People laugh at me when I say I make my own Birthday Cake, but it’s something I love doing, and have done for several years now. There’s a certain calmness knowing you don’t have to worry about if the decoration is perfect, or the flavor is not something someone else doesn’t quite like, because well; it’s all about me. I kept the decoration pretty simple, and attempted a quick curtain drip, but suddenly realized I was too skimpy on the amount, so it didn’t quite fall the way I intended, but none the less, it tasted good. I’m not usually a huge fan of peanut butter flavor, but the filling on this has some peanut butter in the buttercream because to capture that peanut butter nougat flavor it requires tossing in some peanut butter. The peanut butter buttercream then gets a generous squeeze of caramel and finally topped off with some chopped lightly salted peanuts to complete the filling layer. The chocolate buttercream on the chocolate cake just seals the deal.
My go to chocolate cake recipe is simply the perfect chocolate cake on the back of the can of Hershey’s cocoa except I change the boiling water to strong hot coffee instead; been using this recipe for years and it never fails. You don’t even need to use the stand mixer for it; I just simply whisk the batter by hand with a large whisk.
yield: (3 layer 6 inch )
1 3/4 Cup Flour
2 Cups Sugar
3/4 Cup Hershey’s cocoa powder, sieved
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 Cup milk, warmed to room temp or slightly warmer
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 Cup vegetable oil
1 Cup very hot coffee
2 tsp. vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour three 6 inch cakes pans. Warm the milk in the microwave if it’s not at room temp, and set aside. In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and kosher salt. Whisk in the milk until combined, then stir in eggs along with the oil and whisk vigorously until combined. Using the same whisk stir in the hot coffee and vanilla until batter is smooth. The batter will be very thin. Divide batter into equal parts into the 3 pans. Bake at 350 degrees for approx. 26 mins or until a skewer inserted reveals a few moist crumbs. Depending on your oven; you may want to rotate your pans half way through for even baking. Do NOT overbake or cake will be dry. Allow cakes to cook in their pans over a wire rack until cooled.
Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
4 lg egg whites
1 Cup sugar
pinch of kosher salt
3 sticks unsalted buttercream
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or vanilla
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted but cooled slightly
Prepare a bain marie and place the egg whites, sugar, and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer (I have a Kitchen Aide); so if your bowl doesn’t fit over a saucepan place a metal or glass bowl over your pan that allows it to fit without touching the water in the pot. Place the mixer bowl over the bain marie and heat the mixture until it reaches 160° F. Take off the heat place on the mixer with whisk attachment until you reach a stiff meringue. Add in the butter 1 tablespoon at a time until fully incorporated, then mix in the vanilla, and finally the melted but sl. cooled chocolate. Change to a paddle attachment and mix until smooth to remove any air.
Peanut Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream
3 lg egg whites
3/4 Cup sugar
pinch kosher salt
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter
5 Tbsp. smooth peanut butter (don’t use natural style) I used Jif brand.
1 tsp. vanilla
Using a bain marie set up, place the egg whites, sugar, and salt in a large heat proof bowl to a temperature of 160 degrees F, whisking continuously. Remove from the heat, and whisk until you have a stiff meringue and then add in the butter and peanut butter until the mixture comes together. Add in the vanilla and beat to combine.
additional items needed for filling:
Store bought thick caramel sauce (I used Trader Joes salted Caramel sauce)
Coarse chopped reduced salt peanuts
Snickers candy bar, chopped into small pieces
To assemble the cake:
Place a cake layer on a cardboard round and pipe a ring (dam) of the chocolate buttercream along the edge of the cake. Place a couple scoops of the peanut butter buttercream filling and smooth to an even layer within the dam of chocolate buttercream. Spoon a generous amount of the (slightly warm ) (warm it just enough so that you can spoon it) caramel over the buttercream (you don’t have to completely cover it with caramel, but spoon a generous amount), and top with a couple hand fulls of coarsely chopped salted peanuts. Top or pipe with a small layer of peanut butter buttercream on top; enough to keep the caramel from soaking into the next cake layer; this will ensure when you cut into the cake the caramel will be visible. Repeat the filling with the next layer of cake, then top with the third and final layer of chocolate cake. Crumb coat with the chocolate buttercream chill until firm, then finish with a final coat of chocolate buttercream. If using a ganache on top chill the cake at least a hour before topping with the ganache.
Top with an optional layer of chocolate ganache. Or decorate as desired.
For ganache: In a heat proof bowl, place 1/2 Cup of bittersweet chocolate chips and pour over 1/2 Cup of scalded heavy cream. Stir until combined then wait about 3 minutes before pouring over the cake after the cake has been chilling for at least 60 minutes. Using an offset spatula smooth the ganache over the top and allow to drip down the cake. Full disclosure, it didn’t use all of my ganache; I used too little amount and that’s why my drip did not go down the cake far enough. Top with chopped pieces of Snickers candy bar.