I know, you have seen this magnificent cake before. It is not new, nor terribly original in the blogosphere, but this Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake is a magical cake so just in case there are a handful of you newbie blog readers out there, or if you have just come off a long trip from the NASA space station, here it is adapted from Smitten Kitchen, but with my own tweaks.
No baker is complete without this baby under her belt. Believe me. This chocolate peanut butter cake is the go-to cake for so many birthdays at our house that I can now make it with my eyes closed and recipe free. I have made it a tad more user friendly so it doesn’t take all day, and I am not forced to shout swear words out at the air (sorry Zoie).
Birthdays are absolutely a main event around here (please don’t think Streisand and Ryan O’Neil from the 70’s—those of you who are too young or B-Movie unaware have just missed this reference—that’s OK…just move on).
Birthdays are not really about getting older in my book (perhaps that is because I have hit the big four “0”); they are more about celebrating the year that just passed and ringing in a new one with excitement and hope.
Sometimes, some years are better put to rest. Life has its share of things we just need to get through and hopefully forget, but some years are amazing. Once you get to be a full-fledged adult, you realize that life indeed is a rollercoaster, as cliched as that sounds; at times, taking you upside down and making you feel nauseous and other times, taking you 65 miles down an awesome drop that leaves you exhilarated and breathless.
Mostly, if you are lucky, you are just coasting along, plucking away at the day-to-day living. You have come to realize that this is the good stuff…the stuff you used to think was hum drum. As a grown-up, you realize that coasting is pretty darn good. Really good. Memorable even.
Birthdays are a great place to stop, take a breath and say either, “Glad that one’s over” or “Woohoo, what a year!”. They are an even better reason to spoil yourself or those around you. That’s where this cake comes in. It is a crazy rich, crazy chocolatey, crazy peanut butter-y cake. You get it…it is really over the top. It’s so moist that it almost falls apart before putting it together, and it’s really quite impossible not to dip your fingers onto the whisk and lick every last bit of the leftover peanut butter cream cheese frosting.
It’s a bad boy of a cake. It’s dark and devilish and just so impossible not to demolish. So here is my version…very, very close to Deb’s version, and I am assuming, very close to the original version from Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes.
Mine is a double layer…hence making it MUCH EASIER and just a tad less fall-apart fluffy by subtracting a bit of the water from the original recipe. That was where I always broke down in tears with this cake as it crumbled to its demise. I have given it just a bit more heft and a little less waifiness. That’s how I like things…just sayin’.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Cake
Tweaked very minorly from Smitten Kitchen which was adapted from Sky High: Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes
Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake; serves 12 to 16, I make 2, 9-inch layers and 6 additional cupcakes with the left over batter.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, best quality you can get your hands on
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/4 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Items Needed: Nonstick cooking spray, parchment paper and two 9 or 10″ Round Cake Pans. For the ganache spreading, an off-set spatula is ideal.
Geni/Cheater’s Style: Heat oven to 350. GREASE YOUR Pans well!!! You will thank me later. Ideally, spray two 9 or 10″ round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray. Spray the sides and the bottom. Then cut out two circles of parchment paper to fit one on the bottom of each pan. Spray again on top of the parchment. Now put one tablespoon of flour in each cake pan and tap away and shake back and forth, making sure to cover the whole pan with the dusted flour, and then tap out the excess into the sink.
Whisk all dry ingredients from flour to salt in a mixing bowl. Dump into stand-mixer bowl and add oil, sour cream, water, vinegar and vanilla. Beat on low, slowly increasing to medium speed with a paddle attachment until combined. Add eggs and briefly mix on medium speed until everything looks adequately incorporated. Scrape the sides well and beat again for just two seconds or so. Pour the batter into both pans, about 2/3 full. With the left-over batter, I make about 3-4 cupcakes in a muffin tin with liners. The batter is enough for a triple layer cake if you prefer that, but I don’t own three 9 inch cake pans.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and the cake is springy, and slightly firm to the touch. Let cool for about 15 minutes and then remove from the pans, carefully. Let cool completely on wire rack. After they are completely cooled, peel off the parchment, wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze for at least an hour. This will make the cake layers easier to frost.
After making the frosting below, spread frosting on top of bottom layer, assemble, then frost top layer and sides. Refrigerate the frosted cake for about 10 minutes and then make your ganache. Deb has a great detailed explanation for frosting and creating a “crumb layer” of frosting to totally mask the dark cake and so that you end up with a magazine cover worthy cake. I’m all about making it do-able for me and fast so please go to her site for the proper detailed frosting explantation.
Take the cake out of the fridge, and cover the frosting with chocolate peanut butter ganache, slowly pouring over the top of the cake and allowing to drip down the side. Use an off-set spatula to smooth the ganache and gently help the drips to go down the side of the cake. To catch the drips, you may want to have your cake plate or stand on top of a cookie sheet to catch the puddles of chocolate. If you are anything like me, though, I just let it run off onto my counter and then wipe it off. No worries.
The most beautiful picture ever taken of this cake is on Deb’s sight and it is a stunner…go take a looksy and see what I mean and then you will see how your cake should turn out. Mine was a bit of a rush job this time and so it was not entirely magazine gorgeous, but it still looked presentable and tasted spectacular!
Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes about 5 cups
10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted (I whisk when I’m in a rush)
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)
1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 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.
2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended. I usually beat on high about 20 seconds so the frosting is well incorporated, smooth and creamy.
Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I use good quality chocolate chips)
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half
To make the Ganache: This step is supposed to be done in a double boiler but I never do and always have great success. For the double boiler instructions, please see original recipe site linked to above. In a microwavable safe medium-sized bowl or very large liquid measuring cup, cook chocolate chips for one minute in the microwave on high. Stir and then add peanut butter and corn syrup. Place back in microwave for another minute on high. Stir until the chocolate has melted. If it is not melted, put back in the microwave for an other 20 seconds. DO NOT OVER COOK or it will SEIZE!
Remove bowl from the microwave and whisk. In a separate small liquid measuring cup, heat half-and-half for 45 seconds. Pour half and half over chocolate and whisk until smooth. If it is too thick to pour, feel free to add a little more half-and-half (about another tablespoon). Mine does not usually need this so add just a bit if necessary. Pour ganache over the cake from a liquid measuring cup and spread with the off-set spatula as it drips down the side of the cake. I usually line the edges of my cake plate with foil so I can carefully remove it later and the drips along with it.