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Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

I did it.  I actually made an entire cake from scratch.  This isn’t an unprecedented feat, but it is a rare one.  Those of you who know me are probably aware I prefer to make cakes with a box mix and top them with ridiculously good frosting from scratch to make up for it because that has always yielded me the best results.  But the results I got with this one are just stupendous.  Tremendous.  Incredible.

OK, first about the cake itself (my favorite part, believe it or not).  It is not only the easiest scratch cake I ever made (no mixer required!!), but also the BEST.  Yes, I like it even better than carrot cake.  Better than Clandestine Chocolate Fudge Cake.  Better than any of the butter cakes from The Cake Bible.  It is unbelievably tender and moist and such a deep dark chocolate that it is almost black.  But it isn’t bitter in the slightest.  It’s a thing of beauty.

The frosting is wonderful, though I’m accustomed to wonderful frosting so I don’t feel compelled to write a sonnet about it as I do with the cake.  I know you might think, “Cream cheese and peanut butter?  Ewwwww,” but just shut up and make it.  It’s really good.

As for the chocolate peanut butter glaze, well it is the crowning glory that pulls the whole thing together.  Imagine ganache (oooooooh), and then imagine it with peanut butter added (ahhhhhhhhh).  It’s a marriage made in heaven and makes the whole cake so pretty without any decorating effort.

OK, so are you ready to make this cake?  I thought so.

Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
recipe slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen who adapted if from Sky High: Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes

Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake; serves 12 to 16

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder (Hershey’s Special Dark will work)
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)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper. (I used two 9″ pans and sprayed them with Baker’s Joy–I had no problems whatsoever.)

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.  (This was too thick for me to whisk–I had to use a spatula to get it all combined.)  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 prepared cake pans.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. I think my 9″ cakes took between 40-45 minutes.  Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners if you used them, and let cool completely. (Deb’s Smitten Kitchen note: 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, trust me.  Veronica’s note: I agree with Deb 100%.)

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.  (I used about a cup of frosting as filling since I only had two layers.)  (Deb note 1: 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. Deb note 2: 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 at least 2 hours before serving. Decorate the top with chopped peanut brittle.

Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes about 5 cups

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups (1 lb.) confectioners’ sugar
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)

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 semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half

1. In the top of d 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.

Veronica’s note: OK, I had a devil of a time with this glaze.  I tried to cheat and melt the chocolate, peanut butter and corn syrup in the microwave and it seized up.  Or I thought it did.  I discarded the brick-like mass and started over, melting it over the double boiler this time.  But the same thing happened.  The chocolate softened and I was able to combine everything, sort of, but it was this weird solid mass that wouldn’t liquify.  I eventually had to add the the half and half just to get it to liquify and that did the trick.  I’m telling you this just in case you have a similar problem so you’ll know how to fix it.

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