For this cake I borrowed, doubled, and slightly modified a cupcake from @thescranline, and it's *amazing.* Also a tad less labor-intensive than my prior favorite. Score! Check out Nick's site and his Instagram feed if you haven't already; he does some incredible work!
Of note...you'll need either a kitchen scale to measure ingredients in grams OR - you can use this fancy ‘grams to cups converter’. Or just use the conversions I ballparked for you. You’re welcome!
350g all purpose flour (roughly 2 ¼ c)
450g caster sugar (roughly 2 ¼ c)
100g cocoa powder (roughly 1 ¼ c)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 c /250g /16 T unsalted butter, softened
4 large eggs, at room temperature
350ml buttermilk (about 1 ½ ; buttermilk powder with water is an option if you can’t find liquid buttermilk at your grocery store!)
2 t vanilla extract
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, add the cocoa powder, flour, salt, baking soda, and sugar. Turn mixer on low speed and allow it to mix for a couple minutes to help everything combine well (or sift the ingredients together). Add in the softened butter until it’s well incorporated into the dry ingredients and no lumps of butter are visible.
Next, add buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla together and whisk until well combined. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients in a slow and steady stream until no dry ingredients are visible. Scrape down the bowl and mix for another 20 seconds.
Fill the three pans evenly - I find a kitchen scale helpful for this part, and each of mine weighed out to about 550g. Bake for 30-35 min or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow cake layers to cool for 10-15 minutes on a wire cooling rack before removing from pans, and cool completely before frosting. Set in the fridge or freezer to accelerate the cooling process if desired.
This is a great time to start prepping your frosting and ganache for the filling and drip!
Peanut Butter Frosting:
8 oz (one package) cream cheese, softened
16 Tablespoons (two sticks) butter, softened
1 c (8oz) creamy peanut butter
7-8 c powdered sugar
2-4 Tablespoons milk
Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; beat in peanut butter until thoroughly combined. Slowly add in powdered sugar alternating with milk until frosting reaches desired consistency. You’ll see in the video I struggled a bit to smooth it; if I had it to do over I’d thin the frosting down a bit more!
Chocolate ganache (for filling and drip):
6 oz (1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips
6 oz (3/4 cup) heavy whipping cream
Meanwhile, make your ganache. Place chocolate chips in a heat-proof bowl. Place whipping cream in a small saucepan and bring almost to a boil over medium/low heat. Pour over chocolate chips and let rest for 2 minutes, then stir until smooth and silky. (If desired, this can also be done in the microwave – combine ingredients and microwave on half power in 30-second intervals, stirring in between until smooth).
- 1 8- or 10 -inch cardboard cake circle (I prefer Wilton’s center-punched circles) or an 8” acrylic cake disc (I started using these so I wouldn’t waste so many cake circles!)
- Large piping bag & tip – I use this set of reusable large bags & tips more than almost any of my others!
- 1 box Peanut M&Ms (I emptied mine out to make it easier to work with) + 1 large bag Peanut M&Ms candy
- about 1 cup peanuts (I used roasted / salted)
- Cake leveler, cake turntable, large offset spatula, and pastry cutter/bench scraper - not all 100% necessary but incredibly helpful! (Here’s a link to the cake turntable I use). I found plastic knives, spatulas, and scrapers to work best with this peanut butter frosting! No idea why, but they did.
- Small offset spatula
- Squeeze bottle OR piping bag OR spoon – whatever you’d prefer to add your ganache drip to the cake
- 1 long skewer (or a chopstick, or a straw, or anything long and thin enough to use to make the box stay up on top of the cake!)
Once your cake layers are cool, level them (if needed/desired). This can be done with a cake leveler or a large serrated knife and a ruler.
Place a smear of frosting on your cake circle (to keep the cake from sliding while you decorate it) and center your first cake layer in the center of the circle. Spread the layer with frosting. Pipe a border of frosting around the edge of the cake to keep the filling inside, and sprinkle the layer with chopped peanut M&Ms. Repeat the process with your remaining cake layers.
Now you're ready to crumb-coat . If you're unfamiliar with crumb-coating, it's just what it sounds like – spreading a thin layer of frosting over the entire outside of the cake to keep crumbs out of your final layer.
Once your crumb coat has set (this takes about 5-10 minutes in the fridge), add your final layer of frosting and smooth. I used a small plastic knife and plastic bench scraper for this part. Once your cake is covered, place it into the fridge or freezer to set the frosting.
When your ganache has cooled to a moderate temperature – it should feel slightly warm and still be fairly liquid – transfer it to a squeeze bottle or piping bag. A spoon will work if you don’t have either of those, I’ve just found spoons to be a tiny bit more difficult to work with.
Slowly drizzle ganache around the upper edge of your cake, pausing every inch or so to let ganache fall in a drip down the side of the cake. Return cake to the fridge or freezer to set the drips.
Open the box of M&Ms and insert your skewer (or straw, or whatever) into the box. I cut a side tab off so that I could close the box, but you could also leave all four tabs open. Invert the box and press the skewer down into the top of the cake.
Pipe peanut butter frosting in small swirls around the upper rim of your cake – this will help hold the candy and peanuts in place! I also added a few frosting swirls, M&Ms, and peanuts around the base of the cake. Pile M&Ms and peanuts around the box on top of the cake!
Annnd you’re done! Step back and admire your kick-butt cake!
Make this recipe? Let me know how it went - or find me on Instagram and tag @IntensiveCakeUnit in your photo!