Some days, you need to bake a chocolate cake and cover it with ganache. But you can’t just make any chocolate cake, it should be a peanut butter chocolate cake because you haven’t had a peanut butter cup in ages and really isn’t it about time, but then you remember you haven’t made caramel in at least a week or so and you need some of that too, and a peek into the spice pantry has you staring at sea salt so you basically end up with a giant run-on sentence and this cake.
You also have this month’s Monthly Ingredient Challenge post! Be sure to visit the other links for more delicious recipes featuring this month’s ingredient – peanut butter!
If you make this cake in advance, and wait before cutting into it, you will find that you end up with pretty layers of caramel, chocolate, and peanut butter. I didn’t wait because it smelled delicious and I wanted a slice immediately after assembly, all to myself, with milk. It was glorious.
Sharing it with my people confirmed the glorious-ness of this cake, because Princess A took to applauding after each bite. Do you know what it is when someone is applauding after each bite of a dish? It’s a sign that we need to stop talking so we can get to baking cake.
Go, shoo, there’s cake to be made! 😉
p.s. – The ganache doesn’t have to be perfect, in fact, it would look lovely with textured sides, but I will share a tutorial later on for ganache covering a cake. It’s on the list.
- 1¼ c all-purpose flour
- 1¼ c sugar
- ½ c unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¾ tsp salt
- 1 c buttermilk
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ½ c oil
- 6 oz bittersweet chocolate
- 6 oz heavy cream
- 1 stick unsalted butter (8 tbsp)
- ½ c peanut butter
- 4-5 c powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 c granulated sugar
- 3 tbsp water
- ⅓ c heavy cream
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- Flaked sea salt (optional)
- Make your ganache in the microwave by heating chocolate and ganache together for 1 minute at 50% power. Stir. Heat in additional 30 second intervals until the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth and shiny. Set aside to firm up while you bake the cake.
- Preheat your oven to 350 F. Butter two 6" rounds* and line with parchment paper circles. Set aside.
- Combine your dry cake ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer and stir well.
- Combine your wet ingredients (buttermilk, egg, vanilla, oil) in a separate bowl and pour slowly into your dry ingredients, mixing just until combined.
- Pour the batter evenly between the two cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes until a tester inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before filling.**
- While the cake is baking, make your caramel. Place your water and sugar in a heavy bottom sauce pan over medium heat. Stir frequently while the sugar dissolves, brushing the sides of the pan down with a wet pastry brush if you see crystals forming.
- Once the sugar has dissolved, stop stirring, increase the heat to high, and cook until the sugar turns a nice copper brown. Immediately remove from heat (so it doesn't burn) and whisk in the heavy cream and butter. It will bubble like crazy, so be careful!
- Stir until butter and cream are fully incorporated. If you have some lumps, cook the caramel over low heat for a few minutes, stirring constantly, until smooth. Transfer to a different container and refrigerate so it thickens for layering.
- Make the peanut butter buttercream by whipping together the butter and peanut butter until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes on high). Add the vanilla and powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, until the desired consistency is reached. If you accidentally add too much sugar and need to thin it, add a little heavy cream.
- Using a serrated knife or cake leveler, level each layer of cake.
- Swipe a little bit of ganache onto a cake board and place the bottom layer of cake, cut side up, on the board. Spread a layer of peanut butter frosting over the top of the cake.
- Using a piping bag fitted with a round tip or the corner of a plastic zip top bag, pipe a "dam" around the edge of the cake. Fill with caramel and sprinkle with salt (if using). If your caramel is too firm to spread easily, you may heat it in the microwave for a few seconds to soften.
- Spread a thin layer of peanut butter frosting on the cut side of the top layer of cake, then place the top layer of cake on the bottom, cut side down. This helps prevent crumbs from getting in your frosting.
- Use an offset spatula to spread the ganache (which should be like a thick peanut butter consistency by now) over the entire cake. You may choose to smooth it using a hot knife or bench scraper, or leave the sides textured.
- Use your peanut butter frosting and a star piping tip to pipe a decorative dam around the top of the cake and fill with caramel. Sprinkle with salt.
- If you are patient and chill the cake again, the caramel will set and you'll get lovely layers, or if you're impatient (like me), the caramel will drip down each layer of cake when you cut.
**Decorator's Tip: It's easier to cut, frost, and fill chilled cakes. When your cake is cool enough to handle, wrap it well in saran wrap and refrigerate it for an hour or so to firm up and make it easier to work with.