Oh Alyna, your carrot juice palms! I remember hearing about your orange hands before actually seeing them because Cortni had marched into my room to inform me that she was so worried about you. This cake doesn’t have nearly as great of a back story. Decidedly less interesting cake back story: I have a little sister who loves peanut butter cups, so I made her a peanut butter chocolate cake for her birthday.
This cake is from one of the best looking cook books I own, Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes. I’ve had this cook book for a couple years now, but have never made anything out of it until now because the cakes look kind of intimidating. But I decided that the only cake fit for my sister’s birthday this year was Sky High’s sour cream-chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting, so I psyched myself up, made the cake, and to my delight discovered that it was actually not all that fussy but rather very approachable (the cake itself is a one-bowl cake and can be whisked by hand). The cake I made is not as handsome as the one photographed for the book, but I like to think of it as a more care-free version.
This chocolate cake recipe is the best I’ve encountered so far. When I level the tops of cakes to create a flat surface for frosting, I always share the cake tops with whomever is around. This time, however, after I took a bite out of a cake top, I half-heartedly scanned the vicinity, asked at a pathetically low volume if anyone was interested in some cake top, waited a few seconds, and quickly ate the rest. I definitely enjoyed more than my fair share of this cake, so I see Alyna’s delicious chilled carrot soup in my very near future.
Happy birthday, DD!
Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes one three-layer 6-inch cake
Adapted slightly from Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes. The recipe in the book makes one three-layer 9-inch cake, which is a lot of cake so I halved the recipe to make a smaller cake. I did, however, at one point zone out and fail to half the number of eggs, so two eggs instead of one went into this cake, but it worked out fine (also, the cake batter is very thin, maybe alarmingly so, but it will be ok). I made the cake batter and the frosting a little less sweet and declined to make the chocolate ganache because I didn’t want the peanut butter frosting to get lost in all the chocolate.
For the Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup turbinado sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder (This can be oddly hard to find; the recipe indicates that unsweetened natural cocoa powder also works.)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cups water
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Toffee bits and sprinkles for decorating
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 6-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment paper and butter the paper.
Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl and add the turbinado sugar (crystals can be too large to sift). Whisk to combine dry ingredients well.
Add the oil and sour cream, and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed.
Divide batter among the three prepared cake pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cakes cool in pans for about 20 minutes. Invert cakes onto a cooling rack, peel off parchment paper liners, and let cakes cool completely.
For the Peanut Butter Frosting:
Makes about 2 cups of frosting
5 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (The book recommends a commercial hydrogenated peanut butter brand because the oil will not separate out.)
In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.
Assemble the Cake:
With a cake leveler or a serrated knife, level the raised parts of the cake layers to create flat surfaces for frosting. Place one layer on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 1/3 of the frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next two layers. Decorate with toffee bits and sprinkles, or any toppings you like.