Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

I do a lot of stupid things, but this one takes the cake (pun intended). I had this recipe bookmarked for 2 years before I got around to making it. Two whole years! Why oh why did I wait this long to make it? It is hands down the best cake I've ever made.

I don't make cakes all that often because I prefer cookies, brownies, and cupcakes (things that are easy to send to work with Ross), but when the occasion presents itself I love making layer cakes.

Last week was Ross' 29th birthday. When I was giving him a few options for a cake to choose from, I'm pretty sure he didn't hear anything after I said "Chocolate Peanut Butter." I read off the list to him, but I could tell he was just waiting for me finish talking so he could blurt out "I want the chocolate peanut butter one!"

This cake did not disappoint. The cake itself was light and moist. It wasn't too too chocolaty, which was good when you paired it with the peanut butter frosting. And the peanut butter frosting... there are no words. Just go make it. I know it sounds weird because it has peanut butter and cream cheese, but trust me on this one, it's amazing. And the chocolate peanut butter ganache is the perfect finishing touch (not to mention it does a great job hiding all the frosting imperfections)!

A few notes about the recipe:
  1. I'm leaving the original instructions for the cake, which produces a 8 inch cake. I ended up halving the recipe and making a 6 inch cake. I did not halve the recipe for the frosting or the ganache. I had leftover, but don't worry, I put them to good use. :)
  2. The original ganache recipe calls for 8 ounces of chocolate, but I read comments on the original post from people who had trouble with the ganache spreading so I reduced the chocolate down to 6 ounces.
  3. This cake is rich and intense, serve it in the thinnest slices possible!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake Recipe: Adapted from Smitten Kitchen Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake

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
2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped peanuts (I used honey roasted), optional

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. 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. Decorate the top with chopped peanuts. 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)

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

6 ounces seimsweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half

1. In the top of d 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.