Friday 27 April 2012

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cake

While I'm away in California, I've decided to detox from the internet.

I've spent a lot of time writing up posts for the eight weeks I'm away. I left it late in all the chaos so there were several nights where I found myself eating peanut butter off a teaspoon at 3am while staring at my laptop, desperately willing the posts into existence.

I often feel that normal recipe posts I schedule somehow lose their heart and end up a bit flat. So instead of trying to recreate my normal posting (as I did for my finals, for instance), I thought I would try something a bit different.

Enter the Foundations series. There will be seven posts on techniques and processes fundamental to baking (or, at least, to baking in my kitchen). The first post looks at rubbing in, a method mainly used to make pastry. It's going to be published on the 4th. I've even branched out into basic videos.

I know it's not exactly a novel idea in the blog world and there are lots of great guides out there. I still wanted to show my methods so you could see how I make the things you see featured here. The posts cover some of the kitchen tasks I love the most, that I want to share and help you to love too. They're the things that I type into my recipes but wish I could elaborate on.

There will also be two 'Best of...' posts focusing on some favourite summer ingredients.

I really hope you enjoy the posts I've organized, I've put a lot of effort into them.

For today, however, I have cake.

It's a significantly classier way to eat peanut butter than my sneaky late night spoonfuls.

I've been waiting for Joy the Baker's book to arrive for ages. Though many things caught my eye, this was the first recipe to have metric pencilled in and to be christened by butter smears. It's a great recipe - punchy with peanut butter without being dry. I made a half recipe in a 6" tin so that's what I've put below. Double for a 8-9" cake.

After two tearful, over-tired disasters with curdled cream cheese icing, I turned to ganache. I'm glad I did - I think it would have been too sweet. The cream I was using for the ganache was pretty thick so I was thinking of thinning it with a little milk. Then I opened the fridge and spotted the buttermilk. It made for a beautiful ganache - not too sweet with a very subtle tang. Another time I might add a bit more. Much to my annoyance, I managed to overwork the final coat so it lost the gloss and I couldn't repair a few mistakes - but, of course, it didn't change the lovely taste.

(While I realise it's somewhat ridiculous to claim I can write a series on the foundations of baking in the same breath as admitting several failures, we are all human & I think it's important that blogs show that).


Here's to a long holiday, to the birthday I'll have there, to summer, and to you, my lovely readers - have a slice of cake! I'll miss you all.

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cake
(adapted from Joy the Baker's Cookbook)

For the cake:
130g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/8 tsp salt
100g peanut butter (I used crunchy)
45g unsalted butter, soft
50g caster sugar
50g soft brown sugar
75g (1.5) eggs, lightly beaten
75ml buttermilk

For the chocolate ganache:
150g dark chocolate (approx 72%)
125ml double cream
25ml buttermilk
1 tbsp light brown sugar

To finish:
small handful of peanuts (I used salted)
approx 1 tbsp cocoa nibs

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Butter and flour a 6" cake tin (double all ingredients for a 9" tin or two 8"). Sieve the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a bowl.

Weigh the peanut butter, butter, caster sugar and brown sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Cream together, beating for about 4 minutes until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula. Add the egg in small splashes, beating very well in between. When the egg is incorporated, clean down the sides then add half the flour. Mix on low speed until the mixture starts looking uniform, then add the buttermilk in a steady stream. Once you've added all the buttermilk, take the mixture off the stand mixer. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and fold in with a spatula.

Transfer to the prepared tin and level. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick can be removed cleanly from the middle. Leave in the tin for five minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool. When the cake is totally cool, split it into two or three layers with a serrated knife.

To make the ganache, chop the chocolate up into small chunks and place it into a bowl. Put the double cream, buttermilk and brown sugar in a small pan and warm over a medium heat. When it starts to steam, pour over the chocolate, pushing all of the chunks into the liquid. After a few moments start stirring in the centre, slowly incorporating the rest of the liquid until you have a thick, glossy ganache. Leave to cool for a few minutes to thicken slightly.

