In this classic combination of creamy peanut butter and chocolate, delicate layers of cake are slathered with a smooth, light filling. Dark chocolate glaze graces the top and drips decoratively down the sides.
The finished cake can be made 1 day ahead, carefully covered with a cake dome and refrigerated. Let the cake stand at room temperature for 2 hours before serving. For bake sale purposes, assemble the cake on an 11-inch cardboard cake round.
Servings: 16 - 20
- For the cake
- 2 1/4 cups cake flour, plus more for the pans
- 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, just softened
- 1 2/3 cups sugar
- 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/3 cups tepid water (approximately 90 degrees)
- For the filling
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, just softened
- 8 ounces cream cheese, just softened
- 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter, preferably not natural/organic
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
- For the glaze
- 6 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate chips
- 5 tablespoons whole milk
- 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease three 9-inch round cake pans, then line the bottoms with wax or parchment paper and flour the sides.
Sift together the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt on a sheet of wax paper; set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed, combine the butter and sugar for 2 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined. Add the sifted dry ingredients alternately with the water, starting and ending with the dry ingredients; mix until just combined. Divide the batter evenly among the pans, smoothing the tops and gently shaking the pans to level the batter. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center of the layer comes out clean. Let the layers cool 10 minutes in the pans before turning out on wire racks to cool completely (about 1 hour).
Meanwhile, make the filling: In the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed, combine the butter and cream cheese, beating for 1 to 2 minutes, mixing well. Add the peanut butter and beat until smooth. Add the vanilla extract, mixing to incorporate, then reduce the speed to low and gradually add the confectioners' sugar, beating for about 2 minutes or until the filling is quite light and fluffy. Cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour.
To assemble the three-layer cake: Carefully remove the paper from the bottom of each cooled cake layer. Work with the layers top (domed) side up. On the bottom layer, spread a little more than 1/3 of the peanut butter filling. Top with the second layer and spread with the same amount of filling, then top with the third layer. Use a spatula to make a smooth mound of the remaining filling on top; do not bring the filling quite to the edges of the top layer. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
When the cake is almost set, make the glaze: In a medium mixing bowl suspended over a saucepan of warm water on low heat, combine the chocolate chips and milk and cook for about 5 minutes or until the chocolate is just melted and can be whisked smooth. Transfer the bowl to a work surface and add the butter in increments, whisking after each addition, until the glaze is smooth. Add the corn syrup and vanilla extract, whisking until well combined. Let it stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. The glaze must be pourable, shiny and smooth.
Wipe away any condensation that may have formed on the bottom of the bowl (to keep it from dripping onto the cake), then pour the glaze over the top of the chilled cake, using a circular motion. Gently smooth the glaze with a thin spatula, carefully pushing a little of it toward the edges of the cake. Allow the glaze to drip down the sides of cake. Cover with a cake dome and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Adapted from Mary Lee's Desserts of Vienna.
Tested by Vanessa Williams.
Email questions to the Food Section at firstname.lastname@example.org.