I have a confession to make. I don’t usually like cake. Cookies, yes; brownies, absolutely; ice cream, of course. But cake? Cake is usually dry and bland and the only part that’s worth anything is the frosting. Assuming of course that it’s not the typical bakery frosting which tastes of plastic and leaves that nasty greasy slick on the roof of my mouth.
So, cake. Not my favorite. Why then would I want to participate in a new event Layers of Cake?
Because I WANT to like cake. Cake is what you fix to celebrate something – cake is what gets WOWS of admiration – cake can and should be delicious. This event would be motivation to try new cakes and find the cakes of my dreams!
And get some practice frosting them so they don’t look like they were done by 5-year-olds. Or decorators featured on Cake Wrecks.
August is not my favorite time to bake – it’s so hot and humid that turning on my oven seems criminal, but I wasn’t going to skirt the rules by trying to substitute an ice cream cake or something equally cheating-like. It was to be cake, so cake it would be.
After much internal debate, I decided on a chocolate cake with a peanut butter-cream cheese frosting, topped with a layer of chocolate-peanut butter ganache. Ages ago I saw a picture of a cake that had those frostings and it looked so amazing that I wanted to replicate it. Well, I don’t know that the peanut butter frosting was a cream cheese one or that there was peanut butter in the ganache. I just remember the picture and went from there.
For the cake, I used the Moist Chocolate Cake recipe from Reiman Publications, chosen because it fits into an 8-inch baking dish. I could use my toaster oven that way and avoid turning on the big oven!
The cake was super simple to mix, and didn’t even require softening butter as it uses vegetable oil instead. After cooking, I lifted it from the pan by the parchement paper sling I’d fashioned, and let it cool completely. After cooling, I sliced it in half horizontally in order to get some layers to make it a layer cake.
Trouble. I couldn’t figure out how to get the top layer to come up without the bottom layer as well – I know this is done regularly with round cakes, but what’s the secret???
I ended up having to cut the cake in half (making each layer into an 8×4 rectangle), which was then easy enough to handle. Because of my poor halving job initially, I stacked the two bottom halves on top of each other and called them a layer.
The peanut butter-cream cheese frosting was simply creamy peanut butter (Jif) added to a basic cream cheese frosting, tasting until it tasted peanutty-enough. Oh, and I always add some vanilla to my cream cheese frostings.
Bottom layer of cake + layer of frosting + one of the top halves (upside down) + layer of frosting + other top half (right side up) + a thin crumb coat. Then into the fridge to chill and hopefully make it easier to get a pretty coat of frosting.
While the cake chilled, I made up the peanut butter ganache. Again, I just added some creamy peanut butter to my basic ganache recipe, tasting until it was peanutty-enough.
Here’s the cake after the final coat of frosting. Yes, it’s a log. Yes, my frosting skills are still lacking.
After frosting, I topped it with the ganache layer, but it had apparently set up too much and didn’t really pour over the top like I’d envisioned. I shouldn’t have taken such a long break in between making the ganache and pouring it. What can I say, it was a good book.
It kind of looks like a big eclaire to me. And that’s not a bad thing.
After slicing, the layers are clearly visible and while it’s not the prettiest cake in the world, I’m kind of pleased with myself. Both for managing to layer it (somewhat) and for adapting some recipes (not my strong-suit).
And the taste?
I now have a chocolate cake recipe I love. Ok, maybe it’s not the cake so much as the double frostings but still. IT IS FABULOUS. I think I need to hide it from all my usual taste-testers so I can keep it for myself. I do not want to share.