cake · dessert

Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer Cake

It has been a long time since I’ve been in this space. I’ve wanted to post, and I’ve discovered some delicious recipes to share. But I haven’t mustered up the energy, nor has it sat well with me to write about some yummy thing we ate when our world/country is in the midst of two pandemics. We moved back to the mainland the day after George Floyd’s ability to breathe was taken.

This is the third time I’ve re-entered the states after living overseas now, and it has been the most confusing. I appreciate all of the people who care and ask how we’re adjusting. However, I find that I can’t answer that question. I was very sad our first month and often on the verge of tears. But was I sad because of moving back from Puerto Rico? Or was I sad because the coronavirus cancelled our summer plans? Or was I sad because our neighbors chose to be vulnerable and raw and share more of the weight of being people of color as we gathered night after night at the end of our driveway? Or perhaps I was sad because my parents aged significantly this year, and that’s been hard.

All I know is that my feelings were confusing. And when I got tired of feeling and reading and watching and learning, I felt guilty because I have the privilege to choose to not think about race or any of these hard things. I can’t personally solve any of the problems above. But I can tell you that if you are white and not understanding the Black Lives Matter campaign, you need to watch or read “Just Mercy.” Collectively we can educate ourselves, and that’s an easy first step. Also, our neighbor works at the Smithsonian’s African American History Museum and shared this great resource to talk about race. We’ve read several articles as a family. There are so many more sources for learning, and I’m happy to share resources we’ve discovered on our own journey. Just reach out to me. Know that I have a long way to go.

Candles removed made for an imperfect photo of that frosting on top 😉

In all of the sadness, I find myself longing for what’s next after this life… for restoration of the earth as it was meant to be. Romans 8 reminds me that all of creation is groaning and suffering as we wait in hope. And Revelation 21 reminds me what I hope for: And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Amen.

Now onto the cake…

Chocolate Peanut Butter is my all-time favorite cake combination. I have been making this cake for years for various parties and events. Would you believe me if I said it’s pretty easy? It is! And so pretty. And moist and altogether scrumptious. I was delighted when our oldest asked for it for his 16th birthday (16…what?!)

I usually increase the recipe by 1/3 and bake it in 9-inch round pans. But since we were celebrating as a family plus 1 friend, I did not want that much cake in our house. I did not own 8-inch round pans (now I do), and guess what? I baked this cake in 8-inch disposable aluminum pans! They even came with parchment paper rounds! I was pretty sure it might be a disaster, but it worked. Just putting that out there.

Other than that, there’s not much to know. There’s no need to level the cakes – they bake quite flat. I have used all sorts of cocoa powders over the years. I have fancy Valrhona cocoa powder that I use now, but I’ve baked this cake with Trader Joe’s brand, Droste, and I’m sure others. You can use organic peanut butter, but make sure it’s smooth (Costco brand or Wegmans have good ones). Natural pbs will affect the texture of your frosting. I also prefer dark chocolate peanut butter cups for the garnishing, since the cake is dark. And just because I’m a dark chocolate fan. Again, Trader Joes can help with that or Reeses makes mini dark chocolate pb cups. Bring all your ingredients to room temperature, and you’re good to go!

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer Cake before serving, on top of a white round board reading, "Happy everything"

Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer Cake

Course Dessert
Yield 16 slices

Ingredients

For the cake

  • cups plus 2 tbsp (9 3/8 oz) all-purpose flour
  • cups 4½ oz unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for dusting the pans
  • 1 tbsp instant espresso or coffee powder
  • cups boiling water
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • cups plus 2 tbsp (18 3/8 oz) sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • tsp baking soda
  • ¾ tsp salt

For the frosting

  • ¾ cup heavy cream, chilled
  • cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted, divided
  • cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of coarse or sea salt

To garnish

  • Mini peanut butter cups halved

Instructions

  1. To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Butter the edges of 3 8-inch round cake pans and dust with cocoa powder, shaking out the excess. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine the cocoa powder, espresso powder, and boiling water. Whisk until smooth; set aside to cool slightly. When cooled down a bit, whisk in the sour cream and vanilla. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Gradually blend in the sugar and whip on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes more. Blend in the eggs one at a time. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; whisk to blend.
  2. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the sour cream mixture, beating each addition just until incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake the cake layers for about 30-32 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, rotating the pans during halfway through to ensure even baking. Transfer the baked cake layers to a wire rack and let cool in the pans at least 30 minutes before inverting onto the rack to cool completely.
  3. To make the frosting, combine the heavy cream and ¼ cup of the confectioners’ sugar in the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed until light, fluffy, and stiff peaks form, being careful not to over mix. Transfer the whipped cream to a separate bowl. In the now empty mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and peanut butter. Beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 45 seconds. Add the remaining confectioners’ sugar to the bowl and mix in, slowly at first until incorporated, then increasing the mixer speed to high. Blend in the vanilla extract and salt, and continue to whip on high speed until very fluffy, about 4-5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Use a large spatula to gently fold about a third of the whipped cream into the peanut butter frosting. Once the first addition has been evenly incorporated, gently fold in the remaining whipped cream until no streaks remain.
  4. To assemble the cake, place one of the cake layers on a cake board or serving platter. Spread an even layer of the frosting over the top of the cake. Top with a second cake layer and another layer of the frosting. Place the final cake layer on top. Frost the top and sides of the cake using a thin crumb coat (here’s a quick video instruction from Martha Stewart). Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set. Reserve about 1 cup of the remaining frosting in a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip (I used a Wilton #21). Once the crumb cake is set, frost the top and sides of the cake again using an offset spatula for a smooth finish. Use the reserved frosting to pipe a border around the base of the cake (again, here’s a video – shells are 1 minute into the video). Pipe swirls evenly around the top border of the cake – 16 swirls for 16 slices. Finish by garnishing with halved peanut butter cups. Refrigerate the cake until ready to serve.

Notes

To make the cake in two 9-inch pans, reduce the amount of batter by one third.
To make the cake in three 9-inch pans, increase the amount of batter by one third.
The baking times for alternate sizes may differ, so use the toothpick test to monitor doneness.

Source: Everyday Annie, adapted from Baking Illustrated

4 thoughts on “Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer Cake

  1. Thank you for sharing your heart. So meaningful. My guess is your sad because of all those things – I’m sad only having some of them. Just Mercy was powerful. I’ll check out that link. We were just saying the other day that we have to get to the National Museum of African American History. And finally, thank you for the recipe. I don’t know if I’ll make it, cuz I’m a “cake mix” kind of gal 🙂 But it looks fabulous!! Love and prayers, Wendy

    1. Thanks, Wendy. Yes, some of our kids have been to the museum, but we haven’t yet. I long for the time when they can reopen.
      I understand the cake mix!! 😉 Enjoy your time away with the family and all the babies!

  2. Love this Jenny. Thanks for sharing your heart and the confusion of this time!! Love your authenticity always. Also this cake also looks amazing!!

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