Monday, April 1, 2013

Luke's Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Per my co-worker's request for a birthday cake that incorporated chocolate and peanut butter, I made quick work of searching for a delicious (and easy) treat. I was then that I discovered Smitten Kitchen and their decedent-looking Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake. I quickly added it to my cake board, but was certain that regardless of effort, I would never be able to recreate such a master piece...

Cake Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
2-½ cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream
1-½ cups water
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs (leave them out until they no longer feel cold in your hand)

Cake Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottoms and sides of two 8-inch round cake pans (the Smitten Kitchen recipe uses three pans, I found that I only needed two). Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment paper and butter the paper (I skipped this part. Don't. Not a good idea. I left large chunks of my cake in the pan, fortunately it was fixed with a dab of frosting, but next time I will definitely be using the parchment paper).

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl (I figured, "Sift, who sifts things anymore? Well, apparently I do. I tried to combine the dry ingredients without sifting and the cocoa refused to un-lump itself. Hence, pouring the whole mixture into the sifter and ending up with fluffy, combined ingredients). Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend (it will look a bit chunky). 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 2 (or 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. (The following is a note from the Smitten Kitchen recipe and it is a very important one: "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." And me, too!)

Before proceeding to the final steps, you'll need to prepare your frosting and ganache. Scroll down for recipes and directions.

4. Before you start to frost, put a dolup of frosting in the middle of the cake stand or serving plate to "glue" the cake in place. Also, if you want to torte your cake (cut the domed top off the cake to make it flat and even), now is the time to do it. 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-Cream Cheese Frosting evenly over the top. Place the second cake on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. (The following is a note from the Smitten Kitchen recipe: 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).

5. To add the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Ganache, 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 a 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 (this cake will do well in the refrigerator overnight and the ganache won't hard. I was worried about this, as I didn't want a "crunchy" layer of chocolate on the cake. Not so, the ganache was creamy and delicious).

Peanut Butter-Cream Cheese Frosting
10 oz. cream cheese (room temperature)
1 stick (4 oz.) butter (room temperature)
5 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter

1. With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar one cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended (I beat it on medium for a few extra minutes and it was so light and fluffy).

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Ganache

8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup 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.

 Adding the ganache, it was thick enough to be easily controlled.

This is after the cake had rested in the refrigerator overnight and spent a few hours warming on the counter. Even after all that time, it was wonderful!

 Very rich, cut small pieces and serve with a big glass of milk!

Needless to say, the cake was a BIG success and it turned out so much better than I expected! I think it looks just like the pictures on Smitten Kitchen, if I do say so for myself...

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