Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

I’m one of those girls that cannot be left alone with a jar of peanut butter and a spoon; a girl can do some damage, I’m telling you.. Reese’s peanut butter cups were among the untradable candies in my halloween bag and there are several things that are not allowed to coexist in my apartment with a jar of peanut butter: wheat thins, pretzels, and, God forbid, an open bag of chocolate chips. I’ve been told that the love of PB is a distinctly American trait; the rest of the world just doesn’t understand. Well, as as far as I’m concerned, they don’t have to.

This particular cake has been on my radar for years (and probably anyone else’s who hangs around food blogs much). Strangely though, despite my love of peanut butter straight from the jar, peanut butter desserts have never been my favorite. This one, for some reason, seemed just a tad too heavy handed for me and I kept choosing other celebration cakes over it. Lucky for me, and for all of us, that I had a peanut butter and chocolate–loving friend to bake for last week. I was so very very wrong about this cake.

This cake layers incredibly tender, moist cakes, with not one, but two frostings. The first is a peanut butter, cream cheese frosting. You read that right. I actually attribute the magic of this cake to this component. The tang of a cream cheese frosting combines with the slightly salty peanut butter to make something that hits every part of your tongue. It’s peanut buttery, but not too much so, which is why I think this cake works so well. I expected to be blugeoned with peanut butter, but instead, I was just nudged.

The second “frosting” is a chocolate peanut butter ganache. I’ve now decided that draping a cake in ganache is my favorite method of decoration. It’s gorgeous without being even remotely fussy and it covers any little imperfections in the frosting. I used semisweet chocolate, but I think, if you used bittersweet, it would offset the sweet, tangy frosting even better. Perhaps I’ll only make chocolate cakes from now on, so that I cover every thing in ganache. That doesn’t sound so bad.  The final product is an incredibly moist, pudding-like cake with a fluffy frosting and dense ganache that seriously combine to make something magical. Of the cakes I’ve posted so far, this one might be my favorite.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Adapted, not even a little bit from Smitten Kitchen who adapted it from Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes (cough::birthday present::cough)

I took a few tips for this cake from over at Smitten and I suggest you do too. First, freeze the layers, even if only for 15-30 minutes. These cakes are very very tender and this will help you out a LOT. Second, place wax paper under the edges of the cake before icing it; any mess you make will be on the wax paper and can be removed, leaving you with a nice clean cake plate. Third, do a crumb coating with your icing, chill the cake, and then ice the final layer. Finally, chill the cake again before pouring the ganache, for awesome dripping action.

Sour Cream Chocolate Cakes

2 c all-purpose flour
2 1/2 c sugar
3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
2 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 c canola oil
1 c sour cream
1 1/2 c water
2 T distilled white vinegar
1 t vanilla extract
2 eggs

Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

10 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 c confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2/3 c smooth peanut butter (not organic)

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze

8 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 T smooth peanut butter
2 T light corn syrup
1/2 c half-and-half

  • Heat oven to 350°F
  • Grease the bottoms and sides of three 8″ round cakepans and then line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment paper
  • In a large bowl, sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Combine well
  • Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend
  • Gradually beat in the water, followed by the vinegar and vanilla
  • Add the eggs and beat until thoroughly combined
  • Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a tester comes out almost clean
  • Cool cakes in the pans for 20 minutes, then remove from pans, peel off the parchment and cool the cakes on the wire racks

While the cakes cool, make the frosting:

  • In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until fluffy and thoroughly combined, being sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl
  • Add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time and beat on low after each addition, scraping down the sides of the bowl each time
  • Beat on medium until fluffy
  • Add the peanut butter and beat until combined

Frost the cake:

  • Place one layer, flat side up, on a cake plate
  • Dollop 2/3 c. of the Peanut Butter Frosting onto the first layer and spread evenly over the top
  • Repeat with the next layer
  • Place the third layer on top and do a thin crumb-coating on the tops and sides of the cake
  • Chill for 15 minutes
  • Use the rest of the frosting to thoroughly coat the top and sides of the cake
  • Chill the cake for 15 minutes or until the ganache is ready

Make the ganache:

  • In a small, heavy-bottomed sauce pan over very low heat, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, corn syrup and half and half
  • Stir until melted and shiny
  • Use while still warm

Glaze the cake

  • Pour the warm glaze over the top of the chilled glaze and use an offset spatula or knife to spread the glaze evenly, allowing it to drip randomly and artistically over the edges of the cake
  • Refrigerate, uncovered for at least 30 minutes to set the glaze
  • Allow the cake to come to room temperature for at least an hour before serving


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