Alex’s birthday was this past weekend and in case you are new here, let me give you a loose outline of a Standard Dessert Alex Politely Requests: Chocolate. Chocolate with chocolate. Chocolate with caramel. Chocolate with toffee. Chocolate with coffee. Chocolate with hazelnut cream. Chocolate with Oreos. Chocolate cheesecake with brownie chunks. Chocolate icebox cake. Chocolate with raspberries. Chocolate with white chocolate. Chocolate with dulce de leche. Chocolate with banana cake.
What, can you sense a theme or something?
This year we added one more to the chocolate cake pile: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake. Well, actually, the technical title of the cake is Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate Peanut Butter Glaze, though it is actually a Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate Peanut Butter Glaze, but all you really need to know is that if you know a chocolate-and-peanut-butter lover, you must make this cake.
Because did I mention the chocolate cake? With the chocolate-peanut butter ganache (I bet you didn’t even know such a thing existed, I sure didn’t and my life may never be the same again. I wish I could quit it.) And the cream cheese peanut butter frosting and filling? Actually, let us pause on that last part. If you’re anything like me, the thought of cream cheese and peanut butter intentionally mixed probably gives you a bit of pause. I don’t know cheese + sweetened peanuts? That can’t be right, I thought. Well, I was wrong. They are perfect together, with the tangy/saltiness of the cream cheese helping the peanut butter hit all the right notes.
You might be noticing a recurring theme here this summer, but what can I say? I’m in love with this book. I brought up Sky High for the first time after making my own birthday cake this year, that glorious Pistachio Petit-Four Cake. You heard me yammer about this book again when we were in the midst of Project Wedding Cake, where both the vanilla and chocolate cake recipes were from this wonderful book. And here we are at it again.
If you like baking cakes, especially celebration cakes, you really want to get this book. What drew me to it was that the cakes are so interesting–no plain chocolate with vanilla frosting here but petit-fours and blue cornmeal with caramel cream and gingerbread beer with bittersweet chocolate and bananas with praline and white chocolate.
But here’s the other best part (you know, if the notion of a boston cream pie cake wasn’t enough to convince you)–a lot of these cake recipes are one-bowl. I even mixed the one below with just a whisk, no electric mixer. My dishwasher thanked me. Okay fine, of course I gave him the night off; it was his birthday, after all. Which means that I applauded the smaller sinkful of dishes even more.
Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Adapted, only barely, from Sky High: Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes
This cake is INTENSE. Serve it in the thinnest slices possible, and keep a glass of milk handy.
Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake; serves 12 to 16 (the book says, I say a heck of a lot more)
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups (500 grams) sugar
3/4 cup (about 65 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (235 ml) neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup (240 grams) sour cream
1 1/2 (355 ml) cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup coarsely chopped peanut brittle (I skipped this)
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. (Deb note: These cakes are very, very soft. I found them a lot easier to work with after firming them up in the freezer for 30 minutes. They’ll defrost quickly once assembled. You’ll be glad you did this, trust me.)
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. (Deb note 1: Making a crumb coat of frosting–a thin layer that binds the dark crumbs to the cake so they don’t show up in the final outer frosting layer–is a great idea for this cake, or any with a dark cake and lighter-colored frosting. Once you “mask” your cake, let it chill for 15 to 30 minutes until firm, then use the remainder of the frosting to create a smooth final coating. Deb note 2: Once the cake is fully frosted, it helps to chill it again and let it firm up. The cooler and more set the peanut butter frosting is, the better drip effect you’ll get from the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze.)
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 brittle.
Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes about 5 cups
10 ounces (285 grams) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (115 grams, 4 ounces or 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups (600 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2/3 cup (170 grams) 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
8 ounces (225 grams) semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons (50 grams) smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons (40 grams) light corn syrup, honey or golden syrup
1/2 cup (120 ml) 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.