Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

It was a co-worker's birthday this past week and I used that plus the long weekend as an excuse to bake one of my favorite cakes. The recipes both come from the Barefoot Contessa - although she didn't have them paired together in her cookbook.

The pairing came about several years ago when a group of us were talking about different cake combinations. Chocolate and peanut butter wasn't a revolutionary idea but we were sold. I'd seen an episode of Barefoot Contessa where she made Beatty's Chocolate Cake - an easy cake with a chocolate frosting. I did some further searching and found her recipe for chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter icing. I don't know why I didn't just make that recipe but I've been making this combination ever since.

The real star of this cake is the frosting. It's simple to make and would elevate even a cake made with a box mix.

As you see from the pictures I'm moderately okay at cake decoration. I found a couple of candies at Trader Joe's that were perfect: the Mini Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups and the Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. The mini ones are also really cute to use on cupcakes which are also an easier alternative if you don't want to frost a layer cake. Skippy's P.B. Bites would also be a fun candy for decoration.

Beatty's Chocolate Cake

from Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten

This recipe makes a two-layer, 8" cake. I made a 6" cake instead and used the leftover batter for cupcakes.

1¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
¾ cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
½ cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee (I use espresso)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter two round cake pans. Butter the bottom of the pan, line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined.

In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Batter will be very loose and liquid.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes (about 30 minutes for the 6" cakes), until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Kathleen’s Peanut Butter Frosting (Icing)

from Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten

This recipe made enough for the cake and the cupcakes.

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter (I use Skippy Natural Peanut Butter)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
⅓ cup heavy cream

Place the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

To assemble the cake:
If the tops of the cake layers are peaked or rounded, use a serrated knife and gently level them off. If the tops of the cake layers have sunk a bit, use a little extra frosting to even them out. Place one layer right-side up on a cardboard round or a flat plate protected with strips of wax or parchment paper. Put a layer of frosting on the top of the cake, smoothing it out then invert the second cake, right-side down on top of the first.

This cake will likely require a crumb coat to seal in the crumbs before the final coat. Frost the top and sides with a thin, even layer of frosting. Don't worry if crumbs are caught in the frosting. Place the cake in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set. Do the final layer of frosting and decorate as the fancy strikes you. Place in the refrigerator to set, until ready to serve. (Remember to remove the strips of wax or parchment paper.) Enjoy!