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1. Grease a 15x10x1-inch or 13x9-2-inch baking pan; set aside. In a large bowl, stir together flour, granulated sugar, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup butter, 1/3 cup cocoa powder, and water. Bring mixture just to boiling, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add the chocolate mixture to dry mixture and beat with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until thoroughly combined. Add eggs, 1/2 cup buttermilk, and 1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Beat for 1 minute (batter will be thin). Pour batter into the prepared pan.
3. Bake in a 350 degree F oven about 25 minutes for the 15x10-inch pan or 35 minutes for the 13x9-inch pan or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean.
4. Meanwhile, for the Chocolate-Buttermilk Frosting, in a medium saucepan combine 1/4 cup butter or margarine, 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, and 3 tablespoons buttermilk. Bring to boiling. Remove from heat. Add sifted powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until smooth. If desired, stir in pecans.
5. Pour warm frosting over the warm cake, spreading evenly. Place cake in pan on a wire rack; cool thoroughly before cutting. makes 24 servings.
Chocolate-Cinnamon Sheet Cake: Prepare cake batter as above, except add 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon to the dry mixture.