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Mary-Linh Tran

Junior Food Editor at Kitchen Stories

There is perhaps no other cake more prominent in the realm of US-American baked goods than the sheet cake. You know what I’m talking about: spongey tray cakes frosted with fluffy buttercream or chocolate ganache, and finished with an assortment of toppings ranging from fluorescent sprinkles to flecks of toasted coconut. It’s a crowd pleaser at office parties, school bake sales, graduations, classroom birthdays—just about any celebration, really. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll know that a cake’s place is always welcome on the dining table, party or no party.

Sheet cakes get their name from the fact that they’re single layer cakes. This means they shouldn’t take all afternoon to prep and are therefore perfect for when you’re short on time and can’t be bothered with anything too complex. Think of the sheet cake’s simplicity as permission for your imagination and creativity to run wild—a place to experiment with add-ins, toppings, and even food coloring. To inspire and encourage you to graduate from boxed cake to the real deal, here are 11 of our best sheet cake recipes. Happy baking!

Spiced parsnip cake with cream cheese frosting

Spiced parsnip cake with cream cheese frosting

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If you haven’t yet jumped on the bandwagon of baking with vegetables, this parsnip cake will turn you into a believer real quick. Parsnip belongs to the same family as carrots, but has an earthier, herbally spiciness that gives this simple sheet cake a kind of je ne sais quois that even your most veg-resistant family members and guests will love.

Raspberry sheet cake

Raspberry sheet cake

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Berries and cream is a flavor combo for the ages and this raspberry sheet cake is proof of that. The sponge is delicate and airy and the cream cheese frosting is fluffier than a cloud— a foolproof base that can be easily modified to fit a hundred different palates. Swap the raspberries out for strawberries, plums, apricots, peaches, cherries—any fruit that glitters with cream.

Chamomile sheet cake with salted coconut frosting

Chamomile sheet cake with salted coconut frosting

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Consider this recipe a more sophisticated rendition of the tray cakes of our childhood, one you can whip out casually whether it’s for a weekend brunch or weeknight dinner party and shrug off as if it’s nothing. Laced with soft floral notes and a creamy coconut covering offset with a sprinkling of salt—to say this cake is divine is a serious understatement.

German rhubarb streusel sheet cake

German rhubarb streusel sheet cake

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Rhubarb can do no wrong in my eyes, so chucking it under a sheet of crumbly streusel sounds like a happy marriage of tart and sweet. If rhubarb isn’t in season, simply cut up another fruit, like apples, to turn this into a quick and easy apple crumble sheet cake.

New York-style cinnamon crumb cake

New York-style cinnamon crumb cake

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I’m of the camp that believes cake shouldn’t be reserved for dessert, and this cinnamon crumb cake is a testament to how warm and fuzzy you’ll feel when you start your day with a slice of it alongside your morning cup of joe.

Sheet cake with maple buttercream

Sheet cake with maple buttercream

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A wonderful way to snazz up a sheet cake is to add chopped nuts to the batter. We used pecans here to add texture and a faint woody flavor to match the maple buttercream. Tinged with warm tones of caramel and butterscotch, make this cake your autumn/winter go-to.

German Donauwelle cake

German Donauwelle cake

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Donauwelle translates to ‘waves of Danube,’ referring to the marbled effect of swirling chocolate batter through a plain pound cake batter. Decked with cherries, pastry cream, and an additional layer of ganache, Donauwelle is a chocolate-cherry sheet cake affair that can’t be missed!

Yellow birthday cake with chocolate frosting

Yellow birthday cake with chocolate frosting

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You might remember boxed yellow cake from classroom parties and bake sales, but did you know baking a sheet cake from scratch takes about the same time as pre-made mixes? So why not not opt for the at-home version, which’ll be richer than its boxed doppelganger—did I mention there’s also chocolate frosting and sprinkles? This is the perfect companion for children’s birthdays and potlucks!

Tangy lemon sheet cake

Tangy lemon sheet cake

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Spiking milk with an acid, like lemon juice or vinegar, is a great way to spunk up your standard vanilla batter. Think of it as a DIY buttermilk, which enhances the other elements of this recipe—lemon and crème fraîche—for additional tang.

Rainbow swirl cake

Rainbow swirl cake

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Food coloring is a good way to add flair to your cakes and it requires zero additional work. I mean, who doesn’t love a colorful cake? Checkered in neon pink, blue, and green, this cake is vibrant, festive, and 100% Instagrammable.

Classic German chocolate pudding sheet cake

Classic German chocolate pudding sheet cake

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This is a pudding sheet cake that has it all: a pillowy sponge, a layer of silky cream, another layer of chocolate ganache, and crunchy cookie bites sandwiched in-between.

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