Thursday, October 1, 2009

Recipe: Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake and PB Ganache

I had a hankering for some Reese's Peanut Butter Cups recently which led me to wonder if I could recreate that perfect blend of salty peanut butter with sweet milk chocolate in cake form. Well, folks, I won't be bashful about it, I think I've done it! After spending what seemed like hours scouring the internet for a recipe that combined the two, I threw my hands up in disgust and went to clean my kitchen (I do that a lot when I'm angry or's a productive way to vent, I've learned :o) I was frustrated because almost every single recipe I found was either a) a peanut butter cake with chocolate frosting b) a chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting or c) a chocolate cake mix with peanut butter added in. I don't bake from mixes anymore, not because they're bad, but I put a lot of love into my cakes and these days I'm just as quick to measure out and mix up a cake from scratch. And let's face it, when you're whole baking approach is to focus on foods that contain as few preservatives as possible, well, box mixes don't fit the bill, knowwhatImean?

So after thoroughly cleaning, I was complaining to my husband about the lack of a PB&C (peanut butter and chocolate) cake that wasn't one of the aforementioned combos. "Why don't you create one yourself?" asked my husband. "Because, honey--" I started to say with much exasperation, but then I stopped myself. I couldn't really think of any reason why NOT to. "Hmmm, you're right. I should make one myself. In fact, if a chocolate cake is nothing but a butter cake with cocoa powder subbed in for some of the flour," I said while yanking cookbooks off the shelf and perusing their indexes quickly, "then who's to say I can't sub in cocoa powder for some flour in a PEANUT BUTTER cake recipe!? You're a genius, honey!" I slammed my Joy of Cooking shut and planted a big kiss on his cheek, startling him. "What? I am? I mean, of course I am. Wait, what are you doing again?" (The Husband is easily distracted).

So in addition to the cake recipe, I've also included the recipe for the Peanut Butter Ganache to frost the cake, which makes it even more decadent and rich. A word here about ingredients; I have made this twice in one week now, one with an all natural "nothing but peanuts and salt" PB and the generic store brand "contains hydrogenated stuff" PB and there is a very marked difference between the two outcomes. The one made with natural peanut butter was FAR superior in texture, taste, and look. The one with non-natural peanut butter tasted great and still came out really well, but the frosting was much greasier and the cake was a bit drier than the first. I strongly recommend you use a peanut butter that is nothing more than peanuts and a little bit of salt, but if you can't, rest assured it will taste as wonderful!

And now, without further ado, the grown-up version of peanut butter cup in cake form (this recipe is mostly derived from the Joy of Cooking):

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake
1 c AP flour
1/4 c cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 c peanut butter (I used Laura Scudder's brand creamy PB)
3/4 c milk
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 TBSP vegetable oil
1 TBSP butter, softened

1. Preheat the oven to 350F and prep your pan(s).
2. Combine the first five ingredients (your dry team) into your mixing bowl or food processor and mix thoroughly.
3. Add in all of the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Be careful not to overmix as you don't want too much gluten, but the PB needs to be incorporated fairly well.
4. Pour the batter into your prepared pan(s) and bake for 15 min, then rotate and bake another 10-15 until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
5. Allow to cool completely before icing.

This recipe makes enough batter to fill two 6" round pans, one 8-9" pan, or 18 cupcakes. The recipe will double nicely if needed.

Some food for thought...

To measure out the PB, pour the milk into a measuring cup. Then start adding the PB to the milk a little bit at a time. Once the milk has hit the 1 cup line, you can add the remaining wet ingredients to the cup, thus saving you some dish washing time!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Ganache
4 oz sweet chocolate (Baker's German Chocolate)
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 cup peanut butter

1. Chop the chocolate into small chunks and place into your mixing bowl.
2. Place the whipping cream in a heat proof vessel and microwave for 2-3 minutes on high until boiling.
3. Very carefully pour the whipping cream on top of the chocolate and allow it to sit for one to two minutes.
4. Whisk the chocolate and cream until all the chocolate is blended. Sift in the powdered sugar and mix until combined.
5. Add the peanut butter while the mixture is still warm and mix until the PB is blended in. The consistency of the mixture is going to be more like thick chocolate milk at this time. so place the bowl in the fridge for about 30 to 45 minutes.
6. Re-whip the mixture until it is frosting like consistency.
7. Spread onto your cake and enjoy!

Some food for thought...

When mixing the ganache, you can also place an ice pack under the bowl to chill the mixture while mixing. I keep one or two bags of old frozen veggies in the freezer for this purpose. Make sure you mark those veggies very clearly as "NOT FOR EATING" as thawing and refreezing veggies does not make them fit for eating. Frozen veggie bags work well for treating bumped noggins and knees as well!

Happy Baking!

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cake


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