So I got Mrs. Dreher a copy of “The Homesick Texan Cookbook” for Christmas, and boy, does she love it — though I don’t think she would recommend its queso recipe. I thought the queso was fine, but Julie said the mouthfeel was all wrong, and that there’s just no getting around the fact that Velveeta is the sine qua non of real Tex-Mex queso.

Last night she made the Texas sheet cake recipe from the book. It was, well, a chocolate sheet cake. She said people had it all the time when she was growing up in Texas. It seems like nothing special, but oh my freaking LBJ, it was some good! I don’t really like chocolate, but I couldn’t get enough of this stuff. I can’t figure out why something so simple was so extraordinarily good. I shared a piece today with my niece Claire, who loves to bake, and asked her what she thought. With the first bite, her face lit up like she’d just snorted something illegal but extremely pleasant. “What is that?” she said. I wish I knew.

All I can figure is that this odd step made a big difference. I’ve never seen a cake made this way:

Sift the sugar and flour together in a bowl.

Melt the butter on low in a saucepan, and when melted add cocoa and water and heat until boiling.

Pour cocoa mix over sugar and flour and mix well with a spoon.

I suppose Alton Brown or Harold McGee could explain this, but something magical must take place chemically in the boiling of the cocoa and butter.

Julie didn’t put ancho chile powder in the version she made last night, because she didn’t want to make it taste weird to the kids. I can’t wait till she makes it again, this time with chile.

Buy the book for your homesick Texan, is what I’d advise. I knew that when I gave it to her, this increased substantially the risk that I would be forced to eat something made with Dr Pepper, which is completely vile. But love demands taking chances, does it not?