Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Chocolate Layer Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

My husband is so lucky. I made him not one, but TWO chocolate cakes for his birthday. Granted, he did have to share the first one with my son in a joint "it's your 29th and his 1 1/2" birthday party and he did have to have the one served on his actual birthday decorated to the point of girly oblivion by 3 little girls, but still, he got two chocolate cakes in his honor. How many did I get for my birthday? Oh, wait.... I got none.

I was going to do a double-recipe post, showcasing BOTH chocolate cake recipes, but that seems a bit ambitious for such a sunny summer afternoon. So this time around,  I will share with you the second chocolate cake. A dreamy concoction of a moist, dark, delectable sour cream chocolate cake matched with peanut butter frosting.

The cake was the best I've had in ages, but the frosting - in my opinion - was too peanut butter-y. Depending on how much you love PB you might want to cut back a bit. I did an informal polling of all 12 cake eaters at DH's party and got a slight preference for less peanut butteryness. But it was (accidentally) being paired at the time with peanut butter ice cream, so..... that might have tipped things in favor of the too much PB camp, when actually, it might be the most harmonious ratio when paired with vanilla ice cream. (I personally don't think ice cream belongs anywhere near a piece of good homemade cake, but I risk mutiny at birthday parties whenever I suggest banning it.)

This recipe is adapted from a cake cookbook called Sky High but I found it on Smitten Kitchen. She used a chocolate glaze on top which I skipped. I think it would add a decadent third note and will try it next time I make this. I'm giving link credit to Deb from SK because I've left her wonderfully helpful assembly notes in the recipe.

I was baking this on vacation and only had 2 9-inch cake pans. It turned out just as well, with a slightly longer cooking time and just a little bit of leftover frosting. But leftover frosting is never a problem in my book!

Chocolate Layer Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting
from Smitten Kitchen

Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake; serves 12 to 16

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

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 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.

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.

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.)

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.)

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.

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)

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.

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

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.

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

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