Chocolate Layer Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Bittersweet Ganache

Apr 15th

Yay for my mom – she’s 60! We are throwing her a big ol’ party later in the month but her birthday this year actually fell on Easter Sunday! I was in charge of her cake, so I emailed her with several options. She replied with a definitive and concise, “chocolate layer cake with peanut butter frosting and chocolate ganache”(!). So this is it – this was her cake!
Could I have gone out and bought her a cake? Yes. Why would I go to the trouble of making it myself? Because to me, it’s NOT trouble – it’s fun! If you read over the recipe and say, “that girl’s crazy”, that’s fine and I totally get it! Making a homemade cake takes time and energy but if you enjoy the process, it’s all gravy. I most definitely enjoyed this process and probably ate my weight in this dang peanut butter frosting (which didn’t stop me from having a gigantic slice later that evening). I’m more of a pie girl and it’s because cake is so often dry and spongy. This cake, however, has 4 layers so it stayed moist and every cake bite had some frosting involved. The ganache is a seriously easy last minute step that makes the cake pretty enough that you don’t feel the need to write “happy birthday” in ugly pink and yellow icing. Well, hopefully YOU won’t feel the need. I did feel the need to decorate it and it ended up looking like a five year old had done it. The picture below that I show you is how I wish I had left it. Learn from my mistake, people.
Not much else to say except that America’s Test Kitchen did it again. Great call on this combo, Momma – I love you to pieces!
Chocolate Layer Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Bittersweet Ganache
Serves 16
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, very soft
1 3/4 c. all purpose flour
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped coarse
1/4 c. cocoa powder
1/2 c. hot water
1 3/4 c. sugar, divided
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 c. buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 whole eggs plus 2 egg yolks
Peanut Butter Frosting
16 tbsp. butter, softened
1 c. creamy peanut butter
1 c. powdered sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. cream or whole milk
1/2 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
1. Set oven racks to upper and lower middle positions. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grease and flour two 9 inch cake pans and line the bottom with parchment paper.
3. Combine chocolate, cocoa powder, and hot water in a medium heatproof bowl set over a saucepan containing 1 inch of water. Stir until chocolate
is melted, about 2 minutes.
4. Add 1/2 c. of the sugar and stir until thick and glossy, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
5. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
6. Measure buttermilk in a glass measuring cup and add vanilla.
7. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whisk the eggs and egg yolks on medium low speed until combined, about 10 seconds.
8. Add the remaining 1 1/4 c. sugar and increase speed to high. Whisk till fluffy and lightly colored, 2 to 3 minutes.
9. Replace whisk with paddle attachment. Add chocolate mixture to egg sugar mixture and mix on medium speed until thoroughly incorporated, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
10. Add softened butter, 1 tbsp. at a time, mixing for 10 seconds after each addition.
11. Add flour and buttermilk mixture, alternately. Start and end with flour (in three additions).
12. When the last addition of flour has been added, beat on medium for 15 seconds. Batter may seem slightly separated or lumpy – don’t worry!
13. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Tap the filled pan a few times on the counter to release any large air bubbles.
14. Bake the cakes until they pull away from the pan slightly and the middle is set (a toothpick will come out with a few crumbs on it), 30-40 minutes. The recipe said 25-30 minutes but mine took a full 40.
15. Cool pans for 15 minutes in pans and then invert onto a wire rack. Remove parchment and cool completely, 1 1/2 hours.
16. For the frosting, whip or beat all ingredients for at least five minutes or until light and fluffy.
17. To assemble, cut each cake layer horizontally in half with a long serrated bread knife. Make sure to keep each cake “matched”, top to bottom,┬áin case your cutting is irregular. Like mine so clearly was, in the picture below.
18. Spread a thin layer of the frosting over the first layer. Trick – line the edges of the cake bottom with strips of waxed paper or parchment so you get frosting on paper you can trash later, instead of on the dish. Use a plate or cutting board to transfer the next layer on top of that and spread a thin layer over it’s surface, as well. Continue with the third layer.
19. After placing the final layer on top, pile most of the remaining frosting on top. Spread frosting across the top and down the sides, covering the cake completely. Cover any places that seem bare with remaining frosting.
20. To make ganache, heat cream in a small sauce pan until steaming. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Stir or whisk until smooth.
21. Let sit for about five minutes. Pour onto the top of the cake and use a rubber or offset spatula to spread the ganache across the surface, letting it drizzle down the sides. 22. Serve cake within 24 hours
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