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nosh friday: chocolate peanut butter cake

September 3, 2010

This is the single best cake I have ever put between my lips.

That’s right, we’re not mincing words (or anything else) today on Nosh Friday. Instead, I am making a proclamation. Get thee to an oven and make this cake. Okay, okay, it is a little time-consuming (though most of that time is time spent waiting for the cake to chill at various stages; the cake-making itself is really simple). However, it is so very, very worth it. If you find yourself swept away by the magic that is chocolate and peanut butter, this cake will become your new best friend. You will laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll share a bunk at summer camp. BFFs, I’m tellin’ ya.

I made this cake for a dinner party with my sisters last night and we purposely ate light for dinner so we could devote ourselves and our stomachs to this glorious thing.

Go and do the same.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
Adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen (originally found in the Sky High cookbook)

Makes an 8 or 9-inch triple-layer cake; serves 12 to 16

Chocolate Sour Cream Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease or butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans, lining the bottoms of each with a round of greased parchment paper (I used 9 inch ones, because it’s what I had, and it works fine).

MY NOTE: For mixing, you can either do it by hand or in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. I found using the stand mixer a little easier, as you have to gradually beat in a few of the ingredients.

In a large bowl (or the bowl of your stand mixer), sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans; it comes out to about 2 1/2 to 3 cups of batter per pan.

Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes, then invert onto wire cooling racks, carefully peeling off the parchment paper and let cool completely. Because these cakes are so soft, they are much easier to frost if partially frozen. I lined a plate with some wax paper and once cooled, stacked the layers between pieces of wax paper, freezing them for about 30 to 45 minutes. This makes them MUCH easier to handle when frosting; this is not a step you want to skip. Don’t fret, they will defrost as you assemble the cake.

Peanut Butter Frosting

Makes about 5 cups

1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar (the original recipe called for 5 (!!) cups, but I found 2 cups to be plenty sweet)
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)

In your stand mixer or with a handheld one, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1/2 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. To help keep your edges clean, arrange a few small pieces of wax paper in a circle, placing the first layer on top of these. After you frost the cake and it’s ready to serve, you can gently tug the paper from under the cake and ta-da! Clean edges.

Spread 2/3 cup of the frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and do a light “crumb coating.” This is a thin layer of frosting that binds the crumbs to the cake and will help keep the finished cake looking smooth. After you thinly frost the top and sides of the cake, pop it in the fridge uncovered for about 30 minutes or until firm, then take it out and finish frosting it. Place it back in the fridge and let it firm up for about an hour or so; the cooler the cake, the better drip effect you get from the warm ganache. It’s science.

Once the frosting is fully set, it’s time for…

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Ganache
(It was called a “glaze” in the original recipe, but it certainly does not taste or look like a glaze to me.)

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably 60% cacao), coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half

In a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup and stir, until it’s thick and shiny and makes you want to weep. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth.

Once mixed and STILL WARM, pour the ganache over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips.

NOTE: I found that after adding the cold half-and-half, my ganache cooled down too much and then I was stuck with unsatisfactory drips on my cake. I would suggest heating up the half-and-half before adding it to the chocolate.

Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the ganache and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving. It’s delicious, but INTENSE. Cut the slices as large as your heart can handle.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. September 3, 2010 1:03 pm

    Hey Caroline, this looks great! I’d make it but just three days ago I made a peanut butter cream pie from the blog and though it’s just me and my non-sweet-toothed husband, it’s gone. **shame**
    I’ll bookmark the recipe though! And if you like peanut butter, gah…you must check out this girl, Joy the Baker, her pie was also delish.

  2. September 3, 2010 6:04 pm

    I’ll be making this for a potluck next week. I know everyone will love it. Myself, I actually don’t like peanut butter. I’ll give it a try any way- but I’ll probably just eat the cake.

  3. September 3, 2010 7:16 pm

    This cake is going to become my new best friend this weekend! I just need to buy some round cake pans and I’ll be all set.

  4. September 7, 2010 10:41 pm

    Allrighty, I made it! It was amazingly delicious but it will probably be a long time before I attempt it again just because of how long it took me. Here’s my write up:
    Thanks for the recipe!

  5. Caroline permalink*
    September 8, 2010 9:43 am

    @ Emily!

    Oooo, that pie sounds luscious. I’ll have to check out Joy the Baker for sure. 🙂

  6. Caroline permalink*
    September 8, 2010 9:49 am

    @ Hilary!

    Don’t…like…peanut butter?! I think my heart just stopped.

    The cake itself is really yummy and would be amazing with a whole host of other frostings. I think you could get very creative with this one. Good luck, comrade!

  7. Caroline permalink*
    September 8, 2010 9:50 am

    @ Leigh!

    So excited that it turned out for you — this cake is definitely a little time-consuming, but so worth it. I salute you and am glad we can both become closer friends with the beautiful, deeeeeelicious cake. After all,everyone needs friends. 🙂

  8. September 8, 2010 1:37 pm

    Super Awesome recipe! I love peanut butter on almost anything and this cake is another recipe that I am very much excited to try out. I would surely make this one this coming weekend and share this with my friends as they are coming over for a small dinner that I would be hosting. It would go really well with a hot cup of coffee made from one of my espresso coffee machines at home. Thanks!

  9. Caroline permalink*
    September 8, 2010 5:58 pm

    @ Michael!

    It’s a great “share with friends” cake — mostly because it’s so delicious (and RICH) that if you ate the whole thing yourself, you might end up needing hospitalization. And no one wants that!

    I think the bitterness of espresso would pair beautifully with the deep chocolate in this cake. Happy baking!

  10. Aban Jasoomani permalink
    September 14, 2010 11:18 pm

    i baked this deliciousness for the bruv’s 23rd birthday. we scarfed it down. all of it. hospitalization was not needed, but we most certainly laid on the couch for a lengthy period.
    I LOVE IT!!

  11. Caroline permalink*
    September 17, 2010 1:09 pm

    @ Aban!

    Haha, yes I usually want to take a nap after eating this cake. I mean, after something that fantastic, what could be even more fantastic than sleep (or laying motionless on a couch)!

    Happy birthday to the bruv. I’m actually in the midst of making this cake again for a friend’s bachelorette party tomorrow. Dance, dance, CAKE!


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