Let’s all pretend that I haven’t neglected my blog for the past few months. Ok? Good. Glad we got that out of the way. Now let’s get down to it.
My boyfriend’s birthday request every year is always some insane birthday cake. He wants the kind of cake that’s 5 desserts in one, with all his favorite flavors mashed together. The kind that’s like a foot high and weighs 10 pounds. I’m happy to deliver, considering I barely ever have an excuse to make cakes like this. I’m always psyched to practice my assembly and frosting skills. I’m improving by one cake a year!
This cake has everything:
- Dark chocolate cake
- Cheesecake with peanut butter cups
- Whipped chocolate ganache frosting
- Peanut butter buttercream in between the layers
- Peanut butter cups on top
If you’re a chocolate and peanut butter and cheesecake lover, I think I just introduced you to your next birthday cake. This cake is crazy rich—and I actually took it down a few notches from the original recipe! But it’s oh-so-good. The chocolate cake is moist and flavorful; the cheesecake is creamy and tangy; the peanut butter buttercream is light and fluffy and nutty; and the whipped chocolate ganache is thick, rich, and puts the whole thing over the top.
Making this is a bit time consuming and dirties a lot of bowls (after all, there are two kinds of cake and two kinds of frosting), but the end product is so impressive and definitely worth it. Here’s how I split up the process, and it worked pretty well:
- The night before, I baked the chocolate cake and the cheesecake layers. I let everything cool, then refrigerated the cakes and froze the cheesecake overnight so they’d all be really firm and easy to assemble. You could also do this well in advance and freeze everything until you’re ready to assemble (just let the cake layers thaw a bit first).
- The following day, I made the peanut butter buttercream, then leveled and assembled the layers. I saved about 1/3 of the buttercream for decoration, then I refrigerated the whole cake so it would set up while I made the whipped ganache.
- When the ganache was ready, I divided it in half and used half to do a thin crumb coat on the cake. Since I was in a hurry, I stuck it in the freezer for 10 minutes before doing the final coat with the other half of the ganache and decorating with peanut butter buttercream and peanut butter cups. If you’re not in a hurry, you could refrigerate the crumb-coated cake for a few hours or even overnight until you’re ready to finish it off.
Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake Chocolate Cake
Heavily adapted from SprinkleBakes
Serves about 15-20, depending on how big your slices are
For the chocolate cake
- 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 3/4 cups cocoa powder, unsweetened
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 cup of hot coffee
Grease two 8″ pans with baking spray (or butter + flour). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift all the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. In a 4 cup glass measure, mix all the wet ingredients except hot coffee!
Turn mixer on low speed and gradually add wet ingredients to dry. Stop and scrape down the bowl, making sure to scrape the bottom where dregs tend to gather. Return mixer to low speed and beat in hot coffee. Mixture will be very thin.
Divide batter evenly between the two pans, and bake for 35-40 minutes (check at 35). Cake is ready when toothpick tester comes out clean. Cool in pans. Run knife around the edge of cakes and turn them out. Let them rest on a cooling rack.
Cakes can be refrigerated overnight or frozen before you’re ready to assemble. When they’re completely cool, level each layer with a serrated knife or cake leveler and refrigerate until you begin assembly.
For the peanut butter cup cheesecake
- 15 mini peanut butter cups, each one quartered
- 1 sticks (8 tbsp) softened butter
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- (2) 8 oz packages cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/2 of (1) 3 oz. package cook and serve vanilla pudding (measure out 1/5 oz. of powder)
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 2 tsp. lemon juice
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease one 8″ round cake or springform pan with shortening, line the pans with parchment rounds and then grease the parchment. Lightly flour the pans and tap out excess over the sink. Set aside.
Cream butter and sugar in a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add cream cheese a little at a time until smooth. Scrape bowl down and beat again on medium speed, adding eggs one at a time. Add remaining ingredients except peanut butter cups. Mix again until smooth.
With a rubber spatula, fold in quartered peanut butter cups. Smooth batter with offset spatula and bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour. Cheesecake will puff up during baking, then deflate when taken out.
Do not turn out cheesecakes when they are finished baking. Put them directly in the freezer, and leave until frozen solid.
Turn out frozen cheesecake layers and peel parchment from the bottoms. Cheesecake can be frozen until you’re ready to assemble. When you’re ready, remove the cheesecake from the freezer and level with a serrated knife or cake leveler.
For the peanut butter buttercream
- 1 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
- 12 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- For garnish: 6 mini peanut butter cups
Cream peanut butter and butter together in stand mixer with whisk attachment. Gradually add powdered sugar. Whip on high speed until light and fluffy.
Divider mixture in half. Transfer one half of the buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a large plain or decorative piping tip. Set aside at room temperature or refrigerate until ready to garnish.
Use the other half to assemble the cake. Place a dab of buttercream on your cake stand or serving plate, then place one of your leveled cake layers, centered, on top. Spread half of the remaining frosting on top of the cake layer and push it almost to the edges. Then, place your cheesecake layer on top of that and press down slightly. Spread the remaining frosting on top of the cheesecake layer, again pushing almost to the edges. Then place your second cake layer on top and press down slightly. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes, or freeze for 10 minutes, until the buttercream solidifies slightly and the cake will be easier to work with.
If desired, trim and clean up your cake edges with a serrated knife.
For the whipped chocolate ganache frosting
- 13 oz. or 1 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Put chocolate chips in a medium bowl or 4 cup measure. Heat cream in a saucepan over medium high heat until very hot but not boiling. Pour hot cream over chips and stir until smooth.
Fit stand mixer with whisk attachment. Pour chocolate ganache into the stand mixer bowl and whip on the highest speed for 5 -10 minutes until icing is light and fluffy. Icing is ready when it is thick and can be pulled into a stiff peak.
Divide ganache frosting in half. Remove cake from freezer and use half of the frosting to thinly frost top sides with chocolate ganache using an offset spatula. The whipped frosting should grab on to the frozen cakes well. Use all the ganache frosting, evening the cake’s surface as you work. Refrigerate the assembled cake for about 30 minutes to firm up the crumb coat. (At this point, the cake can also be refrigerated for several hours or overnight.) Then use the remaining frosting to do a final, even coat.
Use your piping bag filled with peanut butter buttercream to add some decoration. I did a simple dotted border all around the top and bottom edges, and then 6 large swirls around the top outside and an additional one in the center. I pressed 6 mini peanut butter cups into the 6 swirls around the outside.
Now serve! This cake slices well when cold, and tastes great cold or at room temperature. Cover & refrigerate any leftovers.