chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting: the authentic original

alix came home for her birthday.  her 24th birthday.   am i really that old, already?  when i asked what kind of cake she wanted, her quick response was “chocolate.”  that was all i needed to hear, i knew what cake i was making, it has become a signature of sorts.  it started way back when, in our bakery, it was the cake i made for every birthday, employees and family members alike.  chocolate cake, black chocolate cake to be exact with peanut butter frosting and a drizzle of ganache over the top.

when i wrote my first book, the now out of print “Sky High Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes,” including this cake was a given.  how could i not?  little did i know how popular this cake would become.  when the book came out, deb perlman of the blog smitten kitchen posted this recipe on her website.  in the years since, that blog post has had millions of hits, literally.  unfortunately, people often think she is the person responsible for the recipe.  many times since, i have found the cake on with links leading back to smitten kitchen.  sadly, the sales for that book never saw the level of success that her blog post did and the publisher chose to let it go out of print.

beautiful isn’t it?  tasty too, although i only had one slice.  alix took the leftovers back to atlanta with her.  that was probably the best thing-i could have eaten the whole cake myself!

in the hope of gaining some of the credit for the cake recipes, i am actually posting them here!  if you want to help out cookbook writers, please do not post their recipes without permission-even if you do give them credit, you still shouldn’t post them without permission (something i have done in the past and make every effort not to do now).  whenever possible, link to the authors own site and the recipe if it is posted.  most importantly, buy the book!  if you cannot buy it, borrow it from a library or a friend.

sour cream-chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting and chocolate-peanut butter glaze

makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake serving 12 to 16

the cake
2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil-neutral in flavor (canola, soybean)
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
peanut butter frosting, recipe follows
chocolate-peanut butter glaze, recipe follows
garnish-chopped peanut brittle or chopped peanuts

preheat the oven to 350.  grease the sides and bottoms of 3 (8″) pans.  line the bottom of each pan with parchment and grease the paper as well

sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl.  whisk to combine them.  add the oil and sour cream and whisk it to blend.  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 the batter among the pans.

bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean.  let the cakes cool in the pans for about 20 minutes.  invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper and cool completely.

to frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large plate.  spread 2/3 cup of the peanut butter frosting on evenly over the layer.  repeat with the next layer.  place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.

to decorate with the chocolate-peanut butter glaze, put the cake on a large baking sheet to catch the 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,  at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set.  be sure to serve it as close as possible to room temp, remove it from the fridge before serving and allow it to sit out for about an hour.  decorate with the peanut brittle right before serving.

the frosting-makes about 5 cups
10 ounces cream cheese, at room temp
4 ounces unsalted butter, at room temp
5 cups confectioners sugar, sift after measuring if lumpy
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter

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.

add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

the glaze-makes about 1 1/2 cups
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped coarsely
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half

in the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter and corn syrup.  heat, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth.  use while still warm.

a few notes:
i have found that a really good natural cocoa will work just fine here as well.  dutch process cocoa makes a blacker cake.  use what you have or can find.

cream cheese-i never use the name brand, the one named after the city, it makes a frosting that is almost too soft and runny.  stick to the store brand-it will make a frosting with a consistency that is easier to work with.

peanut butter- i always use a homogenized peanut butter to prevent the oil from separating.  i have never tried one of the natural, stir it in types of peanut butter.  if you use it, i cannot say how it will work for the frosting, the glaze should be okay.

find the kindle edition on amazon with this link.

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buttermilk cake with fudge frosting: my favorite birthday cake

when it comes to birthday cake, i love a homemade cake.  homemade from scratch that is.  people are always scared to bake one for me though.  they think that because i can bake, that anything they do would never be good enough.  then they either make one from a mix or buy one from the grocery store.  4somehow, that is supposed to be better than anything they could make.  i will never understand that logic, and those cakes will never convince me that they couldn’t do any better-just that they weren’t willing to try.

good cake isn’t hard to make.  you just have to follow a some important rules:
1.  use heavy gauge pans for even baking.
2.  preheat the oven for at least 20 minutes and use an oven thermometer to check the temp.
3.  read the entire recipe, twice, and check to make sure you have everything needed before you start.    
4.  room temperature means that the ingredients are about 70 degrees so let the cold stuff sit out for a    
5.  measure properly.
6.  use a timer rather than glancing at the clock and winging it.
7.  test the cake for doneness near the minimum baking time-if it says 40-45 minutes, check it at about    
     38-40 minutes and adjust the additional baking time as needed.
8.  cold cake layers are easier to frost and slice but cakes should always be served at room temp; let it sit
     out before serving if you had it in the fridge.

vanilla buttermilk cake with instant fudge frosting
makes an 8 inch triple layer cake serving 12-16
4 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
3 cups cake flour
2 cups sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces unsalted butter, at room temp
frosting, recipe follows
preheat the oven to 350.  spray 3 (8″) heavy gauge metal cake pans, line them with paper(wax or parchment) and spray again.  
whisk the eggs, yolk, vanilla and 1/4 cup of the buttermilk to combine.  set aside.  place the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl.  with the mixer on low speed, blend the ingredients to combine.  with the mixer off, add the soft butter and the remaining buttermilk.  mix on low to blend.  turn the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  add the egg mixture in 3 additions, scraping the bowl well as you go and mixing only to combine thoroughly.  divide the batter between the 3 pans and bake until a pick inserted comes out clean, 28-32 minutes.  allow the cake to cool in the pans for 10 minutes, turn out on to a rack and cool completely before frosting it.
the layers can be wrapped and cooled in the fridge overnight to make frosting easier but serve it at room temperature for the best flavor and texture.
instant fudge frosting
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar, no sifting needed!
12 ounces unsalted butter, softened
6 tablespoons half and half
1 tablespoon vanilla
using a large capacity food processor, place all of the ingredients in the bowl and pulse to combine.  allow the machine to run and process the frosting until it is smooth and glossy.  
to frost the cake, place one layer, domed side down, on a cake plate.  top it with 3/4 cup of the frosting and spread it to the edges of the layer.  top it with the next layer and repeat the process.  place the top layer on the cake and using the remaining frosting, frost the sides and top of the cake.  if you would like to pipe a border or other decorations, be sure to set aside about 3/4 cup of frosting to use in a piping bag.  
adapted from my first book, sky high