Last week was a big one around here as far as sweets go. First came the latest version of my wife's now perfected Peanut Butter Pie to celebrate Grid bringing his college sweetheart home to meet the family, then Muppet decided to pull out all the stops when putting in her order for the cake that would mark the awesomeness of her turning THIRTEEN! That's right, the youngest of our clan is now a teenager……God help us.
Can his and hers walkers, and pallets of Depends undergarments be the next big purchases for the wife and I?
Don't count on it!
As for Muppet's cake….well, all jokes stop here. This was one seriously delicious monster of a thing, a combination of the classic chocolate cake we've made for years, and the great peanut butter frosting from Joy the Baker that you last saw here on the GF Cupcakes we made a while back. The classic combination of dense, rich chocolate and sweet, whipped peanut butter was perfection. It was everything any birthday girl (or guy) could hope for.
To dress it up special I took design cues from one of the favorite cakes I made while a first term student at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, the delicious "Gènoise Moka" which was an imbibed sponge cake with a mocha butter cream frosting. I always loved the look of the cake with it's zig–zag frosted top, and its coating of crushed nuts on the side. You can certainly make this as a more traditional layered cake, but the few extra minutes involved to add the nuts and embellish the top really adds to the WOW factor of this beauty.
Cheers – Steve
Bittersweet Chocolate and Peanut Butter Layer Cake
For cake layers:
- 3 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate such as Vahlrona
- 1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
- 3 cups sugar
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla
for the frosting:
- 2 cups creamy peanut butter
- 4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 6-7 cups powdered sugar (depending on what consistency you want)
- 2 tablespoons milk (or more if needed)
- 2 cups dry roasted peanuts, blitzed in a food processor to finely chop them (optional)
for the cake layers:
- Preheat oven to 300°F. and grease pans. Line bottoms with rounds of wax paper and grease paper.
- Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
- Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well. Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes.
- Cool layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove wax paper and cool layers completely. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.
for the frosting:
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and peanut butter with a paddle attachment until creamy and smooth. Add 3 cups of the powdered sugar and beat on low to incorporate. Add the milk and beat on medium-high until light and fluffy. Check for taste and consistency, adding more sugar to thicken the frosting for spreading on the cakes with a spatula, or thinning it with a little more milk if needed to achieve a loose enough consistency to pipe the frosting onto the cakes. You make the call!
- To frost your cake as I have above, you'll need a cardboard cake round to set under the bottom layer so that you can lift and tilt the cake while frosting.
- Frost the cake as you normally would, evenly coating the top of the first cake layer, placing the second on top, and then coating that one. You can stop there, or continue by spreading an even layer of the frosting around the outside of the cake as well. Once you have a nice, smooth layer of frosting on the whole cake, you can create the zig-zag decoration on top by skimming the surface of the cake with the blade of a serrated knife, while gently moving it side to side. It will take a few passes to cover the entire top of the cake.
- To coat the side with chopped nuts, lift the cake in one hand (you have to have a cardboard cake circle in place to do this), and while tilting it gently over the bowl of chopped nuts, lift the nuts with your free hand and press them into the frosting on the sides of the cake. After each handful, rotate the cake gently, then bring up another handful of nuts. Continue until the whole side of the cake is evenly coated.
- As a final flourish, you can pipe little dots with a star tip at the join where the zig-zag and nuts meet to create a more finished look.