Sunday, October 3, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Friday was the birthday of one of my housemates and Wednesday was my birthday so we decided to have a party on Saturday to celebrate both our birthdays. For her cake, I wanted to make something grandiose, so I went for this three-layer chocolate peanut butter cake. She is a huge fan of Reese's so I thought this would be perfect.

I cannot tell you how nervous I was about making this cake. I had been reading the instructions and the comments people left over and over again for about two weeks before I needed to make it so I can pick up every single tip that would help make this cake perfect. I made very detailed directions and even a schedule so it would be ready in time. I really wanted to make sure this would turn out great. I didn't really have a back-up plan and there were going to be more than 10 guests who would be expecting food. I wasn't expecting the end results to be as pretty as Smitten Kitchen's results, but I certainly didn't want the cake to crumble and look like a mess, as some of the readers have said happened to theirs.

Thankfully, everything worked out great and everyone loved the cake. There was just one slice left at the end of the night and one of my housemates just ate it for dessert today. Seriously, I now look back and wonder why I was so nervous. Even though I got a late start, I finished everything right on schedule. It was actually quite funny because my housemate obviously knew I was baking a cake, but at least she didn't know what kind of cake it was. While it was chilling in the fridge, I told her she wasn't allowed to look in the fridge for the next couple hours. Then I realized I could cover the top shelf with foil so she could look in the fridge. She still announced herself before walking into the kitchen with closed eyes just to be safe.

Hiding the Cake

I made quite a bit of changes. I read in the comment section that somebody had put in 1/4 cup less sugar and 1/4 cup less water and that the cake was still fine. I'm always up for less sugar. I didn't know if cutting down the water by 1/4 cup would really make it a less softer cake and easier to work with, but I thought why not. For the frosting, I used only 3 cups instead of 5. It still tasted amazing and sweet. No need for unnecessary sugar! Now, for the glaze, I decided to leave out the corn syrup because I didn't want to buy a bottle that I know would not get used. I don't mind a glaze that doesn't look smooth and shiny, but if that's what you want, I would leave it in there. I also think that heating up the half-and-half a bit before adding it into the melted chocolate would help. My chocolate hardened up very quickly when I added the cold half-and-half. I used 6 oz instead of 8 because someone mentioned that it was difficult to spread the chocolate glaze on the cake, so I tried it with less.

I must also stress that you must not skip the step of freezing the cakes. It really helps because the cakes were not soft or crumbly at all when frozen. I made a really dumb mistake of freezing it on plates so the cakes were stuck on the plates! Thankfully, the cakes didn't fall apart when I was trying to pry the cakes off the plates, but I will definitely remember that next time. Frosting was my best friend in patching the cake together.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

I have only terrible pictures of the cake because I was too concentrated on making the cake that I didn't think of taking pictures during the process and then with my housemate's walking into the kitchen and the guests' waiting for the cake, I couldn't get a solid 10 minutes for just taking pictures. Oh, well!

Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze [Makes 12 to 16 servings, or maybe even more]
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups sugar [I reduced by 1/4 cup]
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 1/2 cups water [I reduced by 1/4 cup]
- 2 tbsp distilled white vinegar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped peanut brittle [I omitted]

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans. 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.
3. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. After the cakes have cooled completely, place them in the freezer for at least 30 minutes so that they are easier to work with. These cakes are very soft so putting them in the freezer will firm the cakes up so that nothing turns into a crumbling disaster.
7. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting (recipe below) 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. This first coating is the "crumb coat" as a few crumbs here and there might still be visible. Place in the fridge to chill for 15 to 30 minutes. Then, with the remainder of the frosting, create a smooth final coating. Chill the cake again and let it firm up for the glaze. A chilled cake will result in a better drip effect.
8. To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze (recipe below), 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 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 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]

- 6 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 3 tbsp smooth peanut butter
- 2 tbsp light corn syrup
- 1/2 cup half-and-half

1. In the top of double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate and peanut butter. 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.

No comments: