Monday, April 25, 2011

Chocolate peanut butter cake.


As you all can probably tell from the general makeup of my posts thus far, baking is the easiest form of cooking to do when you live in a dorm. It also makes you the most friends, when everyone stops by to ask why the kitchen smells so good and if they can help with anything, especially extra batter/frosting consumption (that is one of the most important jobs, you know).


Speaking of friends, two of my very good friends here at school have birthdays a week apart. It's been something of a tradition for me this year to bake for my friends' birthdays, much to their entertainment and enjoyment, and this weekend was no different. One of them originally asked for pumpkin cupcakes, but seeing as it's nearly spring (though Illinois would have me believe differently), finding pumpkin purée is not exactly easy.


And then inspiration struck, in the form of being very, very unforgivably upset at another friend who didn't save me a Reese's Peanut Butter Egg from the stash his mom sent him (happy belated Easter, by the way!). Because we all know that chocolate and peanut butter is a match made in heaven, I won't dwell on this for too long, but I suddenly had a burning, itching, insert another unpleasant adjective here desire to to find a way to work with these flavors, rich and decadent on their own, that become absolutely transcendent when combined. But did I go for the more traditional-sounding chocolate cake with peanut butter icing, or did I get a little wild and crazy and make peanut butter cake with chocolate icing?


The verdict (from the two birthday girls, no less) came in for the former, and... it may not have been wild and crazy. I may not have followed Deb Perelman's instructions exactly** (I made a two-layer cake, and I definitely did not wait for each layer to cool or freeze them before icing them). I may not have put enough icing between the layers, so the frosting just sort of melted into the cake rather than being its own stripe. But, at the end of the day (or night, as it were), the cake was a delicious, warm mash of chocolate-y, peanut butter-y goodness that left us all in food comas. Including this little guy.


Happy birthday, ladies!

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen via Sky High: Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (note: Deb recommends Dutch process, but I just used my trusty Hershey's)
2 teaspoons baking soda (note: I used powder, since it's all I had on hand)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil (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. Preheat the oven to 350 F and prepare your cake pans. Grease them, line them with parchment paper and grease the parchment paper. (note: Deb's recipe originally uses three 8-inch round pans, but I only had one 9-inch. I also didn't have any parchment paper, so I trusted oil and flour. The cakes came out fairly clean!)
2. Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl, whisking to combine well.  Add the oil and sour cream, whisking to blend. Gradually beat in the water, followed by the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Divide the batter among the cake pans.
3. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean. (note: Our cakes only took 24 minutes, but YMMV) Let cake cool in pans for 20 minutes, then invert them on to wire racks, peel of the parchment paper and allow them to cool completely. (note: I don't have wire racks either. My baking dowry is clearly lacking)
4. Spread 2/3 cup of frosting over the top of the bottom layer, spreading evenly. Place the second layer on top, covering the cake in the rest of the icing. (note: Again, if you want to be legit about this, definitely follow the directions on Smitten Kitchen. My friends, however, did not complain about my lack of professionalism)

Peanut Butter Frosting
Deb's original recipe called for more cream cheese and double the sugar, but we think it was plenty sweet (and wonderfully peanut-y) with our changes.

8 ounces room temperature cream cheese
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners' sugar one 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 or 4 minutes.
2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

** If you want to kick this cake up a notch (yes, I just used that phrase), check out the chocolate peanut butter ganache glaze that's part of the original recipe. Food-induced coma may have extended to food-induced death had we included this.

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