Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cake
I had to wipe the drool off the key board.
This cake was so good. SOOOOOO good, I tell you. Definitely one of the best cakes I’ve ever made. Thank heavens it was Nate’s birthday (otherwise I wouldn’t have had a good reason to make this cake) and thank heavens that boy loves peanut butter and chocolate almost as much as I do.
Usually I’m more of a frosting person, but the actual cake part of this cake was to-die-for. The peanut butter cream cheese frosting made it even better. And the chocolate peanut butter ganache pushed it over the top. It was not one, not even two, but three layers of chocolatey peanut butter goodness.
I made the cake layers several days in advance and stuck them in the freezer until it was Cake Assembly Day. Usually when I frost cakes I like to put parchment paper under the cake layers so I can pull them out after icing the cake and it looks all neat and tidy. I discovered that you can’t really do that with this cake because it’s so moist, it sticks to the parchment paper and when you try to pull the paper out, the cake breaks. I pulled out what I could and took a scissors to the rest of it, carefully cutting along the perimeter of the cake.
This chocolate cake will now be my go-to chocolate cake recipe because it was seriously some of the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had. It actually reminded me of a recipe in my Peace Corps-Moldova cookbook for “chocolate snack cake” because both cake recipes use the vinegar and baking soda method to get the cake to rise. The first time I made the chocolate snack cake in Moldova, I made the colossal mistake of using my host mom’s barely-processed sunflower oil to make the cake. It tasted nasty. My host family thought it was the vanilla that gave the cake an odd flavor. Yeah, right.
I made a crumb coating when frosting the cake, meaning that I put a thin layer of frosting over the entire outside of it to catch all the dark crumbs that came off when icing it. I put it in the fridge for about half an hour so the icing would chill and harden so I could put on the final coat of frosting without getting dark crumbs in it.
It worked out quite nicely. Then I made the ganache and spread it over the top of the cake so it could drip down the sides. Yum.
This was the very last piece of cake. It looks a little haggard, and I wish I could have a prettier picture of the inside to show you because it truly was a masterpiece. However, cake is meant to be eaten, and when there are hungry masses clamoring for cake and birthday candles to be blown out, taking pictures falls to the way-side. Imagine this picture a little less crumby and dilapidated and I think you’ll get a pretty good idea of how wonderful it truly was.
Go forth and bake this cake. You won’t regret it, I promise.
Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake; serves 12 to 16
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
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
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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)
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. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.
Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
8 ounces seimsweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half
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.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.