This is the kind of cake that brings out your inner child. You know what I mean? The kind of cake that brings out your worst 5-year-old behavior. The kind where you just want to scream “Gimme gimme gimme”. A cake that you made for your best friend’s birthday but in reality, you want to hoard it all for yourself. You fantasy about licking the frosting off the entire cake and chomping happily on the bits of Reese’s peanut butter cups sprinkled all over. Diets be damned. YOU WANT THE ENTIRE THING.
Have I got your attention yet?
The two layers of Cocoa Buttermilk cake came from Baking: from my home to yours and the frosting was created by the lovely Ina Garten, from the Barefoot Contessa. And sprinkled on the inside and all around the cake was cut up Reese’s peanut butter cups.
I searched far and wide for some kind of Peanut Butter cake, but couldn’t find one that seemed to have the perfect consistency that I was searching for. Light and fluffy, but insanely peanutty and buttery. My biggest pet peeve is dry, flat, and flavorless chocolate cake. I don’t think there is anything worse than blah cake, especially blah birthday cakes so I turned to a book that has yet to let me down.
I was so excited to make this cake that I even left work early just to start baking. My best friend is a peanut butter and chocolate enthusiast so I knew that my delicious concoction would make her day. But after assembling my goods and getting my butter ready, I realized that I was out of sugar. And with butter all over and the oven on, I was in pickle. But I carried on, hoping that the deep chocolate flavor would make up for the lack of sweetness. Little did I realize, the ½ cup of sugar missing would probably change the structure of the cake.
Sure enough, after the cake was baked and cooled, the middle sunk in. I wanted to seriously smash the crap out of those cakes with my big rolling pin. But after I calmed down (and cleaned up the mess I had made) I just cut off the top of the cake, and nibbled on the left over parts. No harm, no foul. But let that be a lesson to you: always check your supplies.
Despite the initial baking problem, the cake came out good. It was a little dry, probably because I overmixed it, but the frosting made up for.
Oh the frosting. For the love of God, try this frosting. The creamy peanut butter mixed in with the sugar and whipped up will make you groan with delight. I threw in some chopped peanut butter cups into the middle to give the cake some nice crunch and after assembling the layers, the cake came together beautifully. It was a little crumby, but I chalk that up to my overmixing and the missing sugar.
The results? The peanut butter cups add a sweet crunch to the creamy frosting and the cocoa buttermilk cake is a good basic cake for you build on. The cake almost didn’t make it to my friends house because I wanted to keep it all to myself. Screw the birthday, I wanted it.
But, I restrained myself as much as I could. Honest. But I won’t lie. I couldn’t help myself from saving myself a slice or two. Or three.
But to be completely fair, she had another cake too. A store-bought Mudd Pie that was pretty tasty. But not nearly as delicious as my Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cup Cake.
Cocoa Buttermilk Birthday Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting
from Baking: from my home to yours and Barefoot Contessa
2 cups all purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 and ½ cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled (optional)
Countless amounts of miniature Reese’s peanut butter cups, smashed or cut up.
Peanut Butter frosting recipe follows
Getting Ready to Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9-x-2-inch round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottoms with rounds of parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.
To make the cake: Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for about 2 minutes, until it is thoroughly blended into the butter. Add the eggs one at a time, then the yolks one by one, beating for 1 minute after each addition and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk; add the dry ingredients in 3 portions and the buttermilk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients); mix only until each new batch is blended into the batter. Scrape down the bowl and, if you want, add the melted chocolate, folding it in with a rubber spatula. Divide the batter between the cake pans.
Bake for 26 to 30 minutes, or until the cakes feel springy to the touch and start to pull away from the sides of the pans. Transfer the cakes to racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up. (Once the layers are cooled, they can be wrapped airtight and left at room temperature overnight or kept frozen for up to 2 months.)
To Assemble the Cake: Place one layer top side up on a cardboard round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. Frost the top of the layer, and sprinkle the smashed up peanut butter cups inside. Be careful to not overload the inside with peanut butter cups or else it will look uneven when you place the top layer.
Next, cover with the second layer, top side down. Frost the sides and top of the cake, either smoothing the frosting for a sleek look or using a spatula, knife or spoon to swirl it for a more exuberant look. Press the remaining peanut butter cups around the sides of the frosted cake, and if you want you can sprinkle them on top too.
Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour (or for up to 1 day, if that’s more convenient) to set the frosting, then bring it to room temperature before serving.
Peanut butter frosting:
from The Barefoot Contessa
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream
Place the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.