Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate Ganache

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.

Frosted with peanut butter cream cheese frosting

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.

Bittersweet chocolate peanut butter ganache layer added

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).

First slice shows off the delicious layers

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.

Banana Cake

If you pay any attention at all to food blogs (or at least those on baking), you’ve most likely heard of Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home To Yours book. There’s even a group dedicated to working their way through the book. How could I not check out the book and see what all the fuss is about?

Since I always like to test-run cookbooks, I borrowed this one from the library first. If I like a book enough, next up is an Amazon order.

There were a number of tempting recipes, but I started with the index, looking for banana recipes since 1. I had a batch blackening on my counter, and 2. My husband is the world’s biggest banana bread fan.

I didn’t spot a banana bread recipe, but the banana cake one caught my eye. It sounded awfully like a banana bread, just baked in a bundt pan instead of a loaf pan.

The recipe was very easy to follow, and the batter was tasty (yes, I sampled). The cake baked up beautifully (much prettier than my picture would indicate). I thought the flavor was nice and the cake itself was very delicate and tender.

The real verdict was from Rob, since he was the reason for baking the cake in the first place. He thought it was delicious and especially appreciated the large yield – one bundt cake is way bigger than one loaf of bread.

Even with his super-sized treat I had to sneak a piece away to bring to Jennifer to taste. She thought it quite tasty, and appreciated the delicate crumb.

Dorie’s first for me was a real winner, enough so that the book got nudged onto my Amazon wish list.

Ginger Cake

So I’m going to go ahead and admit my baking disaster. Ginger cake did me in.

The recipe came from Baking Boot Camp: Five Days of Basic Training at the Culinary Institute of America. The book was very interesting, although I did have some real complaints about it. But the baked goods sounded wonderful, so I started with a quick bread/cake.

The recipe was easy, although my batter was never as smooth as it claimed it should be, but I knew that I’d creamed the butter and sugar well so that wasn’t the problem. I gave up on getting it very smooth, not wanting to overmix it once the flour was added.

But that wasn’t the real problem. The real problem is that either my loaf pan isn’t really 9-inches like I thought, or else the recipe doesn’t really fit in a 9-inch loaf pan because it overflowed a LOT. And in my defense, other recipes that I thought called for a 9-inch pan have worked just fine, although I will admit to not carefully checking, and maybe all my previous quick bread recipes have needed an 8-inch pan and that’s what I’ve got. Lesson learned. Measure the pan unless you’re absolutely certain. And pay attention when you pour the batter in and think “wow, that’s really full.” Perhaps that should be a little nudge to verify pan size and/or pull some batter out and make muffins with it or something. Sheesh, you’d think I was a blonde or something.

Behold, the evidence once it finally seemed to be mostly cooked.

A closeup of the side of the pan.

I didn’t think to photo the overflow in the oven. Fortunately I always keep a rimmed cookie sheet on the bottom shelf to catch spills like that.

It’s not going to win any beauty contests, that’s for sure, but the more important thing is the taste, and in that I again thought the recipe fell short. It had a half cup of molasses and it was just almost overwhelmingly strong.

I’ve got a couple more recipes I want to try from the cookbook but it’s strike one against it so far.

Toll House Crumbcake

Yes, this is a Nestle recipe. I tried it because:

  • I had all the ingredients
  • It had chocolate

What more is there? Super easy too, which is always nice.

Topping:

  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened (Of course I used butter. Der.)
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Mini Morsels, divided,

Cake:

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened (again, of course I used butter.)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Grease 13 x 9-inch baking pan.

For topping:
Combine brown sugar, flour and butter in small bowl with pastry blender or two knives until mixture is crumbly. Stir in nuts and 1/2 cup morsels.

For cake:
Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat granulated sugar, butter and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually add flour mixture alternately with sour cream. Fold in remaining morsels. Spread into prepared baking pan; sprinkle with topping.

Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack.

I forgot to take pictures while making this, but did manage to take one before it went into the oven:

crumbcake.jpg

The verdict? This was FANTASTIC. Very moist, and the mini chips gave a great distribution of chocolaty goodness throughout each bite. It was good fresh from the oven, and it stayed good for as long as it lasted. Which was shamefully short considering how few people were enjoying it.

Rob’s verdict: Not bad. And for a non-chocolate fan, that’s high praise.

Jennifer’s verdict: I think I need some more before giving my verdict. Seriously, give me some more of that stuff before I have to hurt you. Or something like that. I may have paraphrased.

Milk Chocolate Bundt Cake

The recipe came from the Taste of Home Baking cookbook

1 milk chocolate candy bar, (7 ounces) (I used semi-sweet because that’s what I had)
1/2 cup chocolate syrup (I used dark chocolate syrup because that’s what I had)
1 cup butter, softened
1-1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
confectioners’ sugar, optional

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The chocolate. Yes, that’s ghiradelli. Yummmmm!

In a saucepan, heat the candy bar and chocolate syrup over low heat until melted; set aside to cool.

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In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar.

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Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

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Stir in chocolate mixture and vanilla.

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Combine flour, salt and baking soda;

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add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk.

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Pour into a greased and floured 10-in. fluted tube pan.

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Bake at 350 degrees for 65-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes.

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Remove from pan and cool completely.

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Dust with confectioner’s sugar if desired.

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I thought the cake was very disappointing. Now granted, chocolate cake isn’t my favorite thing ever, but still. This seemed very blah to me. Official taste-tester Rob didn’t care for it either (too chocolaty for him, the crazy man). Official taste-tester Jennifer thought it just ok as well. Was it the change of chocolate types? I can’t see that making that big of a difference honesty. Was it the lack of frosting? Quite possibly. A dusting of confectioners sugar just doesn’t get it done for Sheila.

Spice Cake with Maple Frosting

I’ve been in a baking kind of mood lately, much to the delight of my official taste-testers, my husband & Jennifer. On the agenda this week: spice cake. I mostly used a Taste of Home recipe, although I did not use the suggested Seven-Minute Frosting (which I hate). I also added a teaspoon of vanilla, because I think everything’s better with vanilla. Finally, I used a scant 1/2 teaspoon of cloves (might have even been only a 1/4 teaspoon) since I’m not a fan of too much cloves.

No pics of the assembly process, because I didn’t think about getting the camera out until the pans were already in the oven, but here are the cakes right after being pulled out of the oven:

cakes

The cakes sank a fair amount in the center, which doesn’t usually happen to me. I think it’s because the pans were a little over-full, and I thought for a bit that I was going to have an enormous mess in the oven. Fortunately everything stayed in place, but the centers were bulging quite a bit & then collapsed back after cooling. Next time I’d bake some of the batter into cupcakes. My 9-inch pans weren’t quite up to the task.

The next image shows the cake in the process of being frosted. I used a simple buttercream frosting – butter, confectioners’ (a.k.a. powdered, a.k.a. icing) sugar, vanilla extract, maple extract & enough milk to make it spreadable. It’s my standard frosting recipe & I love it! Super simple & super tasty. It’ll definitely give a sugar rush.

The bottom layer is on the plate, with frosting. Yes, there is a gouge missing from one side but it looks much bigger in the picture than it really was.

I have no idea why this picture refuses to display.  Just click here and see the picture on its own page.

Some difficulty getting the second layer to line up over the first evenly, but in the end it worked out reasonably well.

second layer

Finally, the finished cake. Yes, my frosting job is rough. I’m not very good at producing a cleanly frosted cake, let alone one with fancy decorations. I’m working on it!

frosted

The verdict? I thought the frosting was too much & too sweet (and I don’t say that often). I think next time I’d go for cupcakes or baking it in a 13 x 9 pan, then dusting it with confectioners’ sugar. The cake itself had a great flavor – just spiced enough and very tender.

Jennifer proclaimed “The cake was awesome! I loved the spices and the frosting (or is it icing?) was some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Smooth, creamy…just overall dreamy.” She further expressed a need to use a “thesaurus from now on because, dang, I just can’t seem to find the right words for delicious, yummy, etc.”

And for anyone else who wonders, frosting/icing are the same thing – the term frosting is usually used more in the U.S. & icing elsewhere.