Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

April 7, 2011 § 1 Comment

It used to be just 400 meters, or google searches (MBC) or subway staircases in China (Luke), but I really enjoy trying to do everything faster. Cakes are not exempt.  Last Friday, I had to make a cake in a pinch and figured it would be the perfect opportunity to prove that making things from scratch really doesn’t take that long. Cake race, it’s on.

This cake may be the best thing that has ever happened to you. If given the chance, it will make everything in your world right again, as long as you have some appreciation of the beauty that is chocolate and peanut butter and more chocolate.

The challenge?  One hour.

Start time: 4:55pm

5:11: Cakes in the oven

5:32: Icing done!

5:51: Cakes out of the oven!

Less than an hour. Would ya look at that.

I don’t advocate for rushing to make cakes- sometimes it’s necessary, but preferably (and especially with this cake recipe, which is a little soft) I bake the cake in advance, wrap each layer twice in saran wrap, and freeze until I need it. It’s easier to level, ice and put together when the layers are cold.

From scratch to fully iced, it’s best to leave at least two hours to put this cake together (not all hands-on time).

If you are looking to get things done quickly, I have a few pieces of advice. Clear your counters (doesn’t have to be perfect), prep your pans, and get your ingredients out first. Double check every quantity before you put in- don’t let speed compromise a cake with two tablespoons rather than teaspoons of baking soda. Finally, turn on some music with a decent pace to it (you should probably also sing along. Baking cakes is fun.)

Here’s how to do it.

Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
From my favorite, most used cookbook, Sky High Cakes.

Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake; serves 12 to 16. If you’re making it for a smaller gathering, buy yourself two 6-inch cake pans, and make the rest of the batter into cupcakes. You can freeze the cupcakes for any emergency cake situations, and reduce the icing recipe.

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

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.

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.

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 (leave time for this step!), uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving. If you’re short on fridge time and having trouble keeping the layers together, stick a few straws through the cake layers and trim at the top. They’ll keep the layers together and no one will ever know! How sneaky are you!

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. Double boiler note- make sure the water isn’t touching the bottom of the bowl.

2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.

Lemon Layer Cake

January 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

Special people deserve special cakes. When my wonderful co-worker Alex gave me a carte-blanche for a birthday cake flavour, I knew I would pick lemon. It’s the little ray of sunshine we need in Vancouver when it’s dark out and just won’t stop raining.

Homemade lemon curd is one of the most delicious things you can do with lemons. That being said, I’ve never bought lemon curd, but it’s hard to top this.

Notes for recipe- I’ll be honest, I never use unsalted butter. I don’t understand why it costs a dollar more than regular butter. I use organic lemons whenever I use the rind. It’s important to mix the eggs in well and whisk constantly so the eggs don’t bind together- if you get some small pieces its no biggie, you can sieve them out.

Lemon Curd (from my favorite finecooking.com)

Makes about 1 1/4 cups (it filled my three-layer cake perfectly)

4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter (I used salted and used a very scant pinch of salt)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3 Tbs. lightly packed finely grated lemon zest
Pinch salt (less if you used salted butter)
6 large egg yolks

Melt the butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the sugar, lemon juice, zest, and salt. Whisk in the yolks until smooth. Return the pan to medium-low heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens, 5 to 6 minutes. To check if the curd is thick enough, dip a wooden spoon into it and draw a your finger across the the back of the spoon; your finger should leave a path. Don’t let the mixture boil. Immediatly force the curd through a fine seive into a bowl, using a rubber spatula. Let cool at room temperature, whisking occasionally. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to use.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size: per Tbs.; Calories (kcal): 90; Fat (g): 6; Fat Calories (kcal): 50; Saturated Fat (g): 3; Protein (g): 1; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 2; Carbohydrates (g): 8; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 0; Sodium (mg): 15; Cholesterol (mg): 75; Fiber (g): 0;
photo: Scott Phillips
From Fine Cooking 63, pp. 67
February 1, 2004

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