I’ve been preoccupied lately…with wedding invitations to design and rank lists to create. In my free hours each evening there’s been a lot of sitting and staring at my computer, doodling on scraps of paper, hoping and waiting for Spring to come quickly so that all the ranking and waiting and wondering will just be over (and the invitations will just be printed so I won’t be able to fiddle with them any longer). Luckily, there have been more than a few birthdays that have offered some reprieve. So today, it is my pleasure to share with you this absolutely over-the-top irresistible Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake.
It starts with a Sour Cream Chocolate Cake as the base. Now, I’ve made a good amount of chocolate cakes in my life (not nearly as many as some but probably more than the average person my age) and this one, my friends, is my absolute favorite.
The frosting is a Cream Cheese Peanut Butter Frosting. It is sweet, peanut-buttery and has a hint of tang from the cream cheese. When nestled between layers of this rich chocolate cake, it’s a chocolate peanut butter lover’s dream.
But it doesn’t end there. The cake is finished with the most amazing chocolate peanut butter glaze. And while the cake may border on being too rich and the frosting on being almost too sweet, when topped with this glaze everything comes together to create one of the richest and most delicious cakes I have ever made. The only advice I offer is this: cut thin slices, have a tall glass of milk nearby and make sure you have plenty of people to share it with.
This wouldn’t be a good birthday post unless I included a picture of the birthday boy himself. This photo, circa 1996 in Kenya, shows him picking out his very own cow as a birthday present. There are no comparisons I can draw between the cow and the cake (thank goodness for that) except to say he loved them both.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
A few tips I picked up from Deb: This cake is very moist and subsequently can be difficult to work with. I recommend letting it cool and flash freezing it in the freezer for at least 20 minutes before working with the layers. I made my cake a day ahead, wrapped it in plastic wrap and left it in the freezer overnight. My cake baked unevenly so I had a good amount of leveling to do and it was fine. If I hadn’t froze it, it probably would have fallen apart.
When frosting the cake, it is wise to do a “crumb coat” first – ice the cake with a thin layer of frosting, put it back in the fridge for about 20 minutes then finish frosting. It prevents all the dark crumbs from showing up in the light peanut butter frosting.
Finally, after frosting and before adding the glaze, place the cake in the fridge for about 20 minutes. The glaze turns out better when placed on a cooler cake and you’ll get a better dripping effect when doing this.
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
1/2 cup chopped reese’s peanut butter cups (I skipped it this time but have done it in the past)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.
2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. 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.
3. Bake for 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. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely.
4. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.
5. To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze 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. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving. Decorate the top with chopped peanut butter cups, if using.
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
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.
Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half
1. In the top of a double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.