Thursday, April 25, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter Buttermilk Cake

We celebrated Cheryl's birthday at the Wednesday Community Meal.

Cheryl who is my dear friend and fellow pantry volunteer loves the combination of peanut butter and chocolate.

For the last couple of years to celebrate her birthday I've made a chocolate cake with peanut butter filling and chocolate buttercream. But this year, I wanted to surprise her with something different.

I thought a peanut butter filling with chocolate ganache and crushed peanuts would be the way to go and taste like a "Reese's Peanut Butter Cup" in between layers of cake. To compliment the richness of the filling, I decided to make a classic yellow buttermilk cake and a not too sweet dark chocolate buttercream.

The four-layer cake was a definite hit with Cheryl and the other Wednesday Community Meal volunteers. 

Here's how to make it:

Note: Make the base for the buttercream the night before you want to make the cake. The base needs to cool covered at room temperature before you add the butter.

Classic Yellow Cake
(makes four layers)
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
6 eggs plus 3 egg yolks, room temperature
1 1/2  tablespoons vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2  tablespoons baking powder
3/4  teaspoon salt
2 3/4  cups buttermilk, room temperature

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on high until light and fluffy, about 6 minutes.

Beat in the eggs plus egg yolks, one at a time, until combined. Beat in vanilla.

In another large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. With mixer on low, add a third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating to combine. Beat in half of the buttermilk, another third of the flour mixture, the remaining buttermilk, and remaining flour mixture until just combined. Scrape down the bowl as needed.

Divide the batter among four greased and parchment lined 9-inch round cake pans. If you have only two cake pans, that's okay. Just cover the remaining half of batter with plastic wrap and bake the cakes in batches.

Bake the cakes for 20 to 25 minutes in a 350 degree oven or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the cakes cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes before inverting them onto cooling racks. 

Peanut Butter Filling
1 1/2 cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky)
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/3 cup milk

In a mixing bowl, whip peanut butter and butter together. Add vanilla and powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Finally add milk and beat just until the filling comes together and is spreadable. Don't over beat.

Dark Chocolate Ganache
12 ounces dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1 cup heavy cream

Place chocolate in a large bowl. Heat the heavy cream in a small pan over medium high heat until it comes to a boil.

Remove the cream from the heat and immediately pour it over the chocolate.

Stir the chocolate until it is completely melted and smooth and glossy. Let the ganache set at room temperature until it thickens up a bit and is spreadable. This takes about 20 minutes.

Dark Chocolate Buttercream
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla
1/4 cup dark chocolate ganache (see recipe above)
2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature

In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the milk and half of the sugar until simmering.
In the meantime, in a small bowl combine the cream, half of the sugar and cornstarch. Mix well with a whisk.

When the milk is simmering,  pour about half of it into the cream mixture and whisk well. Add it back to the milk in the saucepan and heat, stirring constantly until the mixture becomes very thick.

Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla. Put the mixture into a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the mixture cool completely.

When the mixture is cool, transfer it to a mixer and whip it on high speed until it is smooth, scraping down the sides every so often. Add the ganache and whip again.

Finally add the butter a few tablespoons at a time and whip until light and fluffy.

Peanut Topping
1 cup dry roasted unsalted peanuts
pinch sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the peanuts in a small baking dish and bake for 5 to 7 minutes until you can smell the aroma of the nuts and they have browned a bit. Sprinkle them with a pinch of sea salt.

To Assemble: 
Add 1/3 of the peanut butter filling to the cake.

Add 1/3 of the cooled ganache on top of the peanut butter filling.

Sprinkle 1/3 of the peanuts on top of the ganache.

Add another layer of cake and repeat.

Add another layer and use up the remaining filling, ganache and peanuts to top it.

Add  your final cake layer.

Starting at the top of your cake, add the buttercream and work it down over the sides. A spinning cake stand makes this step so much easier.

Decorate as desired. I like to take my frosting spreader and pull it up the sides of the cake for a striped effect.

Another nice touch is added with a bit of frosting in a piping bag and a star tip.

A bit of decoration on the top looks nice.
Add some shaved dark chocolate and dollops of icing in the center and all this cake needs is a birthday candle.

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