dark chocolate peanut butter cake w/ salted caramel buttercream

Here it is, the best cake I've ever made. Isn't it beautiful?

It may not look like much now, after it has been devoured piece by piece, sweet and salty bite by sweet and salty bite, but it's nuts (get it? peanut butter? nuts? you get it.) how great it was. A rich, moist dark chocolate cake filled with a dark chocolate peanut butter ganache and frosted with salted caramel buttercream. Oh brother.

Make it tonight. Make it right now. Why aren't you making it already? Make it for St. Patrick's Day. For Mother Mother Day (a day celebrating the release of the new Mother Mother album two days ago. I think it's celebrated more in Canada).

You know how when you go to a restaurant and you get that giant piece of chocolate cake for dessert and it seems like it is so delicious, even though it's not that delicious, you just want it to be that delicious. It's cold and heavy and so wet it's almost slimy? This is not like that. This is actually delicious. This has ACTUAL chocolate flavor, deep, dark chocolate flavor, and a thick layer of pure chocolate peanut butter filling running through the center, and then this salted caramel buttercream, light and not even the slightest bit too sweet, an adult frosting if there ever was one.

You just finished making the cake and now you have moved onto the ganache? Good.

Notes: I use powdered buttermilk because I keep it in the pantry at all times. I simply add the amount required to the dry ingredients and add the necessary amount of water with the wet ingredients. Also, 10-inch by 2-inch pans are the minimum you can get away with, anything smaller will get cake all over your oven. If you want, you can use three 9-inch pans or two 9-inch pans and make some cupcakes.

double chocolate layer cake w/ salted caramel buttercream

adapted from gourmet magazine

ingredients
+ 3 ounces good quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
+ 1 1/2 cups hot, brewed coffee
+ 3 cups sugar
+ 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
+ 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
+ 2 teaspoons baking soda
+ 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
+ 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
+ 3 large eggs
+ 3/4 cup vegetable oil
+ 1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
+ 3/4 teaspoon vanilla

recipe
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.

Line two, 10-inch by 2-inch round cake pans with rounds of parchment or wax paper. Butter the pans and paper.

In a small bowl, combine the chopped chocolate with the hot coffee and let stand, stirring every once in a while, until the mixture is smooth. Set aside.

In another large bowl, sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the eggs until they are light-yellow and slightly thick (about 3 minutes). With the mixer on low, slowly add the oil, buttermilk, vanilla and chocolate/coffee mixture to the eggs, beating well until combined. Add the dry ingredient mixture and beat on medium speed until combined well.

Divide the batter evenly between the two pans. Bake in the center of the oven until a toothpick comes out clean, 60 to 70 minutes.

When done, cool the cakes completely on racks. When cooled, run a thin, sharp knife around the edges and carefully invert onto cake rounds or racks. Be careful and support the entire cake - they are very moist.

To assemble, spread the peanut butter ganache (recipe below) evenly across the top of the bottom cake layer. Place the top cake layer over the peanut butter ganache. Use some of the salted caramel buttercream (recipe below) to spread a thin crumb-coat layer over the top and edges of the cake. Chill the cake in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours. When the crumb-coat layer has set, use the remaining buttercream to frost the cake evenly on the top and sides. Decorate the cake with sifted cocoa or chocolate shavings.

dark chocolate peanut butter ganache

adapted from chow.com

ingredients
+ 5 ounces good quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
+ 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
+ 1/2 cup heavy cream
+ 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

recipe
In a small bowl, combine the chocolate and peanut butter. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, simmer the cream and vanilla together over medium heat. Pour the cream over the chocolate/peanut butter mixture and let sit for two minutes, until the chocolate is almost completely melted.

Stir the mixture until it is completely combined and smooth. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes, until it is slightly set but still spