Yes, indeed, the baking of this cake was inspired by Tina Fey’s now infamous sheetcaking bit on SNL’s Weekend Update. I have talked many times in the past about baking as a form of therapy. That has proved especially true in the days since Charlottesville and really, since November. I thoroughly enjoyed Tina’s witty response to that series of horrific events. I have read many interesting responses to her skit that make many good points. My personal view is to take that skit in the context of what it is, which is comedy. I don’t think Tina is literally advocating that we ignore Nazis in favor of eating cake. I think her point about letting them scream into the void is well taken, particularly in regards to internet comment sections. But then again, maybe it is my own privilege that allows me to receive it that way. I have no intention of staying home and shutting up in the face of this hatred, before or since. No, ma’am.

In any case, these past several months have been exhausting. Staying informed, engaged, taking action, but also taking care of myself emotionally and physically has been a delicate balancing act that I’m still figuring out day by day. And I only fall into one of the groups currently at risk (women). I recognize that these times are far more trying for countless others much more targeted than me. Still, sometimes holing up at home with my kids and baking something delicious is what my soul needs to be ready to face the world again.

This sheet cake is just the right amount of everything for therapy-style baking. It is slightly more involved than the most basic of cake batters, and includes soothing steps such as folding in whipped egg whites, shaving chocolate, spreading frosting. But, it’s low maintenance enough that you don’t have to fuss with smoothly frosting sides of a layer cake and little hands can even do the frosting themselves. The cake itself is not to be missed – it is dense, tender, and very chocolatey. The frosting is simple but the chocolate shavings give it a special touch. Enjoy in whatever way you need, whether that be as a celebration cake, a “Tuesday chocolate craving” cake, a “replenish your soul before going back out into the world” cake, or even a “feed the resistance” cake. Choose your own adventure.


For the cake: 

  • ½ cup (50 grams) cocoa powder
  • ¾ cup (175 grams) boiling water
  • ¼ cup (60 grams) sour cream
  • ¾ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1½ cups (184 grams) cake flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 2 large eggs, whites and yolks separated, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (60 grams) packed brown sugar
  • ¾ cup (170 grams) canola or grapeseed oil
  • ¼ cup (60 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup (10o grams) chopped bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the frosting: 

  • 1½ cups plus 2 tbsp. (3 sticks plus 2 tbsp.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (optional)
  • 2 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, shaved finely


  • 01

    Heat the oven to 350˚ F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with butter, and dust well with cocoa powder. (Alternatively, line the pan with parchment paper.)

  • 02

    Place the cocoa powder in a bowl. Pour the boiling water over the top. Whisk together until smooth. Add in the sour cream and salt and whisk until incorporated. Set aside.

  • 03

    In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.

  • 04

    Place the egg whites in the bowl of the electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium-low speed until the mixture becomes foamy, then increase to medium-high and whisk, gradually adding the granulated sugar. Continue to whip until soft peaks form. Transfer the egg white mixture to a medium bowl and set aside. Replace the mixer bowl and add the paddle attachment to the mixer.

  • 05

    In the now empty mixer bowl, combine the egg yolks and brown sugar. Mix on medium-high speed until combined. With the mixer running, drizzle in the oil in a slow steady stream to emulsify. Add in the cocoa-sour cream mixture and mix just until incorporated. Add in the dry ingredients and with the mixer on low speed, mix just until incorporated and no dry streaks remain.

  • 06

    Fold the whipped egg whites into the batter in three additions, working gently to avoid deflating the whites. Add the chopped chocolate and vanilla extract to the bowl and fold in just until evenly combined.

  • 07

    Spread the batter in an even layer in the prepared baking pan. Bake, rotating the pan about halfway through the baking time, until the cake is set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs, about 30 minutes total. Let cool in the pan 15-20 minutes before turning out to cool completely. Transfer to a serving platter.

  • 08

    To make the frosting, place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whip on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.  Add the confectioners’ sugar to the bowl and mix on medium-low speed just until incorporated.  Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean pod (if using) into the bowl and add in the salt.  Continue to beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1-2 minutes.  Mix in the heavy cream and vanilla on low speed just until incorporated.  Increase the mixer speed and whip on high speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl as needed, about 4-5 minutes. Once the frosting has reached the desired texture, gently fold in the chocolate shavings with a spatula.

  • 09

    Frost the cooled cake as desired.


  • Lauren Ochoa

    I’m so glad to see you riffing on the Tina Fey thing while clarifying that none of us are actually advocating a “Let us eat cake” mentality. I found it personally therapeutic to watch her going to town on that cake because I’ve been on a diet and haven’t really had any cake to speak of recently…:-(. Yours looks amazing.

  • Annie

    Thanks girl. Agreed. You deserve some cake tho! Gotta treat yo self sometimes!

  • Angela

    I wanted to cry a bit when I read the responses to her skit. Is satire a lost art? It grieves me. Grief and cake go quite well together. Yet another reason to sheetcake.

    I love the your constant stream of encouragement and empowerment for all you meet consists of facts, plans of action, and delicious food. Resist!

  • TheresaSea

    Longtime stalker…er, follower. Is there a nice way to print this recipe up so I can share some cake with some coworkers tomorrow? :)

  • Kelsey

    All the yes. You know I love every last detail of this post. #resist

  • SallyT

    Hi – which kind of cocoa do you use?

    Also, I appreciate your comment about not taking her satire literally – I generally love her, but was worried that her whole thing about “staying home” kind of smacked of privilege – what a troubled world we live in. THANKS!

  • Annie

    I usually use dutch process but for this I think I was out so I just used regular cocoa.

  • Annie

    We have done away with the printer-friendly version since most people cook directly from mobile devices now and we made sure the site is mobile optimized. If you feel you must print, you can always copy and paste the recipe portion into a word document and print from there. And if you want to share the recipe itself, please send coworkers to my site – I appreciate the referral :)

  • Annie

    I know. I was really disheartened by the responses too. Can’t we differentiate comedy and actual recommendations? It was interesting to hear that perspective but I really cannot think that Tina would ever seriously say just stay home in the face of injustice. Lots of people would, the quiet, complicit folks who don’t want to feel uncomfortable, but I don’t think she falls into that category.

    Thanks for your constant encouragement!

  • Erika

    Finally making this as i said I would for my birthday. Let’s just pretend my birthday isn’t in September. At least it’s still 2017?

    But question… how did you get such pretty chocolate shavings? And how did you shave the chocolate without the chocolate melting all over your hands??