Though I work as a graphic designer by day (well, more like by night, but that's not the point), I also have an Associate of Science degree in Pastry Arts. I worked briefly in the food service industry, icing grocery store cakes baking bread, and plating restaurant desserts.
However, my daydreams of what it would be like to work in a bakery were slightly (aka, starkly) different from reality, which is partially why I returned to graphic design.
That being said, I still love to bake and decorate. I just prefer to bake and decorate one cake, two dozen cupcakes, or batch of cookies at a time, not 25 cakes, 200 cupcakes, or thousands of cookies (if I ever see another poinsetta-decorated cupcake again . . . ). I still make birthday cakes, bridal and baby shower cakes, cookie trays, and even the occasional wedding cake for friends and family.
When The Mister's birthday rolled around earlier this month, he said he didn't want me to feel inconvenienced and pressured to make him a cake. Silly man. I love any and all excuses to make cake. Birthday? Make a cake! Christmas? Make a cake! Arbor Day? Make a cake!
I finally got The Mister to tell me what flavor combination he wanted: chocolate and peanut butter. Which happens to be my favorite combination of sweet flavors. There was no way I was NOT making this cake!
Choosing a chocolate cake recipe to use was a no-brainer: ever since I tasted the chocolate cake at a bakery where I used to work, I've never made another chocolate cake since. It's so moist and chocolate-y. What I needed was a peanut butter filling and a chocolate icing.
I found the peanut butter filling on CakeCentral.com. After mixing it, I gave some to The Mister to taste on a scrap of cake. The verdict? "Nearly orgasmic." I'd say that's a ringing endorsement.
I chose Rose Levy Berenbaum's Classic Egg White Chocolate Buttercream from her bookbook, The Cake Bible, partly because of the description ("the color of rich milk chocolate and . . . a more assertive chocolate flavor") and partly because I had 14 egg whites in the refrigerator that I needed to use up and I wasn't in the mood for an omelet. Given the source, I had no doubt the icing would be heavenly, and I wasn't disappointed. The icing is light and airy, and very chocolate-y.
I finished the cake off with a drizzle of melted peanut butter thinned with some heavy cream. It set up almost as soon as I drizzled it onto the cake, so instead of thin drips down the sides of the cake, it dried into a lump around the top. Oh well. Still tasted good.
- Prepare two 9-inch x 1 ½-inch round chocolate layers (see recipe here). Let cool completely, then chill in the refrigerator. Prepare peanut butter filling (recipe below).
- If the cakes "domed" during baking, level them off.
- Place one cake layer, cut-side down, on a cake plate. Spread a generous layer of peanut butter filling over the cake, reaching all the way to the edge and keeping the layer even. Top with the second cake layer, cut-side down. Wipe away any peanut butter filling that squeezed out the side with the straight edge of a plastic bowl scraper.
- While cake is chilling, prepare the chocolate icing (recipe below).
- Personally, I like to crumb-coat cakes. Ice the top and sides of the cake in a thin layer of icing, trapping crumbs in the icing. Refrigerate cake until icing sets.
- Finish icing the cake in a thicker layer of icing until no cake or crumbs show through. Refrigerate the cake until icing sets.
- Decorate with piped frosting, a drizzle of melted peanut butter, or other decoration of your choice.
- ½ cup butter, softened
- ½ cup creamy peanut butter
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ½ tablespoon heavy cream
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and the peanut butter on medium-high speed.
- Add the powdered sugar, mix on low speed until mostly incorporated, then beat on medium-high speed until well-combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Mix on high speed for a minute, then add the extract. Mix again, then add the heavy cream and mix on high speed for 3 minutes, until lightened and fluffy.
- 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
- Whites of 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- Bring an inch of water in a large saucepot to a simmer. Place the chopped chocolate in a smaller bowl that can sit inside the saucepot without touching the water.
- Remove the pot from the heat, place the bowl of chocolate over the hot water and melt the chocolate, stirring frequently.
- Remove the bowl from the pot when the chocolate is almost melted, using the warmth of the melted chocolate to finish the melting. Place to the side to cool.
- In a mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy and smooth.
- In another mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar to the egg whites and continue whipping until the whites form stiff peaks.
- Beat in the butter at medium speed one heaping tablespoonful at a time. If at any time the icing looks curdled, raise the speed to medium-high and beat until the icing comes back together. Then continue adding butter.
- Once all the butter is incorporated, pour in all the chocolate at once and beat (low-speed at first, then raise speed to medium) until fully incorporated and uniform in color.
- Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 6 months. Let come to room temperature before rewhipping.