While I love to make fancy, multi-layer cakes, there are times when I want something quick and satisfying, and this simple snacking cake is just the ticket for those occasions. The base is a tender devil’s food cake, which is frosted with an American-style chocolate-peanut butter buttercream. The Caramelized Peanut garnish – which is pretty addictive on its own – is reminiscent of Cracker Jack (minus the popcorn).
Makes one 9-inch square cake, serving 9
- 1 1/3 cups (173 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup (75 grams) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 cup (60 grams) whole milk
- ½ cup (121 grams) sour cream, at room temperature
- 11 tablespoons (155 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2/3 cup (133 grams) granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup (144 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
- 2 large (100 grams) eggs, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract
- 1/3 cup (80 grams) brewed coffee, hot
- 2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons (30 grams) water
- 1/2 cup (60 grams) dry-roasted salted peanuts
Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting
- 5 tablespoons (70 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ¼ cup (64 grams) creamy peanut butter (I like Jif)
- 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (122 grams) confectioners’ sugar
- ¼ cup (28 grams) Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy
- 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 to 3 tablespoons (30 to 45 grams) whole milk or half-and-half
Make the cake
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square baking pan and line the bottom of the pan with a piece of parchment paper, allowing it to overhang two opposite sides of the pan (this will allow you to remove the cake from the pan easily. then dust the pan with flour, tapping out the excess.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gently whisk to combine well and set aside.
- Stir together the milk and sour cream and set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy, about 30 seconds. Gradually add the granulated and light brown sugar and beat, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula once or twice, until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the milk-sour cream mixture, then mix at medium speed until well blended and light, scraping down the side of the bowl if necessary. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition and mixing until blended. Add the vanilla and mix until blended. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating it the hot coffee in two additions and mixing just until combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth it into an even layer. Bake the cake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into its center comes out clean. Place the cake on a wire rack and cool completely.
Make the Caramelized Peanuts
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
- In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the nuts and stir to coat them evenly with the syrup. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid has evaporated, and the nuts are a deep golden brown. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and turn the nuts out onto the prepared baking sheet. Using a silicone spatula, spread them into an even layer and allow them to cool completely.
- Once the nuts are cool, break them into bite-sized pieces.
Make the frosting
- Put the butter and peanut butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk at medium speed until blended and creamy, about 30 seconds or so. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder and salt while whisking, followed by 2 tablespoons (30 grams) of the milk and mixing until blended. Add the remaining tablespoon of milk if the frosting seems too thick. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat the frosting until aerated and very smooth, about 2 minutes.
Frost and garnish the cake
- Using the parchment paper as handles, lift the cake out of the pan and place it on a serving plate. Remove the parchment paper. Frost the top of the cake with the ganache and sprinkle the peanuts on top. Serve the cake at room temperature and store, covered, in the refrigerator.