RECIPE: I have a little cookbook from a discount bookstore that has been a gem in terms of great celebration cakes. I wanted to take a cake to my kayak club to celebrate finishing a one-year 1000km paddling challenge. I followed this recipe as written, only leaving out the mini-marshmallows (I didn’t have any in stock). At various points I thought of only baking two layers, and leaving out the chocolate fudge frosting, but I was glad in the end that I made everything – it was worth it.
COMPONENTS: It’s virtually impossible to muck up the peanut butter cake. Make sure you line your cake pans. The peanut butter frosting was also really easy, and had none of the angst associated with other cream cheese frostings. It’s ready to spread as soon as the ingredients are mixed. The chocolate fudge frosting was also pretty easy. I melted my butter and chocolate combination in the microwave on 30 second bursts, then finished the melt by stirring so it wasn’t overly warm. I trickled it into the milk mix while hand whisking so no lumps were formed. The chocolate frosting needs to sit a while before use so that it’s not so runny. I left it for three hours and it was perfect. In assembling the popcorn topping I had to face caramel again. This was a wet caramel (tips for making caramel). My first lot crystallised, which I suspect was partly because I used granulated sugar that took longer to dissolve. The second time I used caster sugar and I managed to get the butter in just in time. I air-popped my popcorn in the microwave. To do this I always add a small bowl of water beside my container with lid on, as it’s better for the microwave. I possibly added the chocolate chips too soon – they melted a little on the warm popcorn, although this wasn’t so bad in the end.
ASSEMBLY: I trimmed the tops of my cake layers so they were nice and flat. The frosting is nice and stable – the peanut butter one is lighter than the chocolate. I reversed the layers of frosting and found spreading the layer straight on the cake is easier than spreading on to another frosting layer without picking it up and mixing it too much. The cake is light enough to not compress the frosting layers and push it out the sides. I turned my top layer upside down so the top of the cake would be perfectly flat. I very carefully piled the peanut/ chocolate/ butterscotch popcorn on top.
IMPRESSION: The cake is a little difficult and messy to cut, but OMG it tasted good. Everyone loved it. The flavours are not overly rich or overwhelming and the saltiness is a perfect balance to the chocolate. I would make this cake again and again it was that good.
Recipe from Make, Bake and Celebrate by Annie Rigg
Peanut butter cake
350g all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate/baking soda
150g butter, soft
100g crunchy peanut butter
350g caster sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
250ml buttermilk, room temperature
125g chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Prepare three 20cm round cake pans, greased and lined with parchment.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and set aside. Cream the butter, peanut butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until really pale and light – at least 3-4 minutes. Gradually add the beaten eggs to the creamed butter in 4-5 additions, mixing well between each addition. Add the vanilla and mix to incorporate. Gradually add the sifted dry ingredients to the cake mixture alternately with the buttermilk. Mix until smooth, then fold in the chocolate chips.
Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared cake pans and spread level with a palette knife. Bake in the middle shelf of the preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 3-4 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Peanut butter frosting
200g cream cheese
50g butter, soft
75g peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbs maple syrup
Beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the butter, peanut butter, vanilla and maple syrup and beat again until creamy.
Chocolate fudge frosting
175g dark/semisweet chocolate, chopped
110g butter, diced
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
175g icing/confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Do not let the base of the bowl touch the water. Stir until smooth and thoroughly combined. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. In another bowl whisk together the milk, vanilla and sugar until smooth. Add the melted chocolate and butter and stir until smooth. Let thicken to the desired consistency before using.
Salted caramel popcorn
50g caster sugar
50g or 2 cups of plain popcorn (popped weight)
50g roasted peanuts
50g chocolate chips
50g mini marshmallows
Put the sugar and 1 tbs water in a small, heavy-based saucepan over low heat and dissolve the sugar without stirring. Once dissolved, increase the heat and continue to cook until the syrup turns into an amber-coloured caramel. Take the pan off the heat and add the butter, swirling to make a smooth butterscotch. Quickly pour the butterscotch over the popcorn and stir well so that it starts to stick together in clumps. Add the peanuts (chopped if you prefer), chocolate chips and marshmallows.
Place one of the cake layers on a serving dish and spread half the peanut butter frosting over it. Carefully spread one-third of the chocolate fudge frosting over that. Cover with a second cake layer and repeat the process, finishing with the last cake layer and the remaining chocolate fudge frosting. Pile the salted caramel popcorn on top just before serving.