happy birthday to me

choco pb bday cake

Friday is my birthday… I don’t even want to talk about how old I’m going to be. Being a grown up sucks. Let’s just leave it at that. I had promised myself that I would make my own birthday cake this year. Chocolate and peanut butter, of course. Because what is better than chocolate and peanut butter? (Nothing, that’s what).

I surprised even myself with this one. Very rarely does something that I make really blow me out of the water. I mean, of course it’s good or else I wouldn’t post it, but it’s just silly to think that every single recipe I make is going to be mind-blowingly good.

This recipe, though… Mind = Blown.

It was so good that I even froze a piece to save for my actual birthday on Friday. It was so good I didn’t want to send it to work with the Boyfriend. I just wanted to keep it at home all to myself. The cake was so incredibly moist, the peanut butter frosting was perfect in flavor and texture, and yeah I technically “messed up” the ganache layer (aesthetically speaking), but flavor wise… my god. So good.
It was totally worth the extra trip to Sur La Table for a third cake pan. So worthy of being the first cake to be displayed on my brand new cake stand (which, by the way, was a steal at Homegoods). It was so good that I think I found my new go-to chocolate cake recipe.

On top of all of that… it’s so easy to make the cake layer that you don’t even need a mixer. Yep, you read that right, NO MIXER REQUIRED.

I don’t know if that piece in the freezer will make it to my birthday……. I mean, just look at that thing. I’m drooling just thinking about it.

Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

[ Printable Recipe ]

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup neutral vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and prepare three 8-inch cake pans with butter and parchment

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Once the water is incorporated, add the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and continue to beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure there are no flour bombs lurking in there. Divide the batter evenly among the 3 prepared cake pans.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. I was able to fit all three on one rack in the middle of my oven. If you can’t, just put two on the bottom 1/3 and one on the top 1/3 and rotate about 20 minutes into baking… but be careful or they might fall!

4. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. The cakes are very soft – chill the cooled cakes in the freezer for 30 minutes (or overnight if you don’t want to do it all in one day) before continuing.

5. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cups of the peanut butter frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.

Smitten Kitchen Recommends:

1: Making a crumb coat of frosting–a thin layer that binds the dark crumbs to the cake so they don’t show up in the final outer frosting layer–is a great idea for this cake, or any with a dark cake and lighter-colored frosting. Once you “mask” your cake, let it chill for 15 to 30 minutes until firm, then use the remainder of the frosting to create a smooth final coating.

2: Once the cake is fully frosted, it helps to chill it again and let it firm up. The cooler and more set the peanut butter frosting is, the better drip effect you’ll get from the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze.)

6. To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving.

This is where I failed – my glaze did not want to drip in a pretty fashion, so I just went for it and used it to cover the entire cake. Honestly, I can’t imagine not having the chocolate ganache all over the cake. I think it was a good move, but if you want it to look fancier, go ahead and try the drippy method.

Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes about 5 cups

  • 10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature* (I used 8, because I only had one package of cream cheese and I wasn’t going to run to the store again)
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup smooth peanut butter

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. 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, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended. Taste it…. you know, for quality control

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half

1. In the top of a double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.

Once the cake is fully frosted, it helps to chill it again and let it firm up. The cooler and more set the peanut butter frosting is, the better drip effect you’ll get from the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze.)

 To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving.

This is where I failed – my glaze did not want to drip in a pretty fashion, so I just went for it and used it to cover the entire cake. Honestly, I can’t imagine not having the chocolate ganache all over the cake. I think it was a good move, but if you want it to look fancier, go ahead and try the drippy method.

[ adapted from Smitten Kitchen ]

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13 thoughts on “happy birthday to me

  1. happy birthday to you!!! you’re right…it DOES suck being grown up (although i tend to act, at times, like an eight-year old), but only grownups could make. this. CAKE!

    oh, natalie, it looks delicious! i avoid the deadly chocolate/peanut butter combo most of the time because i’m dangerous around it, but this cake…i may not be able to resist. love it.

  2. Happy Birthday! Well, i have a birthday cake recipe checked now. I love how the frosting is a combination of cream cheese and peanut butter. However, thinks 5 cups of sugar is scary… crazy scary… Gonna try this out! ;)

    • I don’t think I used the full five, but ended up running out of frosting as a result lol :) In general, though, sugar is the easiest thing to cut back on in a recipe. Itll be your birthday- just go for it! (calories don’t count on your birthday)

  3. I made this cake last weekend, and totally agree! It was amazing, got my exact recipe from one of my cake cookbooks… can’t exactly remember the name.Mile high cakes or something like that.
    It’s a kepper for sure

    • lol, john, ‘neutral’ vegetable oil would be like canola or grapeseed oil – something that doesn’t lend its own flavor like olive, sunflower, or walnut oils would. ;)

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