America, baking, cake, chocolate, dessert, Peanute butter, recipes

An Edible 1040

08.22.08 | 1 Comment

Halloween was always a bittersweet holiday for me. I loved dressing up, trick-or-treating, and, more importantly, filling a pillowcase with enough candy to erode my entire skull. (I would still be going now, at the hoary age of 22, but even when I was 15 people were asking, “Aren’t you too old for this?” Is one ever to old to dress like a fairy princess and go begging for candy? I think not!) Problem was, I hated chocolate. Still do. And inevitably, at least 60% of the contents of my pillowcase were of the decidedly chocolate variety. It was kind of like federal taxes on my earnings; I might earn two pounds of candy, but all chocolate was an automatic deduction.

Not liking chocolate was rather a burden at all get-togethers where providing sweets and goodies is a social tenet. Birthday party? Chocolate cake. Treats for the class? Chocolate chip cookies. Bake sale? Brownies. Winter refresher? Hot chocolate. Hanukkah? Gelt. Easter? Chocolate rabbits. Luckily for my cacao-loving family and friends, this just meant more for them.

Sometimes, I got desperate. Almost every year, around November 3, when my Halloween stash had dwindled to a pathetic handful of Runts, Laffy Taffy, and chocolate, I would try to convince myself to like chocolate. I’d peel open a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and shave off a taste with my front teeth. See, that’s not so bad, right? Take another bite.

But the second bite always seemed just a little more bitter than the first. I’d convince myself to try one more. But by then, the candy bar had lost all appeal, and it was in the trash before I’d hit the peanut center. Sometimes I’d try scraping away all the chocolate and scooping out the innards. I think once it worked with a Butterfingers.

mmm, frosting.

Like a blind person learns to ‘see’ with sound, I learned to eat around the chocolate. When I ate ice cream sandwiches, I meticulously peeled off the chocolate crackers in the time it took half the ice cream to melt. I ate the vanilla centers out of ice cream cakes and scraped the vanilla frosting off of chocolate cakes. I scraped centers from Oreos and discarded Tootsie Roll Pops when I got to the center.

But now that I’m old enough to worry about weight and eating too much, I am SO glad I don’t like chocolate. Everyone around me, however, still likes chocolate. My mom’s birthday was earlier this month; I asked her what kind of cake she wanted, and she said, “Chocolate.” So I whipped up a nice chocolate Guiness stout cake and ate an apple as my family savored my creation.

“Don’t you want to try a little bit?” asked Nana.

“I don’t like chocolate.”

“But you made the cake. Not even a little taste?”

“I don’t like chocolate.”

On Sunday, my brother returned from his summer-long romp through France (I am now the only person in my family who has never been to France, something I find so unfair that the only thing that mollified my jealousy was this can of foie gras my brother brought back for me. This is the same guy who gave me a wok for Christmas. I love my brother. But still totally jealous that he went to France.)

His birthday is this week, so I asked him what kind of cake he wanted me to make him. He thought a minute and then replied, “Chocolate.” Part of me rejoiced that I would get to experience all the joys of baking without the evil temptation lurking in the counter, calling my name to come finish off half a cake in one sitting. Remember the carrot cake from June? That was dangerous.

And I knew exactly what cake I wanted to make. One of my favorite food blogs is Smitten Kitchen, and she had recently posted this recipe for a three-layer sour cream chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting and a peanut butter chocolate glaze. Please, how does one NOT make this cake?

It was my first time doing a layer cake, or what I like to call, “sedimentary cake.” It took me about three hours—this is not an easy cake, and the kitchen got very messy. But it was fun! And it was a hit with all eaters. Papa proclaimed it the best chocolate cake he’d ever eaten. And Nana asked, “You’re not even going to have a little bit?”

“No, Nana, I still don’t like chocolate.”

Chocolate Peanut Butter cake
Adopted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes one 8-inch triple layer cake that serves a LOT of people (or a few people many times over)

2 cups all purpose flour
2 ½ cups sugar
¾ unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup canola oil
1 cup sour cream (I used light sour cream and it was fine*)
1 ½ cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

(makes about 5 cups)
10 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (I used the low-fat variety**)
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter

(makes about 1 ½ cups)
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped coarsely
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
½ cup half and half [I subbed 7/8 cups of milk (not skim) and 7/8 of a tablespoon of butter mixed together and then used ½ cup of that mix instead]

For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or wax paper and then butter the paper and sides of the pan.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until they’re well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and make sure the batter is well mixed. Divide batter among the 3 cake pans.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center of the cakes comes out almost clean. Let the cake cool in the pans for 20 minutes, then invert them onto wire racks, peel off the paper, and let them cool completely. The cakes will be very soft. Put them in the freezer for 30 minutes so that they’re firm when you stack them.

For the frosting, use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy in a large bowl. Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar one cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended. Lick the mixer attachments and smile because peanut butter is way more amazing than chocolate.

To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or serving platter. Spread 2/3 cup of the peanut butter frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides with the remaining frosting.

For the glaze, melt together the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup in a saucepan. Cook, whisking often, til the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in half and half, beating until smooth. Use the glaze while it’s still warm.

To decorate with the glaze, pour the glaze over the top of the cake and use an offset spatula to spread the glaze evenly over the top just to the edges so that the glaze runs down the sides of the cake in long drops. When I did this, the glaze ended up covering most of the cake, so I just spread the extra all over the cake so that it coated it completely.

Refrigerate the cake uncovered for at least 30 minutes to allow the frosting and glaze to set completely. Remove the cake an hour before serving.

*Because light sour cream will make this cake SO much less sinful.
**Hence, this cake is also very low-fat.

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