So before you roll your eyes and go, didn’t you just tell us you were going to take a break from sweets, I will tell you that Slashfood already (rightly!) chided me and I owe them and you an explanation and an apology. I am sorry to pull you away from tofu and brown rice and egg white. I am. But this was for a birthday, and was shared by about 30 people, so we all had the smallest of the pieces, and, most importantly, I have been meaning to make this for nearly half a year – so it’s kind of retroactive, in a way.
To say this cake has been long time in the making, would be a terrible understatement. It’s been five months in the making and if you think I’m exaggerating let’s go down the timeline. When I moved into my new neighborhood in mid-August, my lovely new neighbors met me for dinner at this stunner of a place and presented me with a housewarming gift that made my heart skip many a beat – the cake book I’ve been lusting after for what seems like forever after seeing a few of its creations.
Immediately I read the preface and bought all the necessary baking tools that would enable me to start making celebration cakes and then emailed my friends with offers to bake dessert for any and each occasion. But every time someone’s birthday or gathering came up and I would offer up a cake – there was either not much enthusiasm for it or the situation couldn’t really accommodate. Last month I all but baked a cake for a friend’s birthday but the venue where we held it was going to charge us such an inappropriate fee for it, I backed out. And so finally, when my lovely friend Kate was having a birthday party last weekend, and I asked her if I could bake her a cake, her answer was a resounding YES.
I had this cake in mind all along, what with the most perfect combination of chocolate and peanut butter, this was the cake I was most curious to make, but Kate had to approve the flavors – after all, it was her birthday. While not a huge chocolate person, she did like chocolate cake and the peanut butter frosting sounded too good to pass up. It was finally going to happen.
Deb, on her site, mentions that if you like baking cakes, especially celebration ones – you need to get this book. I cannot agree with her more. The recipes are very doable and have clear instructions; the pictures are stunning; and the variety of unusual flavors makes this for a not-your-average-cake-book experience. It’s probably my favorite cook book at this moment, perhaps because I have a few cakes in the queue that will need to be made fairly soon.
Oh and since this cake is one-bowl only (for the batter – you will need another bowl to make the frosting) – it’s really really easy. You might not even need a preset mise because things just go in chronological order and voila – batter is made! I like having a mise, because I’m a little OCD about certain things and I like the look of it. But if you’re like me and lack a dishwasher (and loathe doing dishes) – the one bowl aspect of it is very valuable, don’t you think? And while this cake is quite intense and you’ll want the thinnest of slivers on your plate (because a huge piece just might send you into a permanent chocolate and peanut butter coma) it’s hardly fitting for my New Year’s resolve of healthier food. Just think of the hand mixing as a small workout for your forearm and tricep – which cancels out the calories consumed by a slice of this. Or so I’d like to believe.
More peanut butter and chocolate love: Crispy Peanut Butter Bars
Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Sky High Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes
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 coarsely chopped peanut brittle (skipped this)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cake-pans. 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.(1)
4. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 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.(2)
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.(3) Decorate the top with chopped peanut brittle (optional).
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 (4)
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 time5, 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
8 ounces semisweet 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.
1. I found these cakes very soft and so after letting them cool on cooling racks, I stuck them in the freezer for 30 minutes, which made frosting much, much easier. I would recommend that you do this as well.
2. To have a beautiful coat of frosting, I recommend doing a crumb coat first. A crumb coat is a very thin layer of frosting that binds the crumbs to the frosting – after which you chill the cake (about 30 minutes) and the use the remaining frosting to create a smooth, crumb-free, pretty coat! Also, while we’re on the subject of chilling, once you finish frosting your cake, chill it again for another 30 minutes (I know, I know a lot of fridge time) because it’ll make your ganache set faster and you’ll have a prettier effect of the drip).
3. I prefer this cake on the slightly chilled side – so I would only wait about 30 minutes, not 1 hour. Also, it all depends on what time of year you make this – I would have this straight from the fridge in the summer.
4. I used about 3 cups of confectioners’ sugar because the idea of 5 cups was making me dizzy – I’m very glad I did. However, I would up the cream cheese a bit and add a bit more butter. So maybe 12 oz of cream cheese, 1 tbsp butter and 3 cups confectioners’ sugar – I barely had enough frosting for the cake, and it’s not because I kept “tasting” it to get it just right.
5. I added in ¼ cup increments – I like the result better.
Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake; serves 12 to 16 (or so the book tells you, we fed nearly 25 people with it)