Last year on the day before my birthday, I came home from work to get ready for a celebratory dinner and walked into the apartment to see to a kitchen that looked like a scene out of my worst nightmare. There were dishes piled high in the sink, bowls littering the floor, and flour dusting every discernible surface.
Scott was making my birthday cake.
In his defense, the cake recipe complicated, involved multiple steps, several layers, caramel, filling and frosting, and he worked for a couple of days putting it together before and after work when I wasn’t home, hoping to surprise me with it (so sweet!). The end result was fabulous and worth every ounce of effort, and we savored that cake for days, not wanting it to be done.
Keeping with the high standard birthday cake baking that has inadvertently become our tradition, I knew that when Scott’s birthday rolled around a few weeks ago, I wanted to treat him to a cake that we’d enjoy just as much. I practically put myself into a cold sweat trying to look for a cake that I thought he’d like and after some serious internet scouring and thought, I settled on a cake featuring one of my favorite sweet combinations. It was very a good idea.
Best of all, it took me just over 2 hours (not 2 days! Ah! I have no patience for that.) in all to make this cake, clean up, and frost it, which I consider a decent accomplishment. And Scott loved it, which made me happy.
Something about homemade layer cakes for a birthday are so right. As a kid, my mom always baked cakes for our birthdays. Every single year. It was one of her (and my dad’s) many ways of taking time to show us that our birthdays were important and worth celebrating. We probably didn’t realize that at the time, of course, but now it makes so much sense. You bake a cake (or something sweet) for the people you love on their birthdays because it’s a great, special thing to do and because it makes everyone happy to celebrate. Cakes mean celebration!
Every aspect of this chocolate peanut butter cake I baked for Scott is complete perfection, worthy of a birthday celebration (or any kind of celebration, for that matter). The layers are moist and rich with a subtle hint of coffee and vanilla. The cake base is creamy and silky with a noticable, but not overwhelming, chocolate flavor that is just strong enough to hold its own against the creamy, addictive frosting. I wanted to bathe in that frosting It’s like sweet peanut butter cream that’s completely addictive and matches incredibly well to the chocolate cake beneath it.
The only slight problem I encountered while making this was that after I refrigerated the frosting, it hardened slightly and was difficult to apply to the cake. After fighting with it for a few minutes, I left it out on the counter for a while to let it thin a bit, and then the consistency was perfect for frosting the cake.
We savored this cake for several days before it was gone, and it was incredible the whole time, even after sitting out on the kitchen table barely covered by foil for part of it (which I wouldn’t necessarily advise, but…that’s how we do).
Best of all, we don’t have long to wait for the next birthday cake to make an appearance at our place; my birthday is this Sunday (!) and I think I will be having two cakes this year. (I know. Crazy. My mom wants to bake me a vegan cake from the cookbook I bought her for Christmas. How could I say no to an extra cake?!)
Have a happy weekend!
One Year Ago: Restaurants | Gramercy Tavern
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
Yield: 12-16 slices, depending on size
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 2 hours
For the cake:
2 cups granulated sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup brewed coffee
2 cups all purpose flour (or cake, if you have it)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk (skim/whole/almond - whatever you have)
For the frosting:
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (Jiff/Peter Pan/Skippy..not organic)
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, softened
1 egg yolk
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, divided
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 bag Reese’s mini-Peanut Butter Cups, roughly chopped
1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F and spray two 8-inch round pans. Then line the bottom of each pan with a circle of parchment paper. Set aside.
2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until very smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing completely after each addition, and then add the vanilla and milk and mix for another 2-3 minutes until the mixture is very smooth and well combined.
3. In a separate medium sized bowl, sift the powder, baking soda, salt, and flour. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones in the stand mixer in two batches, mixing each batch until just combined.
4. Pour an even amount of batter into each prepared cake pan and then tap them on a flat surface to release the bubbles. Bake the cakes in the oven for 50 minutes to one hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, and then transfer to a cooling rack, where the cakes should cool completely.
5. Bring a medium sized sauce pot to simmer on your stove. Place a pyrex bowl over the simmering water and beat together the egg yolk and 1/2 cup of the confectioners' sugar continuously with a whisk until the mixture becomes hot and the yolk's yellow color fades a bit. This will take about 5 minutes. Remove the bowl from the heat at this point and let it cool slightly before mixing in the peanut butter nad butter with a wooden spoon or spatula. Stir in one cup of confectioners' sugar and set the mixture aside.
6. Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or a hand blender, whip the heavy cream with the other cup of the confectioners' sugar until soft peaks form. Add the peanut butter/egg yolk mixture to the stand mixer with the whipped cream and continue whipping until the mixture is completely combined. Set the frosting in the refrigerator while you're waiting for the cake to cool, but don't attempt to frost the cake until the frosting has been brought back to room temperature otherwise the frosting will be difficult to work with.
7. Frost the cake one layer at a time and then press the chopped peanut butter cups on the side of the cake for decoration.
Adapted from Sugarlaws