Bon Appétit (January 2009)
Last Sunday morning, Clay woke up, took one look at the dreary, cold clouds outside and said, "Let's make a big ol' nasty chocolate cake today!"
We'd been wanting an excuse to bake this chocolate cake ever since the January Bon Appétit arrived. Seriously, this is one of those recipes whose name just gets more mouthwatering the longer you read: chocolate cake...[mmm]...with chocolate-peanut butter frosting...[yes!]...and peanut butter brittle...[ding!ding!ding!ding!].
It seemed like the perfect day for a big ol' nasty chocolate cake.
We were right -- but things were about to get nastier than we'd bargained for.
Let's jump right to the heart of the story, here. Our cake...didn't work. It was, as the kids on the Internets say, an EPIC FAIL. Or at least it was one heckuva mess.
We don't know what the problem was, exactly -- the cake layers seemed to rise appropriately. We let them cool completely before layering and frosting them.
But the cake...fell apart. Bon Appétit makes a big deal about how this recipe contains no eggs (which, whatever, that's fine with us). Maybe that contributed to the cake's inability to stay in one piece?
At any rate, here's what happened: After we frosted the cake, the top layer began to split and slide apart. At first, it was just a hairline fissure. "No problem," we thought. "We'll just cover it with more frosting!"
But the cake kept disintegrating.
As evidence, please enjoy these photos. They cover about a two-hour span starting once we were finished with the cake. And yes -- all these photos are from before we ever cut into the cake.
As you can see, by the time we were ready to eat the cake, it was a big, sloppy disaster.
The taste? Heavenly. The texture? Amazingly moist and delicious. The chocolate and peanut butter combination is really fantastic in this dessert, and the crunchy peanut brittle was fun to make and threw a great, unexpected crunch into the mix.
No doubt about it, this is one heavyweight cake. It hits all the comfort-food notes exactly right -- the perfect nasty dessert to tuck in to on a rainy Sunday evening.
We just served it in bowls, dug in with spoons and called it a bread pudding!
Chocolate Cake with Milk Chocolate-Peanut Butter Frosting and Peanut Butter Brittle
(This photo: Bon Appétit)
8 to 10 servings
* Vegetable oil
* 1 cup sugar
* 1/2 cup light corn syrup
* 1/4 cup water
* 1 cup chopped lightly salted dry-roasted peanuts
* 1 teaspoon creamy (smooth) natural peanut butter (made with only peanuts and salt)*
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
* Nonstick vegetable oil spray
* 3 cups all purpose flour
* 2 cups sugar
* 2/3 cup sifted natural unsweetened cocoa powder (sifted, then measured)
* 2 teaspoons baking soda
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 2 cups water
* 2/3 cup vegetable oil
* 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
FILLING AND FROSTING
* 4 oz imported milk chocolate, chopped
* 5 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
* 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
* 1 1/2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
* 3/4 cup creamy (smooth) natural peanut butter (made with only peanuts and salt)*
* 3/4 cup chilled mascarpone cheese**
Line large rimmed baking sheet with foil; brush with oil. Bring sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water to boil in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil without stirring until syrup is deep amber, swirling pan occasionally, about 10 minutes. Immediately stir in peanuts and all remaining ingredients. Scrape out mixture onto prepared sheet; spread out to about 13x9-inch rectangle. Cool completely. Coarsely chop enough brittle to measure 1 cup and finely chop enough to measure 1/2 cup. DO AHEAD Can be made 3 days ahead. Store in separate airtight containers at room temperature.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides with nonstick spray. Line pan bottoms with parchment paper. Sift flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into large bowl. Whisk 2 cups water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla in medium bowl to blend. Gradually add water mixture to dry ingredients, whisking until batter is smooth. Divide batter between prepared pans (scant 3 cups each).
Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out with a few crumbs still attached, about 28 minutes. Cool cakes in pans 15 minutes. Cut around cakes and turn out onto racks. Peel off parchment and cool.
FILLING AND FROSTING
Place chocolate in medium bowl. Bring 5 tablespoons cream just to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Pour cream over chocolate; whisk until melted and smooth. Let stand until thick enough to spread, whisking occasionally, about 30 minutes.
Beat powdered sugar, 1 1/2 cups chilled cream, and peanut butter in large bowl just until blended. Add mascarpone; beat frosting just until thickened (do not overbeat).
Place 1 cake layer, flat side up, on platter. Spread milk chocolate filling evenly over; sprinkle with 1/2 cup finely chopped peanut brittle. Spread with 1 cup frosting. Top with second cake layer, flat side down. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Cover with cake dome and chill 1 hour. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature 2 hours before continuing.
Sprinkle 1 cup coarsely chopped brittle over top of cake and serve.
WHICH PEANUT BUTTER TO USE:
For this recipe, we used creamy (smooth) all-natural peanut butter. To make sure you're buying the right stuff, check the label. There should be only two ingredients: peanuts and salt. This style of peanut butter may have a layer of oil (from the peanuts) on top. If it does, chill the jar for a few hours, then slowly mix until smooth. Don't use freshly ground peanut butter: It can have inconsistent flavor and texture.
**An Italian cream cheese; sold at many supermarkets and at Italian markets.