10 Sep Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cake
This cake. Can ya even handle?
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cake. A simple name for a very un-simple kind of dessert. (I debated using a plethora of adjectives in the name — Death By Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake, Ultimate Chocolate Peanut Butter Celebration Cake — but in the end, I went with classic and straightforward, because this cake has enough flare all on its own…and I couldn’t decide between the fluffy alternatives.)
I’ve also described it as disgusting on more than one occasion, which has gotten me more than one occasion’s worth of strange looks. But, disgusting in a good way. Ya follow?
You guys get me, I know this.
But in case you don’t, let me spell this out. I mean disgusting in a way that makes your molars shudder and your thighs immediately break into lunges to proactively burn a few calories before taking your first bite. But that’s because it’s so-fah-king good that you will take a first bite. And a second. And a third. Then maybe a sip of milk. And then repeat.
It’s Bill-Gates-kinda rich, plus shamelessly indulgent, times over-the-freaking top good. The kind of cake fit for a celebration. The kind of celebration that one has for, oh say, a 30th birthday party. And since I happened to have a friend having one of those a few weeks ago, combined with the fact that I haven’t made a layer cake in like, a bazillion years, I pounced. (It may have had something to do with oven withdrawals as well.)
Also, one of my besties (girlfriend of the b-day boy) squeezed like 17 pounds of limes BY HAND to make homemade margaritas while suffering from a tequila hang over, so the least I could do was bring-a-dang cake. If that’s not love, then I don’t know what is. I’m pretty sure her joints are still sore.
The inspiration for this cake is, you guessed it, the chocolate peanut butter cup. Chocolate on the outside, peanut buttery goodness on the inside. Only in the case of this monster, we’re talkin’ two layers of the best everrr chocolate cake sandwiching two layers of Reese’s-style peanut buttery filling (am I even allowed to say that?) sandwiching a layer of peanut butter cake. (I like to think of it as the cake version of a spoon train.) But then let’s not forget fluffy chocolate icing topped with a mountain of my cake-muse, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. (<–again with the potential copyright infringement, please Hershey, don’t come after me.)
So ya see, disgusting. But in all the right ways.
Since this was a birthday cake I couldn’t cut into it during the last-minute photo sesh (30 minutes before the party start, me still with wet hair and in my towel), but I did manage to snap a poorly lit, slightly blurry “insides” photo after we had butchered it at the party. So while it pains me slightly to share this photo, you can check out the guts below.
A Few Notes About This Recipe:
I made this cake in 8-inch round cake pans because they’re what I have in my kitchen. You can also use 9-inch rounds, but you’ll need to test your cakes for doneness about 5-10 minutes earlier than instructed to avoid over-baking.
This is a labor intensive cake and best (least stressfully) made over two days. I recommend baking the cake layers the day before serving, and refrigerating overnight (wrapped tightly in plastic wrap). Chilled cakes are easier to work with, so this will also help with assembly and leveling, should you choose to do so. You’ll also need to let the peanut butter layers freeze for about 6 hours, so unless you plan to serve the cake at night, also make those the day before and freeze overnight. Day of, make the frosting and assemble.
The peanut butter filling layers are best made in a greased 8-inch springform pan. If you only have one, press the filling into the pan to mold into shape then turn out onto a cookie sheet to freeze. Otherwise, use two 8-inch cake rounds but line all surfaces (even the edges) with parchment paper, then freeze.
I added 2 tablespoons of PB2 powdered peanut butter to my peanut butter cake only because I’ve had a jar in my pantry for ages. It’s definitely optional — don’t go out and buy a whole container just for this cake!
Cake decorating can be intimidating, and I am by no means an expert. I’ve included a few tips below, but you can keep it simple and just stack this cake on a plate and frost with a butter knife if you prefer — it will still taste great!
Most professional cake decorators will tell you to use an offset spatula to frost a layer cake. I prefer to use a straight 9-inch spatula, but if you prefer to avoid extra kitchen tools you can just use a butter knife for more “rustic” look.
Instead of a rotating cake stand, I use the bottom piece of my rotating utensil holder to spin the cake and make it easier to frost all sides evenly. If you have neither, don’t worry. Just turn your cake as needed.
The recipe instructions tell you to create your cake on a cardboard round. They make it easier to move your cake and add support. They can be purchased at your local cake or craft store (like Michael’s) and should be the same diameter as the cake pan you use. To keep it simple, you can create your cake on a plate instead.
Chocolate Cake Layer from Ina Garden
Peanut Butter Cake Layer adapted from Diana Rattray via southerfood.about.com
Peanut Butter Filling Layer adapted from Sprinkle Bakes
Chocolate Frosting adapted from Just a Pinch
- butter, for greasing the pans
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
- 2 cups sugar
- 3/4 cups good cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup butter
- 3 tablespoons peanut butter
- 2 teaspoons PB2 (optional)
- 6 tablespoons milk
- 1 large egg
- 1/3 cup buttermilk
- 1 scant teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 1/3 cups creamy peanut butter
- 5 tbsp butter, melted
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
- 1 cup cocoa powder
- 4-5 cups powdered sugar (based on your preferred sweetness)
- 1/2 cup whipping cream (or milk)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
- about 3/4 of a bag of mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, roughly chopped into halves and quarters
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Line 2, 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.
- Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined.
- In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla.
- With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.
- Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
- Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour an 8-inch round cake pan.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and soda.
- In a saucepan, heat the butter, peanut butter, and milk until the butter has melted and mixture is hot. Stir the hot mixture into the flour mixture until blended.
- Whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. Slowly beat into the first mixture until smooth and well blended.
- Pour into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes (check it at about 25 minutes to avoid over-baking), or until a cake tester or wooden pick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Mix together the powdered sugar, peanut butter and melted butter in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mixture will be crumbly. Add cream 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture becomes a consistent workable dough. It should not be crumbly or stick to your fingers. The mixture should hold together easily when a small amount is squeezed tight in the palm of your hand.
- Divide the dough into two even portions. Spray two 8-inch spring-form pans with cooking spray or line two 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper. (See notes above.) Press peanut butter dough into the bottom of the pans evenly, forming the peanut butter layers. Place in freezer until frozen, about 6 hours.
- Add cocoa to a large bowl or bowl of stand mixer. Whisk through to remove any lumps.
- Cream together butter and cocoa powder until well-combined.
- Add powdered sugar and milk to cocoa mixture by adding 1 cup of powdered sugar followed by about a tablespoon of cream. After each addition has been combined, turn mixer onto a high speed for about a minute. Repeat until all sugar and cream have been added.
- Add vanilla extract and espresso powder and combine well.
- If frosting appears too dry, add more cream, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency. If it appears to wet and does not hold its form, add more confectioner’s sugar, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency.
- If desired, level your cakes to remove domed tops and create a more even, professional-looking cake.
- Place one layer of chocolate cake on a cardboard round and top with about 1/4 cup (a pretty thin layer) of chocolate frosting. Top with a layer of frozen peanut butter filling and add another layer of frosting. Follow with the peanut butter cake layer, a layer of frosting, the second peanut butter filling layer, a layer of frosting, then top off with the second chocolate cake layer.
- Once all your layers are stacked, frost the cake with a very thin crumb coat layer of icing (this will help achieve a smooth finish) and refrigerate until icing is set (about 30 minutes).
- Use the remaining icing to frost the outside of the cake then top with a mountain of chopped Reese's.