Place the layer that was the top of the cake upside down on the serving plate on top of some strips of parchment paper. Smear some ganache over the layer, then add the next cake layer. Repeat for the next layer if you cut into three. Cover the cake with a thin layer of icing - a masking coat - then put in the fridge to chill. Finally cover the cake with a full layer of ganache, trying not to overwork it. Arrange the peanuts and cocoa nibs on top of the cake for contrasting crunch.

Best served at room temperature, though it keeps well covered in the fridge for a few days.

(Makes approximately 8 slices)


  1. Yum! As soon as this popped up on Twitter I had to come check it out. We're going to friends tomorrow for dinner and have been planning my take on a Chocolate Peanut Snickers cake all week - great minds! Mine is going to be pretty different but I do like the idea of a little buttermilk in the ganache - thanks, as always, for such an inspiring (and delicious) post :-)

  2. Hi Emma, I'm really looking forward to your upcoming posts. I'd love to see your techniques and the "Best of..." posts sound great; I am curious! And I never thought about buttermilk in ganache! Well, not long ago, I didn't realize you could do it with water either....there's so much to learn! :)

  3. What a cute wee cake! I love those six inch pans, they're perfect for small families. Have a lovely vacation; I will be looking forward to hearing all about Chez Panisse.

  4. What a gorgeous cake; the asymmetrical decoration on top is perfect. As someone who has tried to adapt ginormous (*cough*American*cough*) cakes and tarts to fit into a 6-inch tin, only with less success, can I ask: how do you go about halving (or two-fifths-ing, in the case of a 9-inch cake) the quantities and oven time for a smaller tin?

  5. Have a fantastic break. It must have been a lot of work to do eight posts in a row. Look forward to reading them.

  6. Hi...have a great Holiday! I love the upcoming idea for the "How To" blogs and video's. Suggestion: I love your recipes, could you please list the U.S. Measurement Equivilent? I can make them in metric and don't want to risk converting them. Thank you ever so much!

  7. totally appreciate the foundations approach, emma. i look forward to reading more! as for an internet detox, high fives to that. i'm looking forward to mine soon. email me if you'd still like to grab coffee :)

  8. I love your blog, it feels so "simple" and "straight from the kitchen" whilst being breathtaking on all counts.... Made your welsh cakes for my family the otehr day ;)
    foundation posts look wonderful, can't wait!

  9. I hope you have a great time in California! I'm looking forward to your Foundations posts.

  10. Emma, Good for you for taking an internet break while you are away. It is so inspiring just to travel, eat, read, take pictures, and be away from regular life. I bet you are going to get home totally refreshed!
    I am looking forward to your series on basics. I have SO much to learn about baking and learning from you sounds just perfect,mistakes and all;

  11. I just love your black and white photos. Gorgeous. And I think your foundations posts are a great idea! Can't wait to check them out.

  12. Cake looks delicious!!!
    Can't wait for the foundations posts - really looking forward to your help and brushing up my basic skills!

    Enjoy the holiday, have a well deserved rest and lots of lovely food!!
    x x

  13. I recently got a copy of the Joy the Baker Cookbook and I've been ogling this cake. I have a birthday coming up and, since peanut butter is my true love, I may just have to have a go at it.

    Hope you're enjoying California! We're having beautiful weather now and I hope it lasts throughout your stay.

  14. A detox from internet once in a while is always a good thing. Have a fantastic trip Emma. I have always dreamed of doing a pastry course so learning techniques and fundamentals from someone who has attended will be the next best thing. Look forward to it.

  15. That cake looks amazing. Chocolate and peanut butter are great together!

  16. Mmmm buttermilk ganache sounds like such a good idea! Great looking cake and the foundation posts are a fantastic idea!

  17. I made the cake, I wanted to make this as soon as I read it. It came out amazing.

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