The Fluffy Peanut Butter Sheet Cake You've Been Searching For

March 30, 2018

I love sheet cakes, both the making and eating of them. They’re simple to prepare, feed a crowd, and remind me of my childhood: my mom baked them for birthday parties, family gatherings, or just because. And as people are now turning to their trusty sheet pans for everything from salads, to soups, to all kinds of no-fuss dinners, I think it's high time for a resurgence of sheet cakes, too.

Recently, as I was making sandwiches for my kids’ lunch—peanut butter and jelly for my son, cream cheese and jam for my daughter—a thought came to me. Why had I never split the difference, with a peanut butter and cream cheese sandwich? And with baking on the brain (we’d been watching The Great British Baking Show as a family), this thought soon became, why not try a peanut butter sheet cake with cream cheese frosting? Or, better yet, chocolate cream cheese frosting? I was spurred on by the show’s hosts: "On your marks, get set, bake!"

Swooshy, swirly frosting on the fluffy sheet cake of your dreams. Photo by Luzena Adams

Except, the "get ready" part wasn’t so easy. In all my cookbooks, I didn’t find one peanut butter cake, sheet cake or otherwise. Then I turned to Google, and thought I’d hit a recipe goldmine—so many peanut butter sheet cakes! But I soon realized that all of the recipes were virtually the same, down to the ingredient amounts: they called for whisking fat (butter, or sometimes a combo of butter and vegetable oil) with boiling water and peanut butter, adding the butter mixture to the dry ingredients, and folding in eggs and buttermilk. The pictured cakes were thin, with similarly thin layers of frosting—akin to a Texas sheet cake. I like that style of cake, but the peanut butter sheet cake I was dreaming of was thick and fluffy and piled high with thick, swooshy frosting.

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So I turned to Stella Parks and her Gingerbread Sheet Cake. The cake pictured in her recipe was gorgeously tall (double the height of the others I’d seen!), and as soon as I looked at the ingredients and method, I understood why. She calls for whipping the eggs and sugar until thick and fluffy to fully aerate the batter, then drizzling in melted fat. After that, she says to mix in a full cup of buttermilk at the end, to add moisture (without thinning the batter), boost the cake’s tenderness, and aid its rise.

I used Parks’ technique to create my peanut butter sheet cake, and it worked like a charm. This was exactly the cake I was hoping for: tall and moist, rich and tender-crumbed, and so full of peanut butter flavor. For the chocolate cream cheese frosting, I opted for cocoa powder over melted chocolate, to get a deep, rich, chocolaty flavor and light, fluffy texture. To decorate the cake, I like to go heavy on the sprinkles, because what don't sprinkles make better?

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“This cake sounds great and makes me wonder what the cake itself looks like - this page and the recipe page only show the top of the cake, with beautiful and mouth watering chocolate frosting, but really only half the recipe. Is it a tawny PB color? dark brown? Some commenters have asked about the thickness, and a photo would help.”
— AM

My daughter’s review of the cake was all I needed to hear. In her best Paul Hollywood impression, she said, “Mommy, that’s a good bake.”

Do you like your sheet cakes thick and fluffy, wish swooshy frosting, or Texas-style with a dainty glaze? Share your sheet cake tips in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • rissa
  • AM
  • Kapcooks
  • Jane
  • Robin

Written by: EmilyC

I'm a home cook. I love salads. Two things you'll always find in my refrigerator are lemons and butter, and in my pantry good quality chocolate and the makings for chocolate chip cookies.


rissa April 14, 2022
Omg… thank you on behalf of my peanut butter lovin’ family! How about a fluff frosting? Do you have a marshmallow icing recipe?
AM November 12, 2019
This cake sounds great and makes me wonder what the cake itself looks like - this page and the recipe page only show the top of the cake, with beautiful and mouth watering chocolate frosting, but really only half the recipe. Is it a tawny PB color? dark brown? Some commenters have asked about the thickness, and a photo would help.
Kapcooks April 8, 2018
I have always wondered why there is not a peanut butter muffin?
Jane April 7, 2018
This recipe makes me want to bake again!
Author Comment
EmilyC April 8, 2018
Jane: your comment put a huge smile on my face--thank you!! I really hope you try and like this! : )
Robin April 5, 2018
Emily, did you use natural or conventional peanut butter? Just curious...
By the way, I still make your coconut lime tacos all the time!!
Author Comment
EmilyC April 6, 2018
Hi Robin -- either natural or conventional peanut butter works well (I tested the recipe using both kinds)! Hope you try and like the cake! (And I'm happy to hear that the tacos have made it into your rotation!!)
Dave A. April 5, 2018
What size pan did you use. My sheet pans are only about an inch high, or maybe 1 1/2 inches. Should I use a 9 X 13 in pan? After I retired, I ended up doing most of the baking, and I LOVE PB (I'm over 70 years old/young)
nell P. April 5, 2018
I would think the ingredients would dictate the pan size. Sounds like a 9 x 13" pan would be correct.
Author Comment
EmilyC April 6, 2018
Hi Dave and nell -- yes, a 9x13 pan is the right size! A 9x13 with 2" sides is ideal. I also tested this cake in a quarter sheet pan (a 9x13 with 1" sides) and it worked well, too! Hope this helps.
Abigail April 5, 2018
Is it possible to make this with a peanut butter alternative (for example, sunflower seed butter)? I'm allergic to peanuts myself, but love this idea!
Author Comment
EmilyC April 5, 2018
Hi Abigail - I’ve never tried another kind of nut butter but I think it would work! Please report back if you try it!
Nikkitha B. March 30, 2018
I'm not a peanut butter fan (seriously), but I devoured this. You changed my mind! Now I can't stop eating the stuff!! Making this next time I need to serve a crowd.
Author Comment
EmilyC March 31, 2018
Nikkitha: I’m so happy that the cake changed your mind about PB! It’s dangerously easy to make may not want to wait for a crowd! : )
Jess March 30, 2018
Yum! My peanut butter crazed preschooler would love this (plus Stella Parks' recipes have been spot on for me). I'll have to make it this weekend.
Author Comment
EmilyC March 31, 2018
Yay! Hope you enjoy it! : )