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.

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Nigella’s Cream Cheese Brownies

I love reading Nigella Lawson’s cookbooks. Yes, I said “reading” – for whatever reason her writing just delights me and I can curl up with the cookbooks quite happily and slip into a contented state.

I just had never bothered making any of her recipes before, but finally decided that I had to give some a try. Brownies are a real favorite of mine and I’m always on the hunt for another great brownie recipe, so I thought I’d try with that. She had a few options, but I settled on the cream cheese brownies – the sliced layer of cream cheese in the middle of the brownie won me over.

Unfortunately the brownies themselves didn’t do much for me. Dense and somewhat greasy, the cream cheese layer didn’t provide the promised contrast and instead had an unpleasant rubbery texture to go along with its disagreeable tang. Perhaps the light cream cheese I used wasn’t a good choice, but it couldn’t have affected the brownie layer itself which still suffered from the already mentioned density and greasiness.

Sorry Nigella, I still love you and will try another recipe but so far I’m not a fan of the recipes themselves.

Peanut Butter Brownies

I don’t know where I found this recipe. I’ve got it written out so I obviously copied it from somewhere or someone, but the exact origin is shrouded in mystery. Well, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but it’s forgotten in the dusty corners of my brain at the very least.

What I do know is that I did modify it somewhat from what I’d written. The original recipe didn’t call for any chocolate so I added the chocolate topping part. I mean, what goes better with peanut butter than chocolate?

5 tablespoons butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup peanut butter
12-ounce bag chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour an 8×8-inch baking pan.

In a 3-quart pan over low heat, heat butter until melted. Remove from heat and stir in sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour, baking powder, and peanut butter until smoothly blended.

Spread batter evenly into prepared pan.

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Bake until edges set and brownies are slightly darker, around 30-35 minutes.

Immediately after removing pan from oven, sprinkle entire bag of chocolate chips evenly over the top of brownies.

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Allow a few minutes for the chocolate to begin melting, then spread chocolate smoothly over the top.

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Allow to cool, cut into squares and enjoy with a big glass of milk. Or, if you’re like me, wait until it’s no longer scorching, cut out a single piece, and enjoy it as soon as possible.

Real Simple Brownies

Real Simple as in the name of the magazine where the recipe was published, as well as how the brownies are to make.

1 stick unsalted butter
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or substitute 3/4 c. cocoa, 1/4 c. oil and 1/4 c. sugar)
2 lg. eggs
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. flour
4 lg. peanut butter cups, cut into pieces

Heat oven to 400F. Grease an 8×8 baking pan.

Melt butter and chocolate. Stir all ingredients together except peanut butter cups. Fold peanut butter cups in last.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake about 35 minutes.

The verdict?
I thought they were very disappointing. They were easy, but not tasty enough to justify the calories. And I had been so convinced that I’d love them (chocolate & peanut butter, how could I not?) that I doubled the recipe. Unfortunate that, from my perspective.

What else could I do with a bunch of brownies that I didn’t really care for other than give them to those who would appreciate them? Of course, I’m talking about my coworkers. I brought in a container of brownies and they were gone in no time. One coworker in particular even stopped by my desk to rave about the brownies, so perhaps my standards are too high.

They were kinda pretty though, even if the top is slightly cracked from me poking at it.

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The Butler’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

I was inspired by a post from Barbara at A Chelsea Morning to try again to get puffy chocolate chip cookies. She got some advice and provided a recipe that gave her great cookies. Would it work for me?

Here’s what they looked like:

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They were definitely puffier than the chewey King Arthur Flour version I tried not that long ago. Alas however, they still were not the chocolate chip cookie of my dreams. And I even used shortening and it still didn’t work.

My brothers-in-law thought they were great and polished off the batch in about a day and a half. Good thing I wasn’t counting on those lasting for longer.

Chocolate Trufflettes

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • additional nuts, cocoa powder or coconut or confectioners sugar, optional

Combine sugar, butter, and milk in large saucepan and bring to boil over low heat. Simmer 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and whisk in cocoa, oatmeal, nuts, and vanilla.

Chill mixture for about an hour. Shape into balls and roll in additional nuts cocoa powder, toasted coconut, confectioners sugar (I used cocoa powder). Refrigerate or allow to dry at room temperature.

chocolate trufflettes
(Sorry for the bad picture; I’m not sure why it ended up being so fuzzy.)

This is another recipe from my mom. I don’t think I’ll make these again. Not truffle like enough for me. But, it did yield a generous enough amount for me to share them with coworkers as part of their Christmas cookie bounty. My mom claims that if you store them in a covered container, they are truffle like – rich and creamy, but if you let them dry out before storing them, they’re more fudge like. I’m not sure about that. I covered them immediately, and while they were tasty, they weren’t really rich and creamy.

Chewey Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’m too lazy tonight to type the entire set of instructions, but the ingredients feature all the usual suspects, as well as some light corn syrup and white vinegar. Other than that it seems pretty standard with mixing method and baking directions.

So, this:
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Produced this:
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The verdict:
These are good. But they’re still harder than I want and not soft and poofy. They hardened up even more after the first day. They are better than the Toll House version, but I’ve got to keep looking. Bummer.

Other testers’ verdicts: Who knows, they scarfed them down so fast. Of course, these were also a bunch of single guys, so any homemade dessert would most likely have been greeted in the same fashion.