It's currently 5.30pm and it's already pitch black outside. Daylight savings was last night (although I forgot and woke up at 6 wondering why I was so awake), which signals the start of a long, dark winter. And I'm not looking forward to it in the slightest. I don't like anything about winter here in NYC. It gets far, far too cold for my liking, and I hate how dark it is all of the time. I hate how static the heating makes everything, and snow is only fun for about 5 seconds. There's not even any exciting citrus at the markets like the west coast to inject a little brightness into everything. It's just a bit shit.
What's not a bit shit though, is having a giant pile of my friend's cook books to work my way through! I've been lucky enough to receive a bunch in the mail recently, so now that I have a little bit of time, I can share some recipes from them! I'm so excited to finally be back to a regular routine and slightly more chilled out pace - however I have a feeling things will be ramping up very very soon with christmas orders at the studio (this is just my wee sanity project, IRL Rich and I run a design studio where we make clouds!), so I need to embrace this little lull while I can. Someone said to me the other day "oh, but it looks like you guys have such a chilled out life!" which always makes me giggle a little bit - yes we are self employed, so we get to choose our own hours and go on holiday / trips when we like (which I am SO grateful for), but it's always interesting to hear how others perceive what you have going on by what they see on the internet. They don't see the 5.30am get ups, the middle of the night phone calls, and the emails the second that you wake up and the second before you go to sleep. We have worked our asses off to get where we are today, and still continue to work to grow the business all the time. It was a crazy crazy thing starting a business with literally nothing (and no idea how to run a business!) but I wouldn't have it any other way. I love what we do, but sometimes it's not all foster cat cuddles and pretty cakes.
Today, it's pretty cakes though! A few weeks (months?) ago my lovely internet friend Erin sent me a copy of her new book baby, Erin Bakes Cake. I have been dying to make something from it forever - it's a 'choose your own adventure' book situation, which is just amazing! There are a load of cake batter recipes, buttercream recipes, and crunchy filling recipes, each with a bunch of variations, meaning that you can mix and match until your heart is content. My peanut butter loving bestie and her lovely GF had just arrived for a week, and Mack had had a birthday recently, which coincided with an amazing care package from the lovely folks back home at Pics (best peanut butter ever, get yourself some ASAP, they sell on Amazon), so it made sense to jam as much peanut butter into the cake as I possibly could. I went with 3 layers of peanut butter cake, which I sandwiched with a dark chocolate buttercream, and accented with a peanut butter crunch, which has to be quite possibly one of the best things I have put in my mouth for a long while. All these elements paired perfectly - a rich nutty cake, a silky buttercream, and a crunchy peanut butter caramel situation, to make a pretty epic cake. We have just got a new laser cutter at the studio (please don't ask me how much it was, I'm never repeating the number ever again), so I got rich to whip me up a quick topper to finish it all off! What a win. I loved how easy it was to mix and match elements from the book, and how clearly it was all explained how to put your own twist on the recipes. Congrats Erin! The book is so beautiful, and I can't wait to make all of the things from it!
A few wee notes:
- I made the peanut butter crunch while the cakes were cooking, in order to give it enough time to cool. The cakes and crunch can easily be made ahead - just ensure you store in an airtight container or tightly wrapped.
- This makes 3 fairly tall 6-inch cakes, but you could easily use 2 8-inch pans and cut each cake in half to give you four layers.
Peanut Butter Cake with Dark Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream and Peanut Butter Crunch
- Makes one three layer, 6 inch cake -
Reprinted with permission from 'Erin Bakes Cake'
Peanut Butter Cake
12oz (340g) unsalted butter, softened
12 oz (340g) smooth peanut butter
1 3/4 cups (350g) granulated sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
9 large eggs
1 1/2 cups cake flour, plus more to grease pans
Peanut Butter Crunch (I halved the recipe from the book)
1/3 cup (115g) golden syrup, or corn syrup (I used golden)
1/3 cup (80ml) water
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
1 cup (240g) smooth peanut butter
Dark Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
1/2 cup pasteurised egg whites, or 4 large egg whites
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
455g (16oz, or four sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup dark chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
- PROCESS -
PEANUT BUTTER CAKE
Position a rack in the centre of the oven, and preheat to 350˚f / 180˚c. Spray and flour 3 six inch pans, or 2 eight inch pans.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl using an electric hand mixer), beat together the butter, peanut butter, sugar, vanilla, baking powder, and salt at medium speed until fluffy and lighter in colour, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure there are no butter lumps, about 5 minutes.
Add the eggs, one at a time, until completely combined. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl halfway through mixing and after adding the last egg.
With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour to the butter mixture until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl one last time. Fold in any remaining streaks of flour by hand.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake, rotating the pans' positions halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of a cake comes out clean or with a few crumbs clinging to it, 40-50 minutes for 8-inch round pans or 30-35 minutes for 6-inch round pans.
Transfer the cakes to a rack to cool in the pan for about 30 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto a flat surface, like plates or a clean counter top. Allow to cool completely before frosting, filling, or storing.
PEANUT BUTTER CRUNCH
Line a cookie sheet with heavy-duty aluminium foil and grease the foil with cooking spray.
In a medium saucepan, combine the syrup, water, and sugar. Cook over medium high heat until the mixture reaches 300˚f /150˚c on a candy thermometer or the hard crack stage, 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and immediately whisk in the peanut butter. Pour onto the prepared cookie sheet and smooth the top with a heatproof rubber spatula.
Allow the nut butter crunch to cool completely before chopping into small chunks. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
DARK CHOCOLATE SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg whites, sugar, and salt. Heat the mixture in the microwave on high for 1 minutes at a time, whisking after each interval, until the sugar has dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes. Or, heat the mixture over a double boiler, whisking occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. If you're using fresh egg whites, heat the mixture until it measures 160˚f / 71˚c on a candy thermometer.
Pour the egg mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or into a large bowl if using a hand mixer). Beat the egg whites on low speed just until the mixture starts to loosen and foam. Turn the mixer up to high speed and beat the egg whites until the mixture resembles a white, fluffy cloud, 8 to 10 minutes.
Turn the mixer down to low speed and add the butter, a few cubes at a time. The mixture will appear curdled, but that's ok. Once all the butter has been added, turn the mixer up to medium high speed and beat until the buttercream is smooth, glossy, and light in colour, 10 to 15 minutes.
Add the vanilla extract and cooled melted chocolate and mix to incorporate.
Level off the cooled cakes. Have your chopped peanut butter crunch and dark chocolate buttercream ready.
Place the first levelled cake onto a turntable or cake stand. Spread generously with buttercream, then sprinkle a handful of peanut butter crunch over the buttercream. Top with the second layer of cake, and repeat the buttercream and nut crunch process. Place the final layer of cake on the top of the stack (I like to put this one upside down to give it a nice flat top). Crumb coat using buttercream, and leave to rest in the fridge for 15-20 minutes to firm up. Coat with a second coat of buttercream, decorating as desired - I went with a semi naked finish. Top with Extra peanut butter crunch. Serve at room temperature, and refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container.
This recipe is copyright 2017 Erin Gardner. Erin Bakes Cake was published by Rodale books in 2017.