You might have already seen this cake floating around on your Facebook feed, but I thought I’d better make it an official part of my baking life, aka this blog. But brace yourselves, this is not a story of sugary joy (it is): it’s a saga of struggle, frustration, genius, surprise and success.
Let me introduce you to my new frosting/icing technique (I’m sure it’s not original): I like to call them snow balls, or ice cream scoops. It may look wonderful (yes, thank you), but it wouldn’t be a saga without some drama! Entrée the drama:
I was commissioned to bake a birthday cake. This is a reasonably regular occurrence in my life and so I did all the usual planning: which flavour, when does it need to be delivered, how many people does it need to feed, etc. Everything was going according to plan. I baked the chocolate cake, which was now happily sitting in my freezer (for freshness purposes) ready to be defrosted and iced (that’s a funny sentence – I’ve never thought about how frosting and icing are two words distinctly related to cold and ice, yet have nothing to do with either…). I had decided on a peanut butter frosting for the cake, and had all the ingredients ready to make it. I hadn’t finalised the decoration, but I generally do this last-minutes anyway, so no big deal, I was ready to go!
And the day arrived. The cake was nicely defrosted, and I began to make the frosting. It was going well – I even pulled out a recipe for the frosting so that I wouldn’t mess it up (as I have a habit of doing). So there I am, beating butter, adding icing sugar and peanut butter when… I stopped following the recipe. Classic Emma. I mean, let’s be honest, my (fake, completely non-existent) baking mantra includes something about not following recipes, but normally it works! Not this time. The frosting was so incredibly irredeemable! It had become this completely inflexible but oily mess. No amount of milk would soften this frosting and no amount of icing sugar would soak up all the oil! I didn’t have much time to fix this situation, either.
I kept trying, used all the tricks I could think of, but nothing worked. But then came crunch time: I had about 30 minutes to ice this cake and make it look somewhat decent, and all I had was (wonderfully tasty) peanut butter frosting that was so resistant to manipulation I couldn’t do anything with it. It just sat in a pile on top of the cake like a stubborn 2 year old tantrumming on the floor, refusing to do anything but make your life difficult.
So I had to get creative, and if you know me, you know that this is not my strong suit, my métier, my bag. It is none of these! I’m awful at it (But, hello, you’re a baker? Yep, conundrum indeed. And I will offer you no explanation, because there is none). But then something amazing happened: I had a good, creative idea (no really, it actually happened)!
And so, stuck with this completely obstinate mixture that would not spread even under the greatest pressure, I began scooping snow balls of frosting (yes, with an ice cream scoop because, hello, authenticity). And if I say so myself (and I do, I very much do), it looked great. And so, instead of struggling with petulant frosting, I made history (in a very small, only-in-the-life-of-Emma-is-this-at-all-significant way). And it turned out to be a pretty decent cake – I could pick at least 6 holes in this cake if I wanted to, but I think after all the drama of the last 5 minutes you spent reading this blog post, I’m just going to let it go and say this: the drama was intense – it was stressful and there was a lot of tea required to remedy the situation. But I love cakes, and I love baking and so I embrace the baking drama – because, unlike real drama, it never ends too badly and no one ever gets hurt (unless you’re in the kitchen with me when I lose it – but graciously, that doesn’t happen too often and most people don’t hang around long when I bake anyway…). So go on, bake something brilliant, and embrace the baking drama.
Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake
Serves 10-20 people | Allow 1.5 hours
For the cake
250g unsalted butter
200g dark chocolate
100g plain flour
200g self-raising flour
For the frosting
200g unsalted butter
1 cup smooth peanut butter
3-4 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup milk
- Line two 20-22cm cake tins with baking paper, set aside. Pre-heat oven to 160C fan-forced.
- Make the cake: combine butter, chocolate, sugar and water in a large saucepan over low heat, stirring until the butter and chocolate have melted and you have a smooth consistency. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
- Whisk eggs lightly and add to the chocolate mixture with the milk. Whisk until well-combined.
- Add flours and cocoa and whisk again until smooth and pour into lined tins. Bake for 30-40 minutes – check that the cakes are cooked with a skewer. There should still be a bit of moist crumb on the skewer when it’s done. Set aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, make the frosting: beat the butter and peanut butter in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy and smooth.
- Gradually add the icing sugar and beat on a low speed until you have a thick consistency.
- Add a bit of the milk and beat on medium speed until the frosting becomes a bit more pliable – you should be able to ice the cake easily enough without the frosting dripping off it and spreading too much. If the mixture is too soft, add more icing sugar; if the mixture is too stiff, add more milk.
- Once the cake has fully cooled, scoop balls of frosting onto one of the cakes to sandwich the two cakes together. Repeat for the top of the cake and finish with other bits and bobs of chocolate and lollies. (Or just ice the cake as you usually would!).