not in this recipe.
Let cool then cut into squares.

Chocolate Pecan Icing:

1/2 cup vegan margarine softened
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1/3 cup soy milk 

1 (1-lb.) powdered sugar 

1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans

In a medium bowl, beat together margarine, cocoa, and soy milk with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes - or you can use a food processor. Add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat on high speed until well blended. Stir in pecans.


  1. *Love* this! All I need is the jelly roll pan! :) Been too hot here in H-town to think about my oven, but this recipe is awfully tempting to turn that around. Fantastic blog, btw!

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  2. This looks like a chocolate pecan heaven!

  3. This recipe makes me happier than words can say! Texas Sheet cake was my favorite when I was growing up. I always used to ask for it for my birthday cake! So excited to see a vegan version of it!

  4. My neighbour's friend has some non-vegan cowboy boots with lovely patterns on. Are there really any vegan versions of this or is it just something which will happen one day?

  5. I have two pair of nonvegan cowboy boots. I think you'd have to search online. One pair, beautiful, is from the early 1990s when there was a specific producer of them. One is more recent. Here's one place:

  6. You killed me with this!! because I love eating chocolates, imagine if I was there, I'd get so crazy with that huge chocolate, I'd eat everything.

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    1. I am definitely making these very soon! I just started making sheet cakes (I've made one so far) but have never made the chocolate one. The one I made was pecan caramel sheet cake. It was delicious, and easy.

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  12. Woah! That is so much of chocolate. I can drool everywhere right now. It looks so delicious. Thanks a ton, for sharing the recipe as well. I am a big chocolate fan and I keep making new dishes as well. This could be an add up. Also, my nephew’s birthday is around the corner and we are celebrating it in one of the Chicago venues. He is going to love this.

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