Thursday, August 9, 2012

Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

Everyone knows that chocolate and peanut butter are a natural combination. That's why Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are such a hit candy. For this cake, which I entered in my office's summer dessert competition, I wanted a cake and frosting combination that did both flavors proud.

There are lots of complicated recipes for chocolate cakes, but for this I wanted something simple. And you can't get much simpler than Regan Daley's recipe from her dessert cookbook In the Sweet Kitchen.  No espresso, dutch process cocoa or even eggs in this batter. You may raise your eyebrows over the vinegar, but in the finished product, it's undetectable.

Finding a suitable recipe for the frosting was more challenging. I've made peanut butter frosting before and I wasn't satisfied with it. In my experience, the powdered sugar in a basic frosting overpowers the peanut butter flavor, making the frosting too sweet as well. The nice thing about this recipe (featured on the Washington Post website) is that the cream cheese gives the frosting volume but doesn't detract from the peanut butter flavor. It's by far the best peanut butter frosting I've ever had and really quite good.

Basic Chocolate Cake
Adapted from All-in-the Pan Chewy Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Butter Icing, In the Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daley

Makes two 8- or 9-inch round cakes

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa (I used Ghiradelli)
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup canola oil
2 tbsp. white vinegar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups cool water

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease two cake pans, line bottoms with parchment and flour, tapping out excess.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Make three wells in the mixture, one larger than the others. Add the oil to the large well and the vinegar and vanilla to the two smaller wells. Then pour water over the top. Stir the ingredients until thoroughly moistened but do not beat.

3. Divide batter evenly between two prepared cake pans. Bake about 30 minutes until a wooden skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Transfer pans to wire racks to cool completely. When cool, run a knife around the edge, invert cake pan and discard parchment. Frost cake.

Peanut Butter Frosting
Adapted from Mary Lee's Desserts of Vienna

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Combine the butter and cream cheese using stand or hand mixer on medium speed. Add the peanut butter and beat until very smooth (like 5 minutes or more). Add vanilla, reduce speed to low, then gradually add the powdered sugar. Beat for 2 minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy. Refrigerate until ready to use (many to need set out before frosting cake if it gets too thick in the fridge).


  1. Postscript: You won your office desert contest!

  2. Yay! Yes, I did. Thanks for reminding me about that part of it.