In the midst of all the New Year’s resolutions to be healthy, to get fit and to generally be a better person, I made a cake. And not just any cake, a decadent cake filled with delicious butter, creamy peanut butter and chocolate, both dark and white. I mean, if you’re going to make a cake, might as well make it really worth eating, right?
I made this tower of indulgence* for my friend’s birthday party this past weekend. She’s a bit of a foodie herself, as well as being quite a talented cook, so I wanted to make sure I made her something really fabulous. So I pondered…she’d had a chocolate cake with her family, so that was off the books. I thought about fruity cakes, but it’s winter and I wasn’t really feeling those either. Then I started toying with the idea of peanut butter. Peanut butter can be a tricky flavor, as it can quickly overwhelm everything else. It also tends to get paired almost exclusively with chocolate, which often feels super heavy to me. It’s kind of like ice cream: to me, chocolate peanut butter ice cream is tasty, but I can only eat a bite or two because it’s so rich. However, vanilla ice cream with a peanut butter swirl? I love it. I think the two flavors complement each other out well, tending towards a lovely, balanced dessert.
So, yellow cake and peanut butter buttercream it was. I threw on the chocolate ganache to placate those obsessive chocolate folks. Plus, it’s super pretty.
So let’s talk about the actual cake part for a minute. I used the Golden Luxury Butter Cake recipe from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Wow. If you think yellow cake is boring, then I dare you to try this one. It’s incredibly good. It also uses melted white chocolate in the batter, because cocoa butter melts faster than normal butter at body temperature so it feels like the cake is just melting in your mouth.
I pretty much learned how to make swiss meringue buttercream from the blog Sweetapolita. Rosie, the author, has created a fantastic tutorial on the subject and I used her recipe as a base for the frosting.
*I use the term, tower of indulgence, because the cake was gorgeous and tall and everything. The cake in the pictures is a mini cake I made on the side so I would have something to slice and photograph.
- Yellow Cake
- 8 oz White Chocolate, melted and cooled
- 8 large Egg Yolks
- 1⅓ C Milk
- 2 tsp Vanilla
- 2 C sifted Cake or Lily White Flour
- 1½ C + 1 Tbsp Sugar
- scant 2 Tbsp Baking Powder
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1½ C Butter, very soft and cut into pieces
- Peanut Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- 10 large Egg Whites
- 2½ C Sugar
- 3 C Butter, room temperature and cut into tablespoon size pieces
- 4 tsp Vanilla
- pinch of Salt
- Approx 10 oz smooth Peanut Butter (I used Jiff Natural Creamy Peanut Butter)
- Chocolate Ganache
- 4 oz Bittersweet Chocolate
- 4 oz Semi-Sweet Chocolate
- 1 Tbsp Light Corn Syrup
- 6 Tbsp Butter
- ½ C Cream
- Yellow Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350° F. Prep two 9” x 2” round baking pans by lining the bottoms with parchment paper and then greasing and flouring the pan or spraying with a non-stick baking spray, such as Baker’s Joy.
- In a medium bowl or large measuring cup, combine the egg yolks, ⅓ cup of milk and the vanilla.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Briefly mix with the paddle attachment to make sure all the dry ingredients are evenly distributed.
- Add the butter and remaining cup of milk to the dry ingredients. Beat on low until the liquid is incorporated into the dry ingredients and then beat on medium for an additional 90 seconds.
- Add the remaining wet ingredients (the egg yolk/milk mixture) to the mixer bowl in three batches, briefly beating the batter and scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition.
- Lastly, beat in the melted white chocolate until just combined.
- Pour the batter into the waiting baking pans, distributing the batter evenly between them and then bake in the center of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes. When they are finished, a tester inserted into the middle should come out clean, but the edge of the cake should not yet be pulling away from the sides of the pan.
- Remove the cake from the oven and let them rest on a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning them out to cool completely. When you turn the cakes out of the pan, set them on the rack so that the bottom of the cake is resting on the rack.
- When the cake has cooled, wrap it in plastic wrap and let it chill in the refrigerator. The cake is delicate and it is easier to work with when cold.
- Peanut Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- Wipe all your bowls and utensils with lemon juice before starting to remove any residues that may be lurking.
- Heat the egg whites and sugar in the top of a double boiler, whisking gently until the sugar dissolves and the eggs reach 160° F.
- Pour the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing the speed to medium, beat the egg whites until thick and glossy and the whites form stiff peaks. This is your meringue.
- At this point, start adding the butter, a few pieces at a time. The meringue will start to deflate as you add the butter and may start looking sad and cottage cheese-ish/curdled. Don’t panic. This is normal. Keep beating the frosting and keep the faith. It will thicken and pull together eventually. If your kitchen is very warm, you may need to put the bowl in the refrigerator for a few minutes to help it firm up a bit.
- When the frosting comes together and is nice and thick and fluffy, add the vanilla and salt. Add the peanut butter several tablespoons at a time, tasting as you go, until you reach your preferred level of peanut buttery flavor.
- Remove the cake from the refrigerator and, if necessary, slice off the very top of the cake to make it level. Then slice each piece in half to make a total of four layers.
- Dab a bit of the frosting on your cake plate or cake board and set the first layer of cake on that. Then spread frosting over the top of that layer and set the second layer over that. Repeat with the remaining cake layers.
- When all the cake layers are assembled, spread a thin layer of frosting over the entire cake and put the cake in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to chill. This is the crumb layer and will have another layer of frosting covering it, so don’t worry about making it perfect.
- Once the cake has chilled, spread another, thicker, layer of frosting over the entire cake and return the cake to the refrigerator to chill while you make the ganache.
- Add all the ingredients to the top of a double boiler, gently stirring until all the ingredients come together into a smooth sauce.
- Remove the cake from the refrigerator and pour a little of the ganache on the top of the cake. Using an offset spatula, gently encourage the ganache to spread to the edge of the cake without spilling over the side. Spillage isn’t a crisis, just do your best.
- Return the cake to the fridge for 5 minutes, then take it out and pour more of the ganache over the cake. This time, when spreading the ganache over the top of the cake, encourage it to drip down over the sides. You probably will not need all of the ganache that you made, so go ahead and drizzle the leftover over some ice cream and enjoy.
- Let the cake sit in a cool spot of the house until the ganache sets up before serving. If you want to garnish the cake further, press some malt balls around the edge of the cake while the ganache is still soft.
2. Check the ingredients in your white chocolate to make sure that it contains cocoa butter. Most white chocolate chips contain no cocoa butter, which defeats the purpose of having white chocolate in the cake.