Think you can’t make a specialty bakery-style cake? You can!! And not just any cake – when you want a special cake for a party or birthday, this candy-bar-like peanut butter chocolate cake will make people
- bow down to your culinary skills
- lick their plates clean and eye any leftovers
- talk about it to their friends who will immediately let you know when their birthday is
- ooh and ahh and you will not hear the end of it
You can even sell it (if your brother has a catering business) for big bucks- and have the customer request it year after year.
Truly. I have been making this cake for 10+ years (adapting it from an old Family Circle magazine cut-out) and have experienced all of that. And you can, too. There are a number of steps and time involved, of course, (which is why it’s a ‘celebration’ cake!) but it’s not hard and doesn’t involve a lot of cake decorating know-how to be a show-stopper. In fact, the brittle decoration is the easiest brittle you’ll every make!
This is a cake where you can show your love to the recipient in a big way. It’s so delicious and gorgeous and I really want you to make it, so I’m breaking it down with lots of pictures so you will be able to love on your families and friends with this cake!
(PS, don’t let the length of the tutorial part scare you – I’m just sharing the tips I’ve learned to make it easier – scroll straight down to find the printable recipe if you’d like.)
How to Make Peanut Butter Chocolate Celebration Cake
Step 1: Chocolate Cake
- Prepare 9-inch pans by coating with butter and then lining with wax paper (or parchment, but I save parchment for baking where I can’t use wax paper).
- To line, set a pan on top of two pieces of wax paper, draw around the edge with a pen and then cut just inside the pen mark to fit in the bottoms.
- Give the tops of the paper a once-over with the buttered brush. This ensures the cakes will easily release from the pans.
- Mix the dry ingredients and add alternately with sour cream. I don’t always do this, but it’s important in cake recipes like this since it helps create a good texture.
- Beat just until the ingredients are blended – I’ve learned that over-beating makes cakes get those little volcano-like rises in the centers.
Spread evenly between the prepared pans, smoothing the tops with a spatula. As you can see above, the batter is thick, more like a brownie batter because this is a moist cake.
Bake and cool in pans for 5 minutes, then invert on cooling racks and remove wax paper before inverting again on another rack to cooling completely right side up.
Step 2: Peanut Brittle Topping
Note: if you have a fear of making candy and candy thermometers (my hand is raised…) this does NOT use a candy thermometer. There are some simple steps and if you follow them, the brittle will turn out, I promise! I’ve only had it not harden once in all the times I’ve made it and I just didn’t cook it long enough.
- Add all ingredients except peanuts and simmer without stirring over medium heat.
- Use a silicone liner for easiest removal. Grease a piece of foil if you don’t have silicone (foil alone will stick and parchment doesn’t work as well).
- When mixture is simmering (a very low boil), cover and continue to simmer 3 minutes. Remove cover and continue to cook until syrup is pale amber, about 10 to 12 minutes. The picture top left shows the pale amber color after about 10 minutes (sometimes 12). Add peanuts and stir gently.
- Cook, stirring, just until the syrup is a deep amber like in the picture top right above. I should’ve timed it, it’s only a few minutes, but different each time.
- Biggest tip: don’t be tempted to do other things in the kitchen for the next few minutes or you will have a burned brittle. Remember when I said I’ve only had it not harden one time? Well, I have had it burn a number of times, so take it from me – pay attention!
- Immediately pour onto prepared foil/liner, quickly spreading as thin as possible without holes.
- Break into the smallest pieces possible when cool to make it easier to cut the cake.
Step 3: Peanut Butter Frosting Layer
Spread one cake layer with about a cup of the frosting and top with the second layer.
Use the remaining filling to frost the sides and top of the cake and refrigerate for about 10 minutes until set.
Step 4: The Ganache
The peanut butter frosting is topped with a chocolate ganache (yesssss). Most ganache recipes are made with cream, but this uses butter, which gives it a nice flavor.
Ganache Frosting Tips
- Heat the ganache ingredients in a microwave for 1 minute or over a double boiler. In either case, stir until smooth – and don’t heat for more than another 10-20 seconds if using the microwave.
- To thicken the ganache for frosting, put it in the fridge or freezer (keep careful watch in the freezer, though).
- Biggest Tip- the secret to a clean ganache edge: take strips of wax paper and tuck them under the edges of the cake, making sure to overlap where they meet (as seen in the photos). After frosting with ganache, pull the paper strips away, leaving a clean edge. Love it.
- If your glaze is not as thick as it should be when pouring and it pools on the wax paper strips, don’t worry! This is a very forgiving cake (and I never try for perfectly smooth frosting, anyway, as you might guess…) and the glaze thickens as is cools, so simply take a spatula and scrape it off the paper and back onto the sides of the cake, were it will now stay.
Step 5: Decorate
Place the broken peanut brittle on the top of the cake, arranging them any way you like.
Since it’s not easy to cut through the brittle pieces (lesson learned…), I’ve tried lots of different patterns and have settled on a pile in the center and then around the edges. Then it’s easy to move them a bit with the tip of the knife when cutting.
Oh, and if you or someone you love has an allergy to peanuts, I would definitely make this with almond butter and almond brittle. Cashews, anyone? You’ll want to try whatever you need to in order to share this with as many people as you can!
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