Some food, some drink.
Because She’s Worth it: Triple Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer Cake.
Baking a proper layer cake is a big undertaking for me. Up until a few years ago, I couldn't even do a pan of chocolate chip cookies properly. Nonetheless, with it being my wife's birthday and all, I decided to cook out of my comfort zone; and I figured if I was gonna do it, I'd do it with gusto. The toils of my labor are two decadent layers of cake that are chock full of cocoa and dark chocolate; separated by a layer of salty sweet peanut butter buttercream frosting. The last of the chocolate comes in the form of a peanut butter chocolate ganache coup de grace enrobing the entire cake. Chocolate overload? Maybe. Crazy good? Definitely.
I know y'all can read a cookbook as well as I can, and I think that's why so much of what I put up here is original content. Sometimes though, a guy's gotta know when to swallow his pride and read a map. Cake baking is my road trip to BFE, and if I don't have something to guide me, I get lost pretty quick. I don't bake fancy-schmancy layer cakes often, but when I do, it's usually with good reason, and I most certainly want it to count for something. It was my wife's birthday recently (Good reason: Check), and she has a penchant that's borderline obsessive for peanut butter and chocolate (Make it count: Check). With all the criteria met, I dug thru my recipe collection to find all that is the embodiment of the two great tastes that taste great together; with the goal of getting as much peanut butter and chocolate as humanly possible into her birthday cake.
Recipe: Jump to the detailed recipe. (or, keep reading for the gist of it) -
Peanut Butter Buttercream Frosting
Chocolate Peanut Butter Ganache Frosting
To make the cake layers:
Preheat oven to 300°F. Lightly grease either 9 or 10 inch round cake pans and then line the bottoms with discs of parchment.
Finely chop the chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee, salt and vanilla. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Then into a large bowl whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat eggs and oil together for about 3 minutes at medium speed. Slowly add buttermilk and melted chocolate/coffee mixture to the eggs, on medium-low speed until integrated. Continuing on medium-low, slowly add sugar and then slowly add the flour and cocoa mixture until just combined. Divide batter between pans; about 2.4 oz for a 9 inch and about 2.8 oz each for a 10 inch pan. Bake on the center rack for 60 to 70 minutes or until a bamboo skewer comes out clean (If you're using 9 inch pans, then you'll also get about 5 cupcakes out of that surplus batter).
Cool layers completely in their pans resting on racks. Run a knife around edges of the cakes to loosen 'em up (find a plastic knife if you're rocking nonstick) and invert layers onto wire racks. Carefully remove parchment and wrap each layer completely in plastic wrap to freeze for at least eight hours.
To make the Peanut Butter Buttercream:
Mix peanut butter, butter, salt, rum, and milk (all but the powdered sugar) together with the whisk attachment in the stand mixer on medium-high for 3 minutes. Slowly add powdered sugar until your desired consistency is reached. If the frosting starts to dry out and "ball up" as the sugar is added then you can adjust the consistency as needed with milk added by the tablespoon.
To make the Ganache Frosting:
Combine cream and vanilla in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Into the bowl of a stand mixer with your whisk attachment, add chocolate chips, peanut butter and corn syrup. Pour the hot cream over chocolate mixture and let sit until chocolate is mostly melted; about two minutes. Whip it all up on medium speed until the ganache begins to cool and just starts to become lighter and spreadable. If it all gets too cold and sets up, then move the mess to a microwave-safe container and nuke and stir until it just becomes spreadable again.
To assemble the cake:
Pull the layers from the freezer and level with a large serrated knife (if needed). Move the bottom layer to a parchment or foil-covered surface (such as a cardboard disk), and pipe or spread the peanut butter buttercream on the top (lay it on thick). Place the top cake layer and fill in any between-layer voids with more buttercream. Next, frost the whole cake with the chocolate peanut butter ganache using an offset spatula. Dip the spatula in hot water as needed to smooth the ganache and keep stickage to a minimum. Move quick, as the ganache will want to set up on those cold cake layers! To finish, pipe the edges and top with any additional buttercream and/or ganache you have (you'll have significant surplus on a 9 inch cake; the 10 inch variant will be just about right). Garnish with peanut butter cups (because you can).
We're trying something a little different here. This recipe is huge, and the ingredient list is rigorous as well. You don't need me prattling on with tips; you just wanna see how it comes together. As you probably don't have time to sit around my kitchen watching cakes bake, I threw together this nifty time-lapse (I've been on a time-lapse kick lately). Enjoy!
I probably don't have to tell you how this cake tastes, as you're probably busy too busy trying to lick your screen anyhow. I will mention that this cake is by no means delicate when it sets up, but it is prone to fall as it bakes, so keep the riff-raff outta the kitchen, and keep any pan jostling to a minimum. I'm not a cake decorating authority by any stretch, but I will say that having a good knife that's long enough to level layers, and an offset spatula or two will get you going in the right direction. A proper revolving cake stand is great for getting a cake evenly covered with frosting, but for the little I do cakes, multitasking with a lazy susan works just fine too.
If you know me, then you know that this recipe is the epitome of how I cook. I almost never follow a recipe verbatim, and treat most of what's in there as suggestions instead of guidelines. Recipes (especially unfamiliar ones) should always be looked a skeptically, and you most certainly gotta be ready to make changes as deviations in the plans arise. Just like good reporting, I try to never bake anything without two confirmed sources, as I'm a big proponent of proper citation. Not only is it comon courtesy to reference your sources, but it also helps to create a history for the recipe as it evolves as well; so the next time I go to bake this chocolate and peanut butter wonder, I'll know excactly where to look when the need to make more changes arises.