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Vanilla Sheet Cake with Malted-Chocolate Frosting

Sheet cakes, long a staple of bake sales and potlucks, are easy to make and even easier to transport. Be sure to let the cake cool completely before you frost it. Once frosted, the cake can be covered with plastic wrap and kept at room temperature up to three days.

  • Servings: 12
Vanilla Sheet Cake with Malted-Chocolate Frosting

Photography: Jonathan Lovekin


For the Cake

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the Frosting

  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons malted milk powder
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) plus 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 10 1/2 ounces milk chocolate, melted and cooled
  • Pinch of salt
  • Chopped malted milk balls (optional), for decorating


  1. Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Dust with flour, tapping out excess. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

  2. With an electric mixer on high speed, beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, until combined. Reduce mixer speed to low. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with 2 batches of buttermilk; beat to combine, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla.

  3. Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating half way through, until cake is golden and puffed and a cake tester comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

  4. Meanwhile, make the frosting: In a medium bowl, whisk together cocoa and malted milk powders. Add the boiling water, whisk until smooth, and let cool. With mixer on high speed, beat butter until smooth. Add cocoa mixture; beat until combined. Add chocolate and salt. Raise mixer speed to medium- high; beat until frosting is smooth and peaks form, about 3 minutes. Spread frosting over cake; sprinkle with malted milk balls, if desired.


Reviews (10)

  • kdroste 8 Sep, 2014

    I think this cake turned out nice, it certainly wasn't dry. The frosting was super malty, as I would expect from that much malted milk powder, it was also really easy to spread.

  • nicki301 19 Jul, 2014

    I wish I would have read the reviews before attempting this one. What a waste of time and ingredients....the cake is dry, the flavor is lacking and the frosting did not turn out well. What a bummer!! I assumed since this recipe made it into the martha stewart Cake cookbook it would be a winner, but it definitely was not. :(

  • laurakates 30 Dec, 2013

    ugh. Wanted to make this for my sister's birthday and too bad I didn't read the review before starting. The cake turned out ok, kind of bland, but the frosting is just disgusting. calls for way too much malt powder. It has a bitter taste. I am in the process of dumping it out and making a chocolate buttercream to go with it. Thanks to whomever is editing this recipe for making me waste at least $10 in good quality chocolate. In your best cakes and pies section Martha? I bet you've never tried it

  • Sophie_b 18 Sep, 2013

    Epic fail (IMO ~ everyone else loved it). As per other posters, this cake is D R Y. Possibly the worst cake I've ever made. Taste profile and ease of execution aside, there is absolutely no frosting in the world that can save a cake so dry it seems stale. The recipe says that the cake can be left frosted at room temp for three days. If you do, don't put the malted candy on until you're ready to serve. I served mine 24 hours later and the candy centers were sticky. I don't recommend this cake.

  • pattipoopidoo 24 Jun, 2012

    Meh ~ this was just ok. There are way better recipes out there for sure, although I would never resort to a box cake mix -- not even for my dog.

  • s4nte 22 Jun, 2012

    re: adhoc44, who's snoring? if you took a moment to read the recipe, you'd see that some of the butter is creamed in the cake batter and the rest of the butter is used in the frosting. Also, I see salt clearly listed in the ingredients.

  • adhoc44 22 Jun, 2012

    Vanilla Cake Redux. The ingredient list also omits the salt. That's a big no-no!

  • adhoc44 22 Jun, 2012

    Please note that the ingredient list calls for 3 1/4 STICKS unsalted butter or almost a full pound but the instructions call for only 3/4th cups butter. Somebody snored all the way through the editting! I will try the recipe again the next time I can afford real butter.

  • bew 30 Sep, 2011

    I didn't want to believe the first reviewer that the cake was dry. The recipe looked like it should not be dry with the butter, buttermilk, and 4 eggs, but the first words out of my families' mouth was, "This cake is dry!!" They did like the frosting and did not think it was too sweet. Very disappointing. I hate when a recipe fails because I am a pretty good baker. Don't waste you time on this cake.

  • Lmendoza9661 28 Sep, 2011

    Very disappointing recipe. The cake is dry and the frosting is too sweet. I couldn't eat an entire slice. Make a boxed vanilla cake instead, it's easier and tastes better then this recipe.

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