This might be the best damn looking cake Miss Fats has ever made. It’s also probably why it ended up being one of the most disappointing. She’s going to refer to this cake as a “fancy fail” from now on (notice it’s similarity to Fancy Feast). Now this is being incredibly over dramatic and a bit self wallowing, but come on! Look at that thing. It’s promising nothing but decadent flavor on par with its aesthetic level. However this was not the case. Spoiler alert: this is not a love story.
Ok Miss Fats will stop being a bummer to talk a little more about what’s going on with this beauty. Since she’s fundamentally incapable of attending just about any event without a sweet treat in hand, Miss Fats’ recent invite to a belated wedding reception/joint birthday celebration was no exception. This event boasted a wedding and two birthdays and therefore required her to impose a cake upon everyone. Hell, Miss Fats wasn’t even really invited to this thing but you better damn well believe she was bringing a big ass cake in celebration.
She asked for her usual flavor request to help send her in a general direction; “chocolate?” was all she got. Now this was the second chocolate cake of the week for Miss Fats (she had just gone to cacao town with D’s birthday cake earlier in the week). Since Chicago weather had been crap, she didn’t even feel obligated to work with a cake that celebrated the sunshine and flavors of the summer (because let’s get real, summer literally just started in Chicago). So shit was about to get real. IE Miss Fats was going to lay down her favorite flavor combination of all time: peanut butter chocolate.
She knew there would be another cake at the party, so she felt less obligated to craft a cake that perfectly encompassed the couple (a task that Miss Fats’ has actually never even tried. Though she can’t wait for a Frankenstein cake soon). Instead, she was hoping to simply highlight the importance of celebration, decadence and excess. This party was a fun and simple backyard affair, so the peanut butter seemed to be an appropriate way to dial back the ‘smance in favor of some childhood ooey gooey peanutty business.
She knew that this type of celebration definitely required an actual cake: three celebrations can’t quite be encompassed in a little cupcake object. However she’d been struggling with the humidity over the last week and was seriously worried about her super-moist chocolate cake recipe not holding up for this thing. With D’s cake days before, the wet air wreaked havoc on the removing-cake-from-pan process and she thought it might be a good idea to go with a butter-based cake instead. She’s a big fan of Bakers Royale and has a good deal of success with many of her recipe components, so when she found her Best Chocolate Cake Recipe it seemed like the natural choice. It followed many of Miss Fats’ baking rules: minimal bowl action, no cake flour, and no butter creaming (these are not steadfast rules: just wonderfully attractive features that she often looks for). It essentially resembled Miss Fats’ oil-based chocolate cake, but used melted butter instead. She ended up using milk instead of the cassis because: a) Miss Fats really has no fucking idea what cassis is anyway and b) she’s a grad student not going to buy a bottle of that fancy liquor for one cake. Given that the recipe produced two 8 inch cakes, Miss Fats ended up multiplying the recipe by 1.5 to get three 9 inch layers. The cakes cooked beautifully and easily held up despite the wet wet air.
Now came the filling. Miss Fats has been trying to think through the ultimate peanut butter filling for quite some time now. Peanut butter is not just some creaming thing you can slap in between cake layers. It’s a sticky-salty spread that should be celebrated flavor-wise, but requires a bit more work to transform it into a perfectly crafted cake filling that works with the textures of the cake and frosting. She liked the idea of something between a buttercream/mousse: she wanted the intense flavors of a Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup, but a lightness that wouldn’t overpower the fluffy crumb of the cake.
She ended up going with Bakers Royale’s Peanut Butter Frosting, that boasted intense peanut flavor in the form of a buttercream. She was a little worried about how much frosting this recipe produced and the intensity of the peanut flavor, so Miss Fats made a couple of variations that she’s sharing with you here:
Peanut Butter Filling:
makes about 3 cups of filling
adapted from Bakers Royale’s Peanut Butter Frosting
1 stick of butter, softened
1 cup creamy, all natural peanut butter
1 cup to 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (dependent upon how sweet your peanut butter is)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt + more to taste
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1. Whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Set aside in the fridge.
2. Beat the butter and peanut butter on medium high until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and salt and mix until fully combined. Sift in the powdered sugar and beat until combined. Adjust salt based on your own preferences (Miss Fats obviously added more).
3. Fold the frosting into the heavy whipping cream.
Since she was diggin’ on the look and feel of D’s chocolate cake from earlier in the week, she ended up going with the easy, spreadable chocolate ganache frosting. Fully riding the salt-sweet train at this point, Miss Fats needed to jazz this thing up to keep it on par with the celebration level of the party. She figured in-line with the backyard, slightly nostalgic feel of the event, a chocolate-covered pretzel would be the ideal object of decoration. What says salt-sweet tasty town more than a chocolate covered pretzel? However to keep it elegant (and photographable), she needed a bit of color contrast, so she ended up deciding to do both chocolate and peanut butter-dipped treats. Miss Fats isn’t going to give you a recipe for these, since all she did was melt down about a cup of chocolate chips and a cup of peanut butter chips and dunked those suckers in. To make them all pretty, she made a mess of herself and kitchen by using a fork to whip lines of peanut butter and chocolate across them. The only trick of these pretzels is not eating them all before they make it on to the cake (so so hard). Let them firm up in the fridge and stack them in a circle. Boom. So pretty, yet to easy.
So what’s the problem, you ask? Is Miss Fats seriously just whining about how good looking her cake is? Ok so here begins the abbreviated discussion of the cake’s problems (skip ahead if you’d rather live in cake fantasy land and see this as perfection). So this is pretty fucking epic looking right? And when you make a cake like this one, you want that first cut and bite to match the level of beauty (Miss Fats has a HUGE problem with beautiful cakes that cannot live up to their looks in flavor). However, cutting into this cake, it crumbled. Total frosting/filling/cake mess. The chocolate ganache pulled at the crumbly cake, destroying the three, carefully stacked layers. Hardly the kind of display for a wedding: no embarrassing (cue tiny violins). And while this mess may have been acceptable given the casual celebration, Miss Fats regrets to say that the flavor just didn’t quite make up for the disastrous structure. There just wasn’t enough peanut butter filling to balance with the fudge of the cake and ganache. Salt-sweet fail.
Ok ok. Miss Fats will stop now, because for the most part, guests seemed to really enjoy the cake (naively so). And in the end, the bride and groom/birthday boy and girl seemed to really enjoy it. Which is all she can hope for. However if Miss Fats were to attempt this cake again, she’d seriously amp up that peanut butter filling: literally double that recipe. She’d also return to her oil-based cake, which just has a bouncier texture that holds up to a sturdy filling like peanut butter. This is to say that Miss Fats is not completely discouraged: she will try the ultimate peanut butter chocolate cake again. Though this cake will probably haunt Miss Fats’ sugar dreams for a while, she recognizes that this was not a complete fail. The real success came in making a beautiful cake for a beautiful crowd and couple. They should just wait for peanut butter cake the sequel: coming to birthdays next summer.