Sixty is a big birthday, and it deserves a big cake. Though my dad mainly wanted his family gathered together and would have been happy with a tub of Blue Bell or a repeat of the delicious chocolate blob my family requests all the time, I wanted him to have something special to slice into when we celebrated his birthday last month.
Once again — thank you, Deb. I picked her chocolate peanut butter cake because a) it's a combo Dad loves and b) a cake like that will always be a hit.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Handful of honey roasted peanuts or coarsely chopped peanut brittle for topping
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.
Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl and whisk to combine them. 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 three prepared cake pans.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners and let cool completely. Let the layers sit in the freezer for 30 minutes so they're easier to handle.
Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes about 5 cups
10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)
In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.
To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the 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 of frosting and stick it in the freezer for a while — 10 minutes or so. Then frost with the remaining frosting and put the whole thing back in to chill while making the glaze.
Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
8 ounces seimsweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half
In a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.
To decorate with the chocolate-peanut butter glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake and use an offset spatula to spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving.