It was literally in between those first-few-dates “So, tell me about yourself” conversations that my boyfriend told me how much he loves peanut butter. Right in between “Do you have brothers and sisters?”, “Do you torture animals for fun?” and “What kind of music do you like?” That last one is obviously the most important (joking!). I have a lot of foods I adore, but I can’t say I’ve ever seen a person-food love affair quite like this one. The man would sleep in a vat of peanut butter if he could. And I think he loves me more than peanut butter only because a jar of peanut butter can’t throw itself into a mound of chocolate and make this happen:
So, until baking robots made of peanut butter take over, here’s what we’re doing.
This cake is unlike any other I’ve made, and I honestly was a little suspicious. No butter? Oil? Water and vinegar? It sounds like a recipe for a Shitty Thing That Looks Like Cake. But, you see, baking is magical science, and this was perfectly delicious, soft, pillowy goodness that buckled a bit under the knife when slicing time came.
And the other best part? This recipe only dirtied one bowl. I’m really, really into that.
Seriously. Just as easy as a boxed mix, and a thousand times more delicious.
Deb of Smitten Kitchen recommends freezing the plastic-wrapped layers for a little bit before trying to assemble the cake. Genius! They’re fragile, so it helps quite a bit.
Yeah, I’m still not good at frosting cake. I didn’t particularly toil over this one–why, you ask?
Because we’re gonna drown it in even more chocolate and peanut butter. Uh huh.
Just like so! A note: if you do the peanut butter cups, wait until the gooey sludge is done doing its gooey sludge thing. Otherwise they’ll slide right off.
So much cake… Even if you reluctantly share. Birthday cake every day for a week!
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
10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (note: I was a big doofus and only bought an 8-ounce package; I managed just fine)
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter (not the natural kind)
For peanut butter-chocolate ganache:
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half
Peanut butter cups, for decorating. If you want.
To make cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter three 8-inch cake pans and line with parchment paper. Butter the top of the paper lining also. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk in the oil and sour cream, followed by the water, vinegar, vanilla and eggs. Incorporate everything well, and divide batter among the three pans. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for about 20 minutes, then flip onto a wire rack, peel off the parchment and let cool completely before wrapping tightly in plastic and sticking the layers in the fridge or freezer (see note above).
To make frosting:
Beat the cream cheese and butter using an electric mixer until blended and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time, incorporating it into the frosting after each addition. Add the peanut butter and continue mixing until everything is well incorporated.
Stack cake layers on a server, spreading 2/3 of a cup of frosting in between each layer. Frost top and sides with the remaining frosting.
To make peanut butter-chocolate ganache:
Combine chocolate, peanut butter and corn syrup in a double-boiler set over simmering water and heat, whisking, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in the half-and-half. While the ganache is still warm, carefully pour it onto the top of the cake and spread to the edges evenly using an offset spatula, allowing it to drip over the edges. Refrigerate cake for at least 30 minutes to allow everything to set, but keep at room temperature for at least an hour before serving. Decorate with peanut butter cups or peanut brittle if you’d like.