Thursday, November 11, 2010

Peanut Butter Lover's Cake

I was honored this week with a request for a special birthday cake. The chef at one of our local fine restaurants was being feted at a party and the general manager asked me to make his cake. I was told his favorite flavor is peanut butter. The rest was up to me.

I decided to make a cake using both the classic combinations of peanut butter and jelly and peanut butter and chocolate, keeping the peanut butter as the predominate flavor.

I found a recipe for peanut butter cake and tested it to make sure it was what I wanted.  I decided to fill the cake with a fine blackberry preserve and ice it with Rose Levy Beranbaum's peanut butter buttercream.

This was a largish cake and I wanted to have lots of fruit filling to go with all that peanut butter flavor. Making a dam with the buttercream keeps the berry filling from oozing out the sides and messing up the icing.

I didn't have any blackberries available to make my own filling so after much label reading I settled on this good quality blackberry preserve for the filling.

The filling stayed nicely inside the dam.

I stacked the cake in three layers and crumb coated it with the peanut butter buttercream. A short stint in the refrigerator helps to firm up and set the icing.

I then mixed up another batch of buttercream and iced the cake.

I made up some rich chocolate ganache with a semi-sweet chocolate and heavy cream. It's essential that the ganache is just the right consistency for stress-free piping. I wanted to cover the top of the cake so that each slice would have some chocolate. If I made this cake again I would ice the sides of the cake with the peanut butter buttercream and then the top with straight ganache. I would then decorate the top with the buttercream as I did here. I think that would give more balance between the peanut butter, blackberry and chocolate flavors.
In the end though I think it was a peanut butter lover's delight!

So, I'm going to confess to you all my inner baker's angst. I go through these kind of things when I am doing an important job. I delivered the cake with a fair amount of confidence, except that I wished I had iced the top with the ganache as I said above. I was able to think "C'est la vie" until I started worrying about the filling.  As I said above, I wanted to use a lot of filling to balance the flavor of the peanut butter, but then I started worrying that the filling was too soft and that when the cake was sliced it would ooze and fall apart instead of transferring nicely to a dessert plate. I worry about this kind of stuff and Mr. Dirtywrench tells me that since the devil is in the details, my nit-picking is what ends in good results. 

So you can imagine my relief when I got these comments from the hotel manager in an email. 

"...when we cut into the cake it looked off the charts……beautiful….the blackberry ran down it and over the peanut butter cake. Chef Mark Whitehead loves peanut butter and as a general rule cake is NOT his favorite and he said “it was incredible one of the best cakes he’s had” Mark always looks at how a cake cuts and this cut perfect……THANK YOU so much and I’ll look forward to our next order and sending many clients your way."

I can now sleep peacefully once again.


  1. How did he like it? Were you nervous about baking it for a chef?
    This cake has my daddy's name written all over it. Only if I make it, it will not be pretty like that. Definitely not.

  2. Stunning. That was my first thought at the sight of the finished cake.

  3. oh, I am salivating! Peanut butter and chocolate is my favorite flavor.

  4. Congratulations on your success with this one, Pam! It's an absolute work of art.


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