march 15, 2018
When spring rolls around, I dream of chocolate and peanut butter. Wait, what? Not even close to seasonal, you might think. Easter brings those egg-shaped Reese’s peanut butter treats, creamy milk chocolate covering a salty sweet peanut butter filling, and I swoon. Yes, they are available year round as little patties with ridges, and at Halloween as pumpkins, but the Easter ones have a very thin coat of chocolate and lots of slightly crunchy peanut butter filling. I’ve eaten more than my share lately, so today’s cake is all about the chocolate, with a little peanut thrown in for pleasure. Yep, this is a chocolate lover’s cake for those who also like peanut butter.
Is this a ” healthy” dessert? Not on your life. My motto regarding dessert is this: better to have a little bit of the real thing than a lot of lower calorie stuff that will leave you less than satisfied. There, I said it. Or wrote it. That’s my philosophy and I’m sticking with those words.
Is this an easy dessert? Relatively speaking, yes. All three components may be made ahead at different times and assembled when you have a bigger chunk of time. All purpose wheat flour would work just as well as the gluten free favorite in my pantry. The cake is a great keeper in the fridge for up to one week—simply let the servings sit at room temperature until they are soft and creamy. I’m certain freezing is also an option, but my tasters and I could not wait for that experiment. To keep the outside pretty, your freezer needs to be large enough to accommodate the cake dome, but if you make this tasty cake and decide on freezing leftover pieces, wrap in plastic and rejoice in your ability to delay gratification. You have more discipline than the author of this post.
Chocolate Peanut Layer Cake
recipe by Michele Humlan, The Good Eats Company
makes one three layer eight inch cake
chocolate layer cake
1 ¾ cup 1-for-1 gluten free flour (my current favorite is Bob’s Red Mill) – all purpose wheat flour works just as well
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder ( I use Hershey’s) – plus extra for coating cake pans
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup (one stick) unsalted butter, melted gently and cooled to room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk
1 cup boiling water
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Spray 3 eight inch cake pans with cooking spray, line with parchment, spray again and coat interior lightly with cocoa powder.
- In large mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.
- In another mixing bowl whisk together butter, eggs, vanilla and milk; mixture will appear curdled.
- Whisk together dry and wet ingredients, then whisk in boiling water.
- Batter will be very thin; to fill pans evenly, use a large ladle; bake until tops spring back easily and cake begins to pull away from the sides, about 20 minutes.
- Let cool in pans about 10 minutes, then flip out onto waxed paper; you will be frosting the bottoms of each layer, as tops will be sticky.
peanut butter mousse
4 ounces (half a brick) of full fat cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup creamy peanut butter ( I like Jif or Skippy natural)
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 or more cups powdered sugar
whole milk, about 2 tablespoons
- In large mixing bowl, use electric mixer to cream together cream cheese, salt, vanilla and peanut butter; mixture will appear dry and shaggy.
- Add 1 cup powdered sugar and blend well, then add 1 tablespoon milk.
- Add another cup powdered sugar, then ½ tablespoon milk; add more milk a few drops at a time if needed until mousse is creamy, but it must be firm enough to set between the cake layers.
sour cream chocolate frosting
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 ½ sticks)
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder ( I like Hershey’s)
3 cups powdered sugar
1 cup full fat sour cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup dry roasted unsalted peanuts, chopped, for assembly
- Melt butter and unsweetened chocolate over low heat in small saucepan, stirring frequently.
- Whisk in cocoa and add mixture to large mixing bowl.
- With electric mixer on low, add one cup powdered sugar, followed by vanilla and ⅓ cup sour cream.
- Add another cup sugar, then another ⅓ cup sour cream, scraping sides of bowl as needed.
- Add remainder of sugar, then rest of sour cream and mix well.
- Place one cake layer (bottom side up) on flat surface of cake server, cover with half the peanut butter mousse, then add the second cake layer, cover with remaining mousse and top with third cake layer.
- With thin spatula (an offset spatula is best) apply frosting starting with the top, then the sides, and finally use spatula to create decorate spikes on the top layer.
- Using your hands, attach the chopped peanuts to the cake sides, a little at a time, and when peanuts fall onto the work surface, you may scoop them up for the next application.
- Cake may be enjoyed immediately, or stored in the refrigerator up to one week; allow cake to sit at room temperature at least ½ hour to soften before serving.