I first made this cake (from smittenkitchen.com) a couple of years ago. I wasn't sure I would like it. Not because I don't like chocolate. Or peanut butter. Or sugar for heaven's sake. But because sometimes when peanut butter is added to things it sort of takes over. I was worried this would end up tasting like peanut-butter-and-something-sort-of-hiding-under-the-peanut-butter cake. And that's not really what I wanted to eat. Lucky for me I had a little faith. Because this is my Most Favorite Ever in the Universe Cake (although a really good Waldorf red velvet may give it a bit of a run for its money depending on my mood). The cake is moist and light, but not too light and, at risk of speaking like a hopelessly out of touch foodie, it has a wonderful crumb--meaning it's not crumby or sticky or just generally weird.
And the frosting, well, I could write sonnets to the frosting. I won't, but I could. The frosting does taste like peanut butter, yes, but it is nevertheless more subtle and creamier than you would expect. It plays off the chocolate of the cake in perfect balance. The ganache is just, um, well, the icing on the cake. Originally, I thought it might be just too much, but it is the perfect compliment to all that is going on in/on this cake.
Do you know what else I love about this cake? You make it in one bowl. One bowl. When it's your birthday and you're making a cake with three layers and two frostings, the fact that it can all be contained in just one bowl, well it's enough to make you cry for joy. One bowl. I might just fall asleep murmuring such glorious birthday words.
Unless you will die from anaphylactic shock by eating this cake, you really should (eat it, not die from shock). It might change your life.
I have but one suggestion for this cake: Invite a lot of friends and maybe their kids too. If you don't, you might have to eat it all yourself. And if you do that, your butt may never fit through your doorway again. Capice?
Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting
makes 3 layers
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 15-30 minutes
Cost: $6.80. Yes, this is expensive, but it feeds a crowd and when you consider how much you'd pay for a junk store-bought cake, it's downright frugal.
Cake: (flour: .20, sugar: .40, cocoa: .40, oil: .16, sour cream: .50, eggs: .20)--$1.86
Frosting: (cream cheese: 1.20, butter: .50, sugar: .70, peanut butter: .60)--$3.00--hmmm, interesting
Ganache: (chocolate: 1.40, cream: .25, milk: .04, peanut butter: .25)--$1.94
2 C flour
2 1/2 C sugar
3/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 C neutral vegetable oil (I used canola)
1 C sour cream
1 1/2 C lukewarm or warm water
2 Tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans. Line bottom of each with wax paper and butter the paper.
Sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk. Add oil and sour cream and whisk (or blend--I got out the hand mixer). Gradually blend in water. Blend in vinegar and vanilla. Blend in egg. Once it's well combined, divide it evenly among the three pans.
Bake for 15-20 minutes (the original recipe says 30-35; mine didn't need nearly so long--perhaps my cake pans are 9-inch and therefore the cakes were thinner; at any rate, check your cakes at 15 minutes just to be sure).
Let cool in pans for 10 minutes. Loosen from pans and put on a rack to cool completely. (Note: If you don't have a rack, and I didn't for years, you can turn them each out onto a plate, although you should put a big square of wax or parchment paper on each plate first or your cakes my get stuck to the plates and then you'll have Stuck-to-Plates Gloppy Tear Inducing Mess when you want to assemble your cake and no one need that on her birthday or anybody else's birthday for that matter.)
These cakes are soft/tender so you might want to freeze them for 30 minutes or so before you frost them. I didn't and I lived to tell about it (and didn't even end up in tears over anything), though I did wind up with some crumbs in my frosting. I was serving to a family crowd and nobody cared.
10 oz cream cheese, at room temp
1 stick (1/2 C) butter, at room temp
5 C confectioners' sugar
2/3 C smooth peanut butter (NOT all-natural because that may cause the oil to separate out)
Beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add confectioner's sugar a cup at a time, mixing thoroughly. Add peanut butter and beat thoroughly. Do not, I repeat do not, get a spoon and start eating it right them and there. Remember your cake. And your butt. They will both thank you not to consume all of this straight up out of the bowl.
8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 Tbsp smooth peanut butter
2 Tbsp light corn syrup
1/2 C half and half (or 1/4 C milk and 1/4 C cream)
In microwave safe bowl (or on the top of a double boiler), combine chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Microwave at 20 second intervals, mixing in between until all is smooth.
Add half and half and whisk together until smooth.
Note: Put on cake while ganache is still warm (i.e. immediately)
Place a layer of cake on a plate or cake platter. Frost it (with about 2/3 C of the peanut butter frosting). Add your next layer and frost. Add your top layer and frost. Then frost the sides.
Let it chill for at least 15 minutes in the fridge (okay, if you're pressed for time you don't have to do this, but it will make the ganache drizzling much easier).
Prepare your ganache in the microwave and then, while it's still warm, drizzle it on the top of your cake. It will pool in the center and start to drip down the edges. If it's dripping a little unevenly, you can take a spatula and direct it to the other side so it drips down that too.
Refrigerate for another 30 minutes to let the ganache set.
If you'd like, you can decorate this bad boy with peanut brittle or chopped Reese's Cups, but considering this was already a 3-layer, 2-frosting, 17,000,000 calorie cake, I thought that was sort of overkill.