Saturday, February 2, 2013

mini reese's peanut butter cake

You may have guessed that I love chocolate & peanut butter since this cake recipe may feel like a too-soon repeat of my recent chocolate & peanut butter cake.  That cake, however, was enormous:  fifteen servings!  It was the perfect size for a party, but I know that if I had made that for just myself and whomever happened to stop by, I would have single-handedly eaten far more than my allotted one slice.

This cake is different in two ways.  First, it is a lot smaller, yielding only about six servings compared to the fifteen to sixteen of the other cake.  Second, it is a reverse of the other cake:  peanut butter cake and chocolate frosting, not to mention that it has mini Reese's peanut butter cups inside and out.  (The mini Reese's were one of my infrequent impulse buys. Impulsive after a 15-minute careful analysis of all the peanut butter cup options in the grocery store, that is.)

Now, this cake could have easily been a few cupcakes in order to change it up, but I must confess that I don't really like cupcakes:  there's something about the frosting-to-cake distribution of a layer cake that is infinitely more appealing to me.  Furthermore, if it's feasible, I always like to turn a shorter layer cake into a taller layer cake with more frosting in between each bit of cake.

As such a tiny cake, though, this cake would be perfect for Valentine's day, too, right?

On the subject of Valentine's day... I just love it as a holiday.  I think I mostly love it because it gives me a reason to celebrate, be it with a little party, which is what I did last year and am contemplating for this year, or just with some Valentine's day dessert; celebrations always mean getting to make beautiful and delicious food to go with some fun decorations, thereby suckering in my probably overly-materialistic self.

mini reese's cups!  they are the cutest... but far too easy to just eat by the handful.
In particular, Valentine's Day traps me with its pink (my favorite color... cliche for a girl, I know, but it's such a happy color).  When I go to Target, I stare longingly at all their red, white, and pink, heart-themed items, but don't buy them because they would find year-round spots in my house, and I have tried to move away from my living space glowing pink, as did my dorm room every year when I was in undergrad...  You could look at the building in the evening and pick out my room based on the pink light emanating from it.

Well, pink and chocolate, which means I should stop my Valentine's Day, pink, and cake-over-cupcake rambling and let you finally get on to the recipe with the chocolate, which is probably everyone else's only favorite part of the holiday.  :  )

Cake adapted from The Caramel Cookie.  Frosting is Hershey's Dark Chocolate Decadence Frosting.

1 ½ cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup peanut butter
⅛ cup canola oil
½ tablespoon apple cider vinegar (can sub white vinegar)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ¼ cup milk
1 bag of mini Reese's peanut butter cups or about half the bag of chopped small Reese's peanut butter cups (optional)
Chocolate Frosting
8 tablespoons butter, softened

⅔ cup cocoa
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
⅓ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In separate bowl, mix together the peanut butter and oil until well blended. Next, mix in the vanilla, milk, and vinegar until well incorporated.
  4. Slowly add the flour mixture ingredients to the milk mixture, until just incorporated.
  5. (Optional)  Stir a handful of mini Reese's or chopped Reese's into the batter.
  6. Grease three 6-inch round pans (2 inches tall).  Divide the batter equally between the three pans.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until cake tester or toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Cool cake briefly in pans before removing to plates or to a wire rack.  Cool completely before frosting.  You can speed up the cooling process with a twenty-minute or so stint in the freezer.
  8. Level cakes before icing by using a bread knife or cake leveler to remove the puffy tops of each cake.
  9. Make the frosting:  Beat the butter until smooth.  Slowly beat in the cocoa powder, then the milk.  Beat in all the confectioners' sugar until smooth.  Beat in the vanilla extract.  Use to frost the cake.
  10. To frost & decorate the cake: Stack layers, spreading frosting in between each layer.  Frost the outside of the cake with a thin layer of frosting for your "crumb coat."  Refrigerate or freeze until the frosting is set (10 to 15 minutes).  Use the rest of the frosting to complete your "final coat."  Smooth out your final coat using an offset spatula.  Keep rinsing the spatula in very hot water to help smooth your frosting out.  If you want to decorate your cake like mine, I simply put mini Reese's top-down in a ring around the edges of the top.  I then cut a whole bunch of mini Reese's in half and made a ring around the bottom.
Makes about 6 small slices of cake.

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