Thursday, January 8, 2009

Crunchy Milk Chocolate- Peanut Butter Layer Cake

You know what really irks me? When a recipe is poorly written.

Sure, I sit down with a recipe and read through it at least once (sometimes multiple times) before I actually end up making it, but you trust that a recipe is going to be written in the most practical and helpful manner possible.

Maybe Dorie Greenspan has spoiled me (her recipes are almost always clearly explained and written in the most logical and efficient order), but I find myself in the middle of a recipe saying to myself... ugh! Why didn't you tell me to do that earlier???

This was one of those recipes. As far as the final product goes? Milk Chocolate? Peanut Butter? Rice Krispies? What's not to love? This cake is delicious and if made in an efficient way, wouldn't take you TOO long.

I have had this recipe printed out from Food & Wine for a long time now, but there were so many parts involved... I just kept putting it aside for a "special occasion." Finally, I decided that my family's Christmas Dinner was special enough and finally tackled this cake.

It's a chocolate cake with a layer in the center made of peanut butter, egg whites and rice krispies that give the cake an interesting chewy crunch. If you're looking for something yummy, unprententious, and different... this is the cake for you.

If you want to follow the recipe as I did, check it out: Nancy Olson's Crunchy Milk Chocolate- Peanut Butter Layer Cake, but for my own sanity, I've written it the way I'll prepare it in the future.
Crunchy Milk Chocolate- Peanut Butter Layer Cake
adapted from Nancy Olson and Food & Wine
Serves 16

I halved the recipe (as I only needed it to feed 6 people) and made the cake in a 9 inch round cake pan. I then split that layer in half to make a round layer cake. But, I've written the full recipe below.

I also subbed pecans for almonds and omitted the peanuts in the filling (just because of what I had on hand). I'm also including the ingredients and directions for the guinness syrup that I soaked the layers in before assembling to make sure the cake was super moist.

I'm sure that if you're a dark chocolate lover, that this cake would be just as delicious with dark chocolate instead of milk. Incidently, I did use dark cocoa for the cake.

2 cups plus 2 tbsps sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1 1/2 tsps baking soda
1 1/2 tsps salt
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp boiling water

1/3 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup confectioners's sugar
2 large egg whites
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 cup salted roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3 oz milk chocolate, chopped
1 cup rice krispies

1/2 cup Guinness (or you can use coffee or even water)
1/2 cup Sugar

1 1/4 pounds milk chocolate, chopped
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tbsps heavy cream, warmed


1. Make the Filling: Preheat the oven to 325.Trace a 9x13 inch rectangle onto a sheet of parchment paper and lay it on a large baking sheet. In a food processor, pulse the almonds with the confectioners' sugar until they're finely ground (or beat the hell out of them with a rolling pin in a ziploc bag if you dont have a food processor). In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites at medium speed until soft peaks form. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the whites are stiff and glossy, about 2 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the almond mixture. Spread the meringue on the parchment to fill the rectangle. (see pic at end of post for what mine looked like at this stage). Sprinkle the chopped peanuts on top. Bake for 20 minutes, until lightly browned, let cool. (Once out of oven, preheat oven to 350 for cake layer).

2. Make the Cake: Put the water on to boil. Butter and flour a 9x13 inch cake pan. In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Whisk in boiling water. Pour the batter (it will be thin) into the prepared pan (hopefully your meringue layer is done now...)Crank up the oven temperature to 350 and bake for about 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool.

3. Continue with the Filling: In a medium bowl set in a saucepan of simmering water, heat the peanut butter with the butter and milk chocolate, stirring constantly, until smooth and melted. Remove from the heat and fold in the rice krispies. Spread the mixture all over the cooled meringue rectangle and put into the freezer to let cool completely.

4. Start the Guinness Syrup: On the stove add the guinness and the sugar and bring to a simmer till it thickens to a syrup consistency.

5. Make the Ganache: In a medium bowl set in a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate. Whisk in the warmed cream until smooth. Remove from heat and refrigerate for 1 hour, whisking occasionally until thick enough to spread.

6. Once Cake is cooled: Invert the cake onto a work surface and working carefully, slice the cake horizontally.

7. Assemble the cake: Place the bottom cake layer cut side up on a large board. Brush that layer with half of the Guinness Syrup. Then spread one-third of the ganache over the cake. Invert the filling onto the cake and peel off the parchment paper. Spread one half of the remaining ganache over the filling. Next brush the other cut side of the cake with the rest of the guinness syrup (you might not use all of it, just make sure the cake is moistened). Top the filling with the remaining cake, cut side down. Refrigerate till firm, at least one hour. Using a serrated knife, trim the edges. Spread the remaining ganache over the the top and sides of the cake and refrigerate to set. Cut and Serve.

MAKE AHEAD: This cake can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.

Meringue filling before being baked.