Because roses are so cliché 😉
Out of control? What out of control? Having eighty thousand components to a dessert is what you always do too right? Of course you do. I actually felt a little guilty about this one. Kevin was super thankful for it and kept saying how guilty he felt that I’d gone to so much effort. Then I in turn felt guilty because really, for me, I totally saw this as an excuse to get all crazy in the kitchen which is totally my jam (in case you hadn’t noticed). So really, this was a gift for me. But shhhhh….don’t tell Kevin, we’ll make it our little secret 😉 .I took a stupid amount of terrible quality photos of this one, so…ta-da! Enjoy I guess? Obviously it’s after Valentine’s day, but since technically speaking, we don’t really celebrate Valentine’s day (also known as clever marketing ploy love day which endeavors to make you feel guilty for not over-spending on your loved one on this one day of the year. Because, you know, that’s how real love goes doesn’t it? You show your love by going into financial debt one day of the year, and then you’re allowed to be an asshole the other 364 days of the year. Right? Uhhh…). Bear with me and my cheesiness here for a minute, but the way I truly feel (woah, weird side note, I somehow accidentally hit the caps lock key…3 TIMES in a row when trying to write “truly feel”. Apparently even my subconscious REALLY feels what I’m about to say) is that Kevin and I (especially Kevin though) show our love for each other in a myriad of ways 366 days of the year (’cause it’s a leap year this year in case you thought my math skills were subpar 😉 ). OK, now that I’ve made you feel a little something like this:
(so…like you wish you were dead, and even then you can’t help but throw up?)
Or possibly this?:
let’s move back to the topic at hand…baking! (Amber, queen of the segue’s 😉 )
Every time I thought I was done with this cake, I kept coming up with something else I wanted to add, and when I started thinking it was out of control and that I should remove something, there was just literally nothing that was worthy of removal (also, Kevin was not helpful in this department. For instance, I’d say “Hey! You know what I was thinking I could do too? Add [insert peanut butter element here]. Or maybe I could add [another pb element]? Or maybe [pb…well you get the idea]. What do you think I should do?” Kevin’s response? “Yes.” “ummm…but which one?” “Please peanut butter all the things.” I mean, how could I argue with his sound logic when backed up by such an airtight legal argument as that?
(Just check out that beautiful – read: terrible – crumb coating job. What we’ve learned here is that you never want to hire me to fill in any cracks in your walls at home because they will obviously then become waves in your walls…unless that’s the look you’re going for? A little under the sea action if you know what I’m saying? (that’s seriously a question because I have no idea what I’m saying 😉 )
Anywho, this is one of these situations where I literally have no idea why I spent the time writing out this recipe because no one is going to ever make this again (well…I would because it’s delicious. Although definitely pre-warning on this one that’s it’s pretty intense/rich/sweet, so a little dab’ll do ya. It’s a small cake, but honestly, if you ate this whole thing in one sitting, I think you would be in a literal sugar coma:
I mean, worth it of course, but just thought I’d warn you. How would you explain THAT to the doctor at the hospital? “Look doc, I know you’re dealing with a lot of life saving here, what with the heart attacks, car accidents, serious injuries, cancer and brain surgeries, but I’m having a bit of a crisis here.” “Oh my God, what’s wrong???!!!” “So I ate this cake…” “Was it poisoned? Are you deathly allergic to peanuts and you didn’t know?” “Nope, that’s it. I ate a delicious cake. Probably too much of it to be good for me. Can you help me out somehow so that I can eat more of it?” “Get out of my hospital”.I am also a total loser who not only bought Reese’s peanut butter puffs cereal as decoration, but took the time to separate the colours into two bowls for decorative purposes (side note on that – there were way too many cereal balls (puffs?) who’s colouring was rather indeterminate. Is it a chocolate piece? A peanut butter piece? How to tell? (you would think you should be able to tell by just eating those ones, but I’m here to tell you, after way too much trial and error on that front, that it is impossible. Maybe I’ll just try one more quickly right now just to be really sure….Nope, still unclear…maybe just one more? *sigh* Give it a rest Amber, if you want to just eat handfuls of cereal, there’s no need to pretend you’re doing it for “science” 😉 .
Now, here is a silent photo montage for your viewing…uh…pleasure?
(dont’ you just love how the chocolate is clearly not set yet in the above picture and is just oozing down the side? I love it too which might be why it’s just possible that all photos of this cake must be taken from this angle so that the finger-sized glob that is missing from the other side shall remain unseen 😉 . Also – apparently this was a silent photo montage. I think that I possibly don’t know the definition of the word “silent”)
First pieces we’re consumed while I crushed it at Trivial Pursuit against Kevin (crushed it means I got one pie and he got all of them and won the game…oh…I guess that should read “Amber was crushed at Trivial Pursuit.” Whatever, who remembers these things anyway? 😉 )
To get a little lovin’, all you need is a little smooth (peanut butter) talking (and cake, always cake).
Yield: 1 5″ peanut butter layer cake
Optional Decorative Toppings:
Peanut Butter Crunch Toffee (this will make extra, but nice to make in advance and have to just snack on)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons corn syrup/agave (or maple syrup would likely work as well)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons water
- 1 teaspoon vegan butter
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons peanut butter
- 1/4 cup chopped salted peanuts
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
Mini Peanut Butter Balls
- 1/4 cup icing sugar
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon vegan butter
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup (optional – if using, may need to add another tablespoon of icing sugar)
- 1/3 cup chocolate chips
Chocolate Ganache Topping
- 1/3 cup chopped good quality chocolate
- 1/3 cup canned coconut milk
- Extra chopped chocolate melted and piped (using a ziplock bag or pastry bag) onto parchment paper in desired shapes
- Extra chocolate grated to sprinkle on top
- Reese’s peanut butter puffs cereal
Peanut Butter Frosting:
- 1/2 cup vegan butter softened
- 1/4 cup vegetable shortening (I hate using this too, but trust me, I’ve tried to make pb frosting a billing times and it basically is always a failure. This is the first time I got it to work)
- 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter (this is one of those instances where it’s better to NOT use natural peanut butter, it’ll turn out better. Who are you kidding anyway, you’re not being healthy here 😉 )
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon maple extract (or 3 of vanilla is fine too, I just like adding maple to everything 🙂 )
- 2 1/2 cups icing sugar
- extra large pinch fleur de sel (or coarse sea salt) if you have it (optional)
Chocolate Brownie Cake:
- 1/3 cup vegan butter
- 160g chocolate (I don’t often weigh ingredients, but if you have a scale, I’d advise it here. If not, use about 2/3 cup)
- 2/3 cup cane sugar
- 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/2 cup flour
- 2/3 cup cocoa
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 egg replacer (which, if you want to get fancy, you can replace the water with chocolate liqueur as I did)
- 1/3 cup oil (I used a mix of peanut oil and coconut oil, but I think basically any oil you have on hand here should work)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon maple extract
- ~1 teaspoon instant coffee
- 1/3 cup coarsely chopped chocolate
Decorative Toppings (I made these a few days in advance to save time):
- Peanut Butter Crunch Toffee – Line a loaf pan with parchment paper. In a small saucepan, stir the sugar with the corn syrup/agave/maple syrup (whatever you’re using) and water. Add the vegan butter and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. You can try you’re best to guess here, but a candy thermometer would definitely be helpful. Cook candy over medium-high heat until it reaches 285° (or about about 10 minutes if you’re not using a thermometer).
- While that’s cooking on the stove, in a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine the peanut butter with the chopped peanuts and salt. Heat the peanut butter mixture in the microwave for about a minute or so (i.e. just until melted and warm). Stir well.
- In a small bowl (I actually just used a shot glass for this), whisk the vanilla with the baking soda. As soon as the caramel reaches 285° (ish 🙂 ), carefully stir in the baking soda mixture (the candy will foam and bubble up, that’s what you want). Immediately pour the hot candy into the peanut butter mixture and, using a spatula, fold everything together as quickly as possible. Doesn’t need to be perfect, the candy starts to setup quickly, so just fairly mixed is fine.
- Pour/scrape candy into prepared pan and press into a flat, even layer. Let cool completely. Peel off the parchment and cut into squares.
- Mini Peanut Butter Balls – Combine all the ingredients (except the chocolate) and form into mini, teaspoon sized balls. Melt chocolate in the microwave for a minute or less and stir until fully melted. Line a plate or baking sheet with wax paper (or parchment or silpat). Dip mini peanut butter balls in chocolate (I like to just use a fork to do this) and lay on prepared plate/baking sheet. Chill in the refrigerator until set
Peanut Butter Frosting (can also be made in advance, just store covered in the fridge and allow to warm slightly and rewhip it a bit with a hand mixer before frosting cake) :
- With an electric mixer, cream together vegan butter and shortening until smooth. Beat in the peanut butter, vanilla and maple extracts and salt (if using).
- Slowly beat in icing sugar until fully combined. If frosting is too thick, add small amounts of non-dairy milk until desired consistency is achieved)
- Preheat the oven to 350F and grease and line three 5-inch cake pans with parchment paper and lightly dust with flour (you should definitely be able to use different sized pans, but obviously the layers will be either thinner or thicker and the baking time should be shortened or lengthened accordingly).
- In a small, microwave-safe bowl, combine the vegan butter and chocolate and microwave for about a minute. Stir until completely smooth and melted (if it’s not melted after a minute or so of stirring, microwave it in short bursts, stirring in between, until smooth) . Stir in both sugars until combined and allow to cool.
- In a small bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
- In a larger bowl, combine the melted chocolate mixture with the egg replacer and whisk together until combined. Whisk in the oil, vanilla and maple extracts and instant coffee.
- Add the dry ingredients and coarsely chopped chocolate and gently fold to combine.
- Divide the batter between the three prepared cake pans (you probably want to fill your pans so that you have a couple of inches of room at the top, and I’d also recommend placing them on a tinfoil lined baking tray just in case of spillover), and tap on the counter to prevent air bubbles.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. You don’t want to overbake – it’s OK if it still looks a bit liquidy/oily on top, it’ll continue to setup as it cools, you just don’t want crumbs/cake batter to still be on your toothpick.
- Allow to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
- If you have a cake stand, great, use it! Either way, line the dish you want to serve/store your cake on with a few pieces of wax paper at the edges of the dish (this’ll keep it clean when you inevitably (if you’re me anyway) get frosting and decoration bits all over the plate) and place the first cake layer down. Put about 1/3-1/2 cup of frosting on the top and layer the second piece of brownie cake on top and add another 1/3-1/2 cup frosting. Just to have a smooth top surface, I lay my top layer on top upside down.
- Using an offset spatula, crumb coat your whole cake with a very thin layer of frosting (think spackling your walls, this will give you a smooth surface to work with when you “paint” your final product with frosting). Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (but longer is totally fine if you need to. Or place it in the freezer if you want it to be quicker. Basically you just need the frosting to be set).
- Spread the rest of your frosting over the cake with an offset spatula to get it smooth. If using, do a few layers/rows of Reese’s peanut butter puffs cereal around the bottom of your cake (feel free to alternate colours, or be lazy and just press them in 🙂 ). Return to the refrigerator (or freezer) for another 20-30 minutes.
- Make the chocolate ganache – place chocolate in a small-ish bowl. Place canned coconut milk in a small, microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 20-30 seconds or just until just begins to bubble. Pour over chocolate and allow to sit for a couple of minutes. Stir until smooth and allow to cool for about 10-15 minutes before pouring gently over the top of your cake (if you want the drips to look a bit better, I’d actually recommend doing them using a small spoon at the edges of your cake and filling in the centre after – here’a useful video I found)
- If using chocolate decorations, press gently into your cake. Coarsely chop peanut butter toffee and peanut butter balls and sprinkle over cake. Sprinkle a few small handfuls of grated or finely chopped chocolate over cake.
- Remove wax paper pieces from your dish and enjoy! Store in the refrigerator.