Peanut Butter lovers will go nuts for this Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake featuring rich chocolate cake layered with smooth peanut buttery goodness and topped with rich chocolate ganache.
The peanut ban at my kids’ new school has my family obsessing about peanut butter. Even though Eliza no longer takes a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to school everyday, we seem to go through more peanut butter than ever.
Perhaps its forbidden nature spurs us on, but I suspect that the frosting on these brownies is largely responsible for our uptick in peanut butter consumption.
In fact, I realized that I’ve been baking this rich dessert just so I could indulge on its ambrosial peanutty topping. When I admitted this to my husband, he asked how I thought it would taste on chocolate cake.
Since his birthday was coming up in a few weeks, I suggested that we find out then.
Fast forward to his birthday, which coincided with the first day of the BART strike, a transportation nightmare for the entire Bay Area. Rather than assemble the cake early in the afternoon as I had planned, travel delays forced me to throw it together at the last minute.
As I attempted to slather frosting on chocolate cake, I realized that, while perfect frosting for brownies, the stuff was far too thick for a cake.
I didn’t have time to start over, so I added a bit more cream and spackled the cake. It tasted great, but the frosting’s texture needed serious work.
Knowing full well that I’d bake another cake as soon as possible, I pawned the remains off on my parents, who seemed somewhat stunned by our unwillingness to take his birthday cake home with us.
Soon after, I baked another cake and attempted to turn the filling for these Mini Peanut Butter Pies into frosting. Since it’s so light and airy, I figured I couldn’t go wrong.
It tasted fine, but it includes much less peanut butter in favor of incorporating cream cheese, so it didn’t have the strong peanut butter flavor that I’ve come to crave. Additionally, its airy texture made it difficult to achieve a smooth finish on the cake.
I knew I would bake the cake yet again, so I asked my husband to take the leftovers to work the next day, no small feat since the BART strike forced him to bike the nine-mile commute to his office in downtown Oakland.
For my next try at this cake, I revisited the original brownie frosting recipe. It seemed only right since it did, after all, inspire the cake in the first place.
I added quite a bit more cream to the mixture than I had before, and, as I watched a smooth consistency whirl together in the bowl of my mixer, I knew I’d finally gotten it right.
Sweet, creamy, and full of peanut flavor, this frosting glides on a cake like magic. Frosting cakes usually stresses me out, but this time I actually enjoyed the process.
And while I usually end up glazing a cake with ganache to cover up my botched frosting job, in this case, I did it just for taste.
Finally, if a bit late, I created the birthday cake I’d envisioned for my chocolate-and-peanut-butter-loving husband: moist chocolate cake layered with smooth peanut buttery goodness and topped with rich chocolate ganache.
Oh, and the chopped peanuts sprinkled over its glossy chocolate surface added such a satisfying crunch that I’m tempted to add them between the layers next time.
After baking and eating three versions of this cake during a four-day period, we’re now completely out of peanut butter.
I’m almost afraid to go get more, but, as far as addictions go, it could be worse.
Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake
- 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
- 1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- 1 1/4 cups boiling water
- 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cups cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup), softened but still cool
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups creamy peanut butter
- 1 stick butter (1/2 cup), softened but still cool
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups confectioners sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- Chocolate Ganache
- 6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- For the cake, grease three 8-inch cake pans and line the bottom of each one with a round of parchment paper. Grease the tops of the paper rounds, pressing down to help them adhere smoothly to the bottom of each pan.
- Combine chocolate, cocoa powder, and boiling water in a 4-cup heat-proof glass measuring cup with a pour spout. Whisk until smooth. Set aside.
- Sift together flours, baking soda, and salt into a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Add brown and white sugars and beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating for at least 30 seconds after each addition and scraping down the sides several times to ensure even mixing. Reduce speed to medium and add sour cream and vanilla. Beat until combined. With the mixer on low speed, add about a third of the flour mixture, followed by about half of the chocolate mixture. Repeat, ending with the flour mixture. Beat until just combined, about 15 seconds. Remove bowl from the mixer and scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula, folding gently to combine.
- Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans, smoothing as needed to spread batter to the edge of each pan. Place 2 pans on the lower-middle rack and 1 on the upper middle rack of an oven preheated to 350°F. Bake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 to 23 minutes. Cool cakes on racks for 20 minutes. Run a thin spatula around the perimeter of each pan before inverting each cake onto a large plate. Peel off paper and reinvert each layer onto a cooling rack. Cool completely.
- For the frosting, cream together peanut butter, butter, and vanilla. Blend in confectioners sugar and salt, mixing well to combine. Add the cream and beat on high speed until smooth, creamy, and spreadable.
- Spread about 3/4 cup of the frosting between each cake layer. After placing the last layer atop the cake, spread a very thin layer of frosting on the top and sides the cake. Refrigerate the cake for 15 minutes before spreading the sides and top of the cake with remaining frosting.
- Return the cake to the refrigerator for at least one hour before glazing.
- About an hour before you plan to glaze the cake, prepare the ganache. Place chopped chocolate in a 2-cup heat-proof measuring glass with a pour spout. Set aside. Bring heavy cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour cream over chocolate and let sit for 2 minutes. Mix well until smooth. Add vanilla extract and stir to combine. Let sit for an hour before pouring.
- Remove the frosted cake from the refrigerator. Stir ganache until smooth before pouring about half of the mixture onto the middle of the cake until it spreads just to the edges. Return the cake to the refrigerator for about 5 to 10 minutes before pouring on the remaining glaze and letting it flow down the sides. If needed, use a long metal spatula to spread the glaze to the edges. Puncture any air bubbles in the ganache with a needle.
- Refrigerate the cake until the glaze fully sets, about an hour. Transfer carefully to a serving plate.
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