No, this cake does not contain whisky. And it’s not a double-chocolate malt cake (as my brain thought it was when I first decided to make it). No, it’s a chocolate malt cake with malted vanilla buttercream frosting. And it’s freakin’ delicious.
I only recently made my first foray into the world of sheet cakes — though how I made it this long without them, I have no idea. I’ve never been one for presentation over taste, so it seems like these humble confections would be right up my alley. While I’ve been making more effort with my cake decoration of late, I’ve historically relied on outside factors (like fancy bundt pans) to do the decorating for me.
After the rebranding around this blog, I’ve been making an effort at Instagram outreach. So, that’s meant upping my presentation game (sort of). Which makes it tricky to get jazzed about sheet cakes — since, by their very nature, they’re simple and somewhat homely. But, dang! They’re good. And easy. And relatively fast.
Sheet cakes are meant to serve a crowd. They’re made in half-sheet pans — rimmed baking sheets measuring roughly 13×18. Not to be confused with jelly roll pans, which are sometimes just 10×15. Yes, I did have a moment of unwarranted paranoia and got out my tape measure before making the first cake…
I discovered the wonderful world of sheet cakes thanks to Greenville’s local bookstore, which specializes in Southern lit and specialty cookbooks. A few months back, I was browsing around and picked up Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough’s All-Time Favorite Sheet Cakes & Slab Pies. And I’ve been thoroughly entranced ever since.
This particular cake caught my attention because I’m a huge fan of malted milk. Chocolate malt is my go-to flavor when ordering an old-school milkshake, and I love recipes that use it (like these cookies, and these ones). Even though this isn’t the chocolate malt cake with chocolate malt frosting that I thought it was when I decided to make it, I think I’m even happier that it’s not.
The malted vanilla frosting really brings out the malty flavor, and it pairs wonderfully with the nutty chocolate of the cake. The authors point out that they intentionally wanted a somewhat bittersweet cake to help emphasize the malt and the chocolate’s darker notes. While I normally avoid milk chocolate, in this case the milk chocolate chips really do add an important burst of sweetness, so I wouldn’t recommend making substitutions. This cake is quite lovely without any tinkering.
Will definitely make again!
**Note: malted milk powder (usually Carnation brand) can generally be found with the other non-refrigerated milk products at your local grocery store. Sometimes this is the baking aisle. Sometimes it’s the cereal aisle.
Also – the eggs should be room temperature, as should the butter for the frosting. So set those out an hour or so before you’re ready to bake.
Double Malted Chocolate Sheet Cake (barely adapted from All-Time Favorite Sheet Cakes & Slab Pies)
For the cake:
- 10 Tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter + 1-2 Tablespoons to grease the pan
- 5 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups whole or 2% milk
- 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons malted milk powder
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 (11-12 ounce) bag milk chocolate chips
For the frosting:
- 24 Tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3/4 cup malted milk powder
- 3 Tablespoons (or so) heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3-4 cups powdered sugar (to taste)
Start with the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 13×18 in sheet pan while the chocolate mixture (next step) is cooling.
In a small saucepan over low-medium heat, melt the butter and the unsweetened chocolate, stirring until mostly smooth. Remove from heat, stir until smooth, then set aside to cool.
Generously grease pan with butter (not cooking spray).
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In another medium or small bowl, whisk together the milk and the malted milk powder, making sure you whisk away any lumps/stir until the milk powder dissolves.
In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar together at medium speed until you can make wide ribbons when you lift the whisk out of the mixture. The mixture will almost double in volume and it will appear much less grainy. This should take 2-3 minutes. Slowly add the cooling chocolate mixture and the vanilla, and mix until evenly distributed.
Turn off the mixer and pour the flour mixture evenly over the batter. Turn the mixer on low speed, and slowly pour in the milk mixture. Pause after a few seconds to scrape down the bottom and sides, then continue mixing just until there are no bits of dry flour in the batter. Add the chocolate chips and beat just until evenly distributed.
Spread the thick batter into the pan using an offset spatula. Try to get it relatively evenly distributed in the pan.
Bake until firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean – 20-24 minutes. Cool in the pan for at least two hours before frosting.
To make the frosting:
With an electric mixer or using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and malted milk powder until creamy and light — about 3 minutes. Beat in the cream and vanilla until smooth.
Reduce the speed to low and add about 2 cups of powdered sugar. Then pause to scrape down the sides and add roughly another cup of sugar. Beat until thoroughly incorporated, then taste the results. Add more sugar (and possibly more cream) until you reach your taste and consistency preferences. (I think I ended up with like 3.5 cups of sugar).
Spread the frosting on the cake and enjoy!