Monday, September 20, 2010

A Wonky Sort of Cake

For Megan's birthday, I made her a chocolate peanut butter cake-- or rather, a chocolate sour cream cake with peanut butter cream cheese frosting and a chocolate peanut butter glaze. Man, that sounds cool. Anyway, it turned out tasting better than it looked, for many reasons, but OH it was delicious. Even the aforementioned sister (who actually loves dark chocolate, but doesn't much care for cake...I was wrong) loved it.
Anyway, it was my first three-layered cake, which is really no excuse for the shape, but rather because I didn't have a third cake pan, so I used a Marie Callender's pie tin for the top layer. Also, since I was making it in a tiny kitchen with limited time (meetings, etc starting at noon, and I was leaving for Megan's right after them), so I sort of sped through the various chilling processes, and my frosting "crumb layer" was actually the only layer (not to say the frosting wasn't piled on thickly anyway). And the glaze chilled for about 4 hours (during all those meetings I mentioned...), which is about 3 and a half hours longer than it needed to, so it was a nice hard chocolate shell (read: a rock-hard shell that had me freaking out a bit and rapping on it with my knuckles to test it's strength), but luckily a ride in the hot car to Springville softened it up and everything was fine in the end. Phew!

It occurred to me that some of you (crazy) people out there might not believe that I actually make the stuff I post, so I tried to take a few "in the process" shots this time. Unfortunately the lighting in our basement kitchen is terrible, so these don't look very good. But I've incorporated them in all the same!
The inner workings.
Now, without further ado, the recipe:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
from Smitten Kitchen, who took it from the book "Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes"

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
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup coarsely chopped peanut brittle (I skipped this and so did Smitten)

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. Somehow when I read this, I read it as "butter and flour the paper," which is something that you do sometimes. Anyway, it didn't really need to be done I suppose, but I like that there was absolutely no stickage, so I'm going to recommend you do it, but it's apparently not necessary.
Pans waiting for batter (minus the pie tin)
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.
Vinegar makes the batter bubble, which makes the cake airy. Cool!
3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes (although mine only needed to cook for about 28 minutes, but our oven is a little weird), 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. 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.

4. 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 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. 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. 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
I have a few words to say here. First of all, I hate that cream cheese always comes in 8-oz packages, I've yet to see a 10 oz one. So I had to buy two cream cheese things, and I know I'll never use the last of it, because I don't eat that kind of cream cheese. Also, I had tons of frosting leftover, so in theory I could've only gotten 8 oz and it would have been okay (but then, of course, you'd have to alter the amounts of the other ingredients. I'd say probably 3 oz butter, 1/2 c peanut butter (unless you want it more peanut buttery) and maybe 4 1/4 cups of sugar. Of course, I only had about that much sugar anyway, because a certain person living with me loves to eat my food the day I buy it, and I didn't quite have enough sugar. Hmph. But if your frosting is too runny, add more. If you ran out, the chilling will hold it together, so no worries. Also, I must emphasize once again, HAVE YOUR BUTTER (and cream cheese) AT ROOM TEMP before mixing. I know I say this all the time, but it really does make all the difference (especially when making frosting)! Also, if your cream cheese is softened (and not zapped in the microwave), it makes it easier to mix, and the frosting less chunky. Such was my problem, because I didn't have time to let it sit out. Alas.

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) Hey ho, I had the store brand and I did just fine!

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 seimsweet chocolate, coarsely chopped or broken into pieces, like I love to do
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup I sure wish corn syrup came in smaller containers than they do. Anyone need any?
1/2 cup half-and-half I used heavy whipping cream because it came in a smaller package and was cheaper, but that's just me.
1. In the top of 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.

Another note: Smitten says this cake is rich, and I scoffed at that, thinking of how much I love chocolate and all that. But she didn't lie! It seriously is. Mostly it's the frosting that's rich (though incredibly delicious), but still, keep a glass of milk nearby. A very LARGE glass.

1 comment:

LP said...

I love how you describe things and make comments about the recipe.

Also, thanks for the idea about buttered parchment paper on the bottom of the cake pans. Ian made a cake yesterday and put chocolate chips in the batter, and they all sank to the bottom and stuck to the pans, making it very difficult to get the layers out of the pans when they were done cooking, even though he sprayed them with non-stick cooking spray. I'll tell him about the buttered parchment paper.