gochujang Texas sheet cake

"I think if you open up the way you think about dessert and flavors, you can get really creative." Tasting Table recipe developer Kara Barrett shared these thoughts with us and we couldn’t agree more. While you might think that adding a sprinkling of salt to chocolate or caramel is a bold move, Barrett takes it a step further with this gochujang Texas sheet cake. "I like introducing people to how enjoyable the combination of sweet and spicy can be in a dessert," she adds. "Plus, it just tastes good. And that’s the most important thing, right?" We’re definitely on board with that philosophy.

If you’re unfamiliar with gochujang, a fermented red chili paste common in Korean cuisine, this is undoubtedly a fun way to experiment with it. Barrett shares how she came to the idea of including this ingredient in a dessert recipe, and notes that adding it "as a layered element to the iconic icing of the Texas sheet cake was such an ‘aha’ moment." While it brings an umami element with a kick of spice and funk to a classic cake recipe, she also points out that "It’s a showstopper in terms of visual appeal and flavor balance. And the icing is what Texas sheet cake is all about anyway." You’ll definitely want to bake this for unsuspecting dinner guests or to bring to a potluck — it’s sure to be the talk of the evening.

Gather the ingredients for this gochujang Texas sheet cake recipe

gochujang Texas sheet cake ingredients

Barrett recommends weighing the dry ingredients for the cake batter and says, "getting a consistent result depends on exact measurements." If you don’t have a scale, don’t worry too much: "I think the appeal of this kind of cake is how forgiving it is."

You’ll need self-rising flour and sugar, which Barrett prefers to source of the highest quality — White Lily flour and baker’s sugar are her picks. While you can stick with what you have in your pantry, she comments, "It stacks the deck in your favor to use the best quality ingredients you can find." Next, you’ll need buttermilk for tanginess, large eggs, vanilla extract, and olive oil (instead of butter — the result will still be moist Barrett affirms).

Natural cocoa powder, unsalted butter, and confectioners’ sugar make up the chocolate icing. Barrett notes that she isn’t a fan of very sweet desserts, so she keeps the sugar content low. She shares, "Frankly, I’m not even a fan of cake icing, which is why this recipe has been such a treat." It really is all about balance. Finally, for the gochujang swirl, she uses more cocoa powder, butter, dark brown sugar, gochujang, and roasted unsalted peanuts. About the latter, they make a great addition with the sweet and spicy icing, and "help keep the element of texture people enjoy from a traditional Texas sheet cake."

Combine the ingredients for the batter

whisking chocolate batter in bowl

Start by preheating the oven to 350 F and lining/greasing a 13×18-inch sheet pan with parchment paper and some cooking spray. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour and sugar to distribute them evenly. In another bowl, pour in 2 cups of buttermilk, crack the eggs, add 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract, and pour in the olive oil.

MIx the contents until they are uniform, then pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the flour and sugar. Sift ½ cup of cocoa powder over the batter (to prevent lumps) and whisk the ingredients until there are no more streaks. Barrett describes, "It will be a loose batter, but don’t be concerned."

Bake the cake in a preheated oven

baked chocolate sheet cake

Carefully pour the cake batter onto the prepared sheet pan, shifting it around to fill in the edges. Use a spatula to smooth out the top and give the tray a light tap on the counter to eliminate any air bubbles. Once the oven is at temperature, bake the cake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and set it aside while you make the icing.

Combine the icing ingredients

icing in saucepan

Place a small saucepan on medium heat and add in two sticks of butter and 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder. When the mixture starts to lightly bubble (avoid bringing it to a boil), take it off the heat and add ⅓ cup of buttermilk, 1 tablespoon of vanilla, and the confectioners’ sugar. Whisk the ingredients until the icing is smooth and uniform.

Barrett suggests some adjustments for the icing if desired. She uses small amounts of cocoa powder "To create visual contrast," and notes, "I think you could go as low as only 1 tablespoon." Meanwhile, she says, "You can also increase the amount of confectioners’ sugar a little so it sets up stiffer if that’s your choice."

Make the gochujang mixture

gochujang icing with peanuts

For the gochujang icing, place another small saucepan over low heat and add 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder, ½ stick of butter, brown sugar, and gochujang. Whisk the ingredients for about 2 minutes then stir in the peanuts and take the pan off the burner.

"‌In terms of heat, I think you can reduce the gochujang by half […] if you’re worried about it being too spicy," Barrett notes and adds, "Just give it a taste before you put it on the cake and adjust to your preference."

Garnish the cake and serve

gochujang Texas sheet cake

This step is not the time to get distracted. "After you pull the cake and make the icing and swirl, you want [to] move quickly", Barrett advises. She explains, "The warm cake helps distribute the icing and the swirl needs to happen before the icing gets too stiff." Pour the chocolate icing over the cake and spread it out smoothly with a spatula. Then, dollop the gochujang mixture over the surface, using a spatula to make larger swirls and a toothpick for smaller ones. "Have fun with the swirls, though. That’s when you can take your time and get artsy," Barrett remarks. Other fun garnishes include a light sprinkle of flaky salt, salted peanuts, and toasted sesame.

When the cake has cooled down, cut it into slices and serve. "I think if you’re a fan of sweet heat, this one is going to hit it out of the ballpark for you," Barrett acknowledges and adds, "This has potluck wow factor written all over it." Wrap leftovers and leave them at room temperature for three days or up to a week in the refrigerator.