Last weekend I made a chocolate peanut butter cake. (then I made another one this weekend…) To me, this is ultimate indulgence – like if I really want something amazingly sweet and rich, I head straight for any combination of chocolate and peanut butter. I sometimes even make my own peanut butter TimTams (but no, I don’t make them from scratch – I just slice them open and stuff them with peanut butter!!)
So this cake was really fun and exciting! One thing about flavour combinations is that they can be tricky. Whilst chocolate and peanut butter might be an amazing combination of sweetness and saltiness in its crudest form, it can be difficult to transpose this amazingness into a cake. I know it sounds silly because cake is generally tasty, and it seems like you can’t go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate – but you can!! If the chocolate cake is too dry or not chocolatey enough, then the peanut butter won’t shine, but will instead be too overpowering. I think the ideal combination is a moist, rich but not overwhelming chocolate cake, with a sweet, soft peanut butter buttercream. You may disagree. That is totally fine! Something I love about baking is the different ways we taste things. I will sometimes bake things that I don’t particularly love, because I know other people do.
So this cake was almost ideal. I needed to feed about 15 people, so I wanted to make it larger than just 20cm! So I chose a recipe that used a 23cm tin – excellent! I love when I don’t have to make the recipe as I go! In saying that however, I did tweak the recipe, for better or worse, I’m not quite sure, but it was pretty tasty. So I’d happily make it again! Here it is:
Devil’s Food Cake
From Bake by the Australian Women’s Weekly
385g (1 3/4) castor sugar
225g (1 1/2 cups) self-raising flour
75g (1/2 cup) plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
70g (2/3 cup) cocoa powder
3 tsp instant coffee
(1/2 tsp red food colouring)
125ml (1/2 cup) water
125ml (1/2 cup) milk
- Preheat oven to 180C or 160C fan-forced. Line a 23cm cake tin.
- Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Fold in sifted flours, soda, cocoa and coffee dissolved in the water. Then add colouring (if using) and milk.
- Pour mixture into pans and bake for around 40 minutes. Cool on wire racks.
So I didn’t use the food colouring, and I also didn’t cream the butter and sugar – I melted the butter and added the sugar. That would have made a difference in the texture of the cake, perhaps to make it drier. But from what I could tell, the picture in the book makes the cake look fairly crumbly and not very moist. So I’m not really sure. I think that melting rather than creaming actually made it denser!
Now. The cake is done, perfectly cooked, looks great! But, the important part has only just begun…the decoration.
I always find the decoration tough – I know that sounds silly, but unless I’m given instructions, I have a really hard time being creative! And if I do have an idea, it rarely looks as good in reality as it does in my head! But there was a good cake at stake! So I pressed on.
I made a chocolate buttercream frosting. Buttercream is super easy and is nothing to be afraid of! Basically, you beat butter and add icing sugar and a tiny bit of milk until you’re happy with the consistency. If you want to use colour or flavour, make sure you add it before you’ve found the perfect consistency, because even though it’s just a bit of liquid, it can make a huge difference in the consistency of the buttercream. The ideal consistency is soft and pillowy. It needs to be soft enough to spread easily over a cake, but not sloppy! If it’s sloppy it won’t hold its shape and will slide all around and off the cake, leaving it looking like a sad little unwanted thing, even if it still tastes good!
So, that’s ready to go. Then I made peanut butter buttercream:
Peanut Butter Buttercream
30g soft butter
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
Probably about 2 cups of icing sugar. But I didn’t measure, so I’m not sure…
- Cream butter and add the peanut butter. Then add the icing sugar, bit by bit. Same as before – just aim for a consistency that you like – preferably smooth and spreadable.
Now. Slice the cake in two, to make two layers of cake. My favourite way to do this is using a breadknife. Mark a line all around the cake, where you want to create the layers. Then, going slowly and gently so as not to destroy the cake, work your way around the cake, slicing into it along the line. Then lift off the top layer (best to do this with a tray or the bottom of a spring form tin to support it!) and leave it to the side for a minute. I know it sounds shoddy, but it works for me every time! Just make sure you keep the knife flat!
Now that that’s done, fill with peanut butter buttercream! The easiest way to do this is just to plonk all of the frosting on the bottom half of the cake and spread it slowly in large circular motions from the centre towards the outside of the cake with an off-set palette knife. Like this:
If the frosting gets a bit tricky to manoeuvre, then grab a mug of hot water and dip the end of the palette knife in – this will temporarily soften the frosting, which makes it much easier to spread, and the water won’t affect the texture or flavour or anything. But it’s probably best to shake off any excess water – the most important thing is that the palette knife is hot! Depending on the type of decoration you want, you may want to save some of this buttercream for the top of the cake.
So, once that’s done whack the top layer on top of the peanut-butter-frosting-covered-bottom-layer-of-cake. Preferably neatly and gently. It’s generally best to do this be slowly manoeuvring the cake off the tray you placed it on earlier, sitting it on the bottom layer of cake.
Then you can frost the whole thing! Again, the off-set palette knife is the best tool for the job! Start on the side of the cake, by placing a fairly large blob of frosting near the top of the cake. Then, working slowly and carefully, move the frosting around the side of the cake with the palette knife. It’s best to get as much of the cake covered, then you can work on the edging details. So, now move to the top of the cake, again with a large glob of frosting – you generally use more frosting than you think! Work with the palette knife, just like the peanut butter buttercream, moving the frosting out from the centre of the cake towards the edges. Then once the top is covered work your way around the edges of the cake making it look awesome! And by that I mean make the edges look sharp and clean.
Now for the really fun part! Decoration time. This is where you can really go all out, or sit and stare at the cake you’ve just made for at least half an hour trying to figure out how to make it look as good as it tastes without going to the shops, like me.
Here’s some inspiration: