Life is Great

The Delicious Appreciations of Pick Yin

Not exactly predictable.
Has enough brains for codes
(but can be completely clueless on other more important matters).
Likes her Joe (and her man?) black, her chocolate dark and her food spicy.
“Quam bene vivas refert, non quam diu.” — Seneca

Total Posts   185      Last Updated   25 June 2014 9:15 AM (GMT +8)

Monday, November 11, 2013


Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake



Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

It seems like it was only yesterday we shared the Generra cake with lovely friends and the family from a cafe which is no longer.

Alas, it has been a year since and the man's birthday again demanded something from my own hands. After a 23-day work marathon, I really wanted to just sit down and put up my legs. The dirty kitchen floor made things even less promising (when will someone invent a self-cleaning house?).

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

But there would be cake for two reasons - he made me brownies for my birthday, and there's this thing I've always wanted to make; one that calls for chocolate, cheese, and peanut butter. This annoying American recipe from a book on my shelf measuring peanut butter in cups and leaving me with almost a full block of cream cheese since one is not enough. The one redeeming feature it holds is the one-bowl mixing method, at least the washing up bit would be in a jiffy.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Or so I thought. In my years of baking, nothing prepared me for what took place the day I put this cake together. Shall we proceed the script? (It helps if you picture me in a hot kitchen with dirty floor and had next-to-zero energy left after working non-stop for 3 weeks.)

Had a quick breakfast, packed lunch while bringing cream cheese and butter to room temperature.
Prepared peanut butter frosting, crumb coated cake, chilled cake, made ganache, frosted cake.
Hungry but couldn't eat before finishing everything, began vacuuming floor (did I mention it was dirty?) and dusting off inches of soot from various surfaces, an aftermath due to 3 weeks of no cleaning.
Cake and ganache at the right temperature to glaze, but continued vacuuming - read: OCD in the works.
Finished vacuuming, heart at peace. Proceeded to glaze cake. Peanut butter frosting too cold, ganache refused to drip nicely (with drama) over cake.
Heart no longer at peace, began fiddling with the ganache, making things worse.
Heart almost beating out of chest, ganache slowly starting to set while peanut butter frosting gradually softening.
Stood in front of an ugly cake, toyed with the idea of dumping it and starting all over - impossible since it was then pass 2 PM, I had less then 8 hours and not enough ingredients to make more frosting.
Almost died inside. Began swearing to self.
An idea came - cover the whole thing with the ganache. But it was setting. Each swipe with the palette made things worse. Some parts with cracking. Didn't have enough chocolate to make more ganache.
Remembered watching a video somewhere on frosting with ganache. Turned on the stove and heat up palette knife.
Slowly coaxed ganache around the cake, smoothing all the cracked and set areas.
After what seemed like a lifetime, the cake looked half decent. Heart starts to beat again. Chocolate everywhere.
Chilled cake, began mopping the house to achieve some level of zen.
Contemplating the now required yet unplanned garnish. Only had leftover chocolate covered espresso beans. Counted them, had just enough. Thanked God.
Decorated cake, noticed some returning cracks and bulging areas as the peanut butter frosting softened during the rescue mission.
Heaved a sigh of disappointment, began thinking of how to explain an ugly birthday cake to the man.
Took a shower to clear the head, then remembered the bottle of cacao nibs hidden in the pantry.
Lined the bottom and cracked areas with cacao nibs, cake now looked as if it was intended to be such.
Put cake back into the fridge and prayed.
Packed lunch became packed dinner, but cake now looked nothing like the wreck it was before. Thanked God and continued to breathe again.


Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

A baker's heart is what I have.

Needless to say, Vijay was quite amused when I spilled the beans over late night coffee; after brunch at our favorite place with pretty much the same family followed by a superb birthday dinner. "Now you know how I felt when I baked those brownies for you!" he said. A baker's heart is what he has too, I suspect. Our similarities stops here though, my OCD and perfectionism will not allow us to work in the kitchen without me driving him up the wall.

Now, did you get the moral of the story yet? No? Never do house chores while finishing up a birthday cake. Ever. Even if dirty floors 'kill' you, better you 'die' than the cake.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Cake and peanut butter frosting recipes adapted barely from Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne's Sky High: Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes, first seen at Deb Perelman's Smitten Kitchen. Ganache recipe from this cake. Last photo in post modified from the original by Bake, Anything.

Yield: One 8-inch triple-layer cake; serves 12 to 16 according to the book. Peanut butter frosting yields about 5 cups, ganache makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Note: The sugar for the cake can be reduced to 2 (or dare I even say 1 3/4) cups. The next time I would try adding some salt to the peanut butter frosting. If you're a peanut butter fan, make the glaze from the original recipe (essentially a ganache, the fat content balanced between the peanut butter and half-and-half). The PB-less ganache recipe is halved for this cake, it is sufficient to cover it whole with a thin layer or simply pourover for the drip effect. I'm a firm believer of using coffee to highlighy the chocolate in baking, the next attempt may include instant coffee in the cake batter or the ganache.

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process (I used Valrhona)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup neutral vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
Peanut Butter Frosting:
  • 10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 stick/4 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 5 cups confectioners’/icing sugar, sifted
  • 2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)
Ganache Frosting/Glaze:
  • 8 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate (I used Valrhona Araguani 72% feves)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1/4 stick/1/8 cup/28 grams unsalted butter


Bake the cake layers: Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment paper and butter the paper.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, peel off the parchment, and let cool completely. Cling wrap each layer and chill overnight or triple wrap and freeze for 1 to 2 hours.

Make the peanut butter frosting: When the cake is ready to be assembled, prepare the frosting. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the icing sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended. (Do this bit swiftly, since the peanut butter is oily, it's possible to overbeat and split the mixture.)

Assemble the cake: To assemble the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand, cake board or large serving plate. Spread about 2/3 cups of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with a thin layer frosting. This is the crumb coat. Chill cake for 15 to 30 minutes until firm. Meanwhile, prepare the ganache.

Make the ganache: Finely chop the chocolate (if not using feves). In a 1 1/2- to 2-quart saucepan bring cream, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil over moderately low heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from heat and add in the chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted. Add in the butter, whisk until smooth. Let cool on the counter while resuming with the cake frosting.

Assemble the cake: To assemble the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand, cake board or large serving plate. Spread about 2/3 cups of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with a thin layer frosting. This is the crumb coat. Chill cake for 15 to 30 minutes until firm. Meanwhile, prepare the ganache.

Complete the cake assembly: Once the crumb coat is set, remove the cake from the fridge and use the remainder of the frosting to create a smooth final coating. Chill the cake again to let it firm up, about 15 to 20 minutes. To glaze the cake with the drip effect, pour the ganache over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, immediately spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Alternatively, you can cover the whole cake with the ganache - to do this, work quickly with a heated offset spatula as the ganache may set against the cool peanut butter frosting. Decorate the top with garnishes of your choice (I used chocolate covered espresso beans).

Refrigerate the cake, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about at least 1 hour before serving.




7 Comments on Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

This cake looks yummy, if I just use the Peanut Butter frosting will the cake require the fridge. Thanks for sharing

Posted by Blogger Leana, at Nov 12, 2013, 3:03:00 AM  

Leena: The (cream cheese) peanut butter frosting doesn't hold well in hot and humid weather. It has to be set in the fridge will firm, then remove for about 1-2 hours before serving. In an air conditioned environment, the cake will hold well for a few hours.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Nov 12, 2013, 10:33:00 AM  

Thank you for getting back to me.

Posted by Blogger Leana, at Nov 13, 2013, 6:31:00 AM  

Cake looks gorgeous pickyin. I have a weakness for peanut butter so you got me at the title alone. STUNNING STUNNING photos.

Posted by Blogger Shu Han, at Nov 16, 2013, 12:16:00 AM  

Hi pick yin, can I reduce the icing sugar for the peanut butter frosting? It asked for 5 cups can I reduce to 2 cups? Thanks :)

Posted by Blogger D Vanille, at Aug 31, 2014, 10:00:00 AM  

D Vanille: You can attempt it but the frosting will not hold as well. 3 1/2 cups is better, it's not very sweet.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Sep 1, 2014, 9:16:00 AM  

Thank you pickyin :)

I tried this recipe last weekend and it's very delicious! Thanks a lot..

*love reading your blog.. Always the best..

Posted by Blogger D Vanille, at Sep 10, 2014, 10:36:00 PM  


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