My Mother-in-Law's birthday is today so over the weekend I decided to tackle Smitten Kitchen's Chocolate Peanut-Butter Cake, which I had been eying for quite some time now. This was my first time ever making a layer cake, and I was quite a bit intimidated going into it. But Chris and I were stuck at home this weekend while the painters painted our basement anyway, and with my mother-in-law's birthday right around the corner, it was the perfect time to tackle a cake! I definitely learned a thing or two going through this cake-making process.
First, I should have used the parchment paper to help me lift the cakes out of the pans. Somehow, I completely missed that part of the directions, and some of the cakes fell apart as I took them out. This made for quite a "tower of Pisa" cake initially:
Per Smitten Kitchen's directions, I froze the individual cakes before frosting them, then the frosting was able to act as a glue to hold some of the broken pieces together. And I also used extra frosting to prop up some of the leaning pieces.
Deb also suggested to do a light "crumb" layer of outer frosting first, to get a base onto the cake. Then, put that in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, before doing the final out layer:
I tried to get the top layer of frosting to look smooth, but I kept pulling up some of the broken pieces of cake, and figured it was best to just leave it alone. In the end, I liked this "ragged" look peaking out from under the ganache better anyway.
After that hardened for an hour in the fridge, I then poured the chocolate ganache over the cake, and Chris helped me garnish it with chopped Reece's Peanut Butter Cups
And voila! A picture of perfection if I do say so myself!
My thoughts on this cake: I used canola oil in this. First of all, I HATE canola oil. I hate the taste of it, and I hate the smell of it, but I figured both would bake out in this recipe. Secondly, not only does it call for canola oil, it calls for a full CUP of canola oil. (bleh!) The only reason I even had canola oil in the house is because I bought some when I got Chris his deep fryer (although, now that I think about it...that was two years ago...now I'm googling "how long does canola oil last") Anyway, the recipe specifically says to use canola or vegetable oil, so I pushed my good olive oil aside and grabbed the canola, happy to use it up.
I could taste the canola oil in this cake. Though the frostings masked the taste enough for me to enjoy it, I couldn't enjoy the cake to its full extent. Next time I make this, I will definitely use 1/2 cup applesauce and 1/2 cup olive oil.
Other than the canola oil mishap, this is a very good cake, and very decadent. A little bit goes a long way, and it certainly looks impressive to serve or bring to a party! If you'd like to try making this cake, here is the recipe:
Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
From Smitten Kitchen
Adapted, only barely, from Sky High: Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes
This cake is INTENSE. Serve it in the thinnest slices possible, and keep a glass of milk handy.
Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake; serves 12 to 16 (the book says, I say a heck of a lot more)
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 (note from Laura: I wouldn't use canola!)
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
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. (Deb note 1: 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. Deb note 2: 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. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving. Decorate the top with chopped peanut brittle.
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
8 ounces semisweet 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.