Birthdays are, if nothing else, an excellent excuse to stuff yourself with an absurd amount of cake.
Of course this isn’t constricted to your own special day – though I implore people to eat a damn good amount of cake when that rolls around too! So when one of my best friend’s birthdays cropped up I took it as an excuse to do something a little bit naughty in the kitchen.
Naughty in the way only three rich, fudgy chocolate sponge layers jammed together by a truly ridiculous cream cheese and peanut butter frosting, then drenched in a intense peanut butter laced ganache, can be.
I mean… come on…
It is easily the sexiest thing I’ve had in my kitchen recently.
Obviously things can never be all smooth frosting and sinfully glossy ganache in the kitchen, something alway has to go tits up… in my case it was the third and final chocolate layer, which stubbornly stuck to its tin and in my efforts to remove it crumbled into pieces. Welp.
Of course in true fairy tale fashion things all ended up for the better… instead of being rational and diminishing my dream of a 3 layered extravaganza to a more humble 2 layers I just decided to bake up a third chocolate cake.
Having struggled with how delicate the first two layers were I decided to try a different recipe, which resulted in a slightly thicker (and much sturdier) third layer. This allowed me to feel slightly more confident about my cake’s structure but keep the decadent moistness of the top two layers.
I’ve included both recipes for the cake layers below, though I highly doubt anyone would actively WANT to try two different recipes for one cake… word of warning however, when I said delicate I meant it, these layers are seriously delicate, its best to wrap and chill them overnight before assembling the cake.
Without further adieu here is the recipe which I found on District Kitchenette, whose post I totally recommend you check out because not only are her photos much prettier than mine but her intricate buttercream flower details are obviously superior to my haphazard scrawl. The recipe is originally from Sky High Cakes, a cook book I desperately want to get my hands on (early birthday present? anyone?)
Now I know this cake seems like a lot of work, and it does span across two days… but believe me when I say its worth it. It really is the most decadent, ridiculous cake… my only regret is that after taking it to the pub it was devoured before I got to snap any pictures of the inside.
Chocolate Sour Cream Cake from Sky High (makes enough for three 8 inch layers)
2 cups (250g) all purpose flour
2 1/2 (500g) cups sugar
3/4 cup (90g) unsweetened cocoa powder (use a good quality one please, I use this brand from Cadbury)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (200g) neutral vegetable oil
1 cup (230g) sour cream
1 1/2 cups (375ml) water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar (I used lemon juice)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Improvised third layer (makes enough for one slightly thicker 8 inch layer)
1 cup (125g) flour
1 cup (200g) sugar
1/2 cup (60g) cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
½ cup (115g) sour cream
½ cup (110g) vegetable oil
¼ cup (65ml) water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat your over to 180 degrees Celsius (or 180 Fahrenheit) and line/grease 3 8″ loose bottomed tins (this is the recommendation across sites I’ve seen that have posted variations of this recipe, but the most luck I had was with a silicone cake round). I cannot stress how important greasing and lining your tins will be, these layers are tricky little bastards to get out.
2. This is such a simple recipe – it’s all done in one large bowl which makes clean up a delightfully easy job! Sift all your dry ingredients together in a bowl (flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt) and whisk to make sure they are well combined.
3. Add your sour cream and oil to the dry ingredients, beat until fully combined, then slowly beat in your water before adding the vanilla and lemon juice (or vinegar). Finally beat in the 2 eggs, making sure everything is really well combined.
4. Divide into your 3 cake tins and bake for 25-30 minutes (this is really a rough estimate… I would check at around 25 and insert a skewer, taking them out when it comes out clean). You are leaving these to cool for around 20 minutes in the tin so they will continue to cook a little bit once out of the over, after letting them cool invert onto a wire wrack and let them cool completely before wrapping them and storing them in the fridge over night.
** I let them chill in the fridge for around 3 hours, then filled and crumb coated my cake leaving that in the fridge over night… but really I would recommend letting the layers chill for at least 10 hours, especially if you’re not going to be mad like me and have a sturdier bottom layer.
Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting:
10 oz (280g) cream cheese, at room temperature
4 oz (110g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups (600g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted – I definitely didn’t use this amount because the cake layers are plenty sweet/rich
3/4 cup (190g) smooth peanut butter (I used all natural peanut butter)
1. Dead simple, thoroughly combine the cream cheese, peanut butter and unsalted butter, then slowly incorporate the icing sugar (I use an electric beater because I am lazy but its very achievable by hand if all your ingredients are at room temperature)
2. Though if we’re being 100% honest I barely looked at the measurements for this, just kept adding and playing until I liked the taste (I ended up making an additional batch of frosting to fully cover the cake… as I was unduly heavy handed with filling the layers and my crumb coat. Having run out of cream cheese I made a regular peanut butter frosting, using Brown Eyed Baker’s recipe replacing the heavy cream for milk…. I would literally eat this stuff on anything, some of my deepest and darkest fantasies involve it smeared on certain celebrities. Well then.)
Chocolate Peanut Butter Ganache:
8 oz (230g) chopped semisweet chocolate
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter (Once again used all nature, WholeEarth to be exact)
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1/2 cup (118ml) half and half (I used whole milk)
1. Heat the whole milk until just below its boiling point and pour over the chopped chocolate.
2. Leave to sit for a minute or so then whisk to incorporate, add the peanut butter and corn syrup, whisk until fully combined and let cool just a touch before pouring on the cake.
*Make you’re ganache after the cake is fully assembled and happily chilling in the fridge, the slightly cold cake is what sets the ganache more quickly so it doesn’t run all over the place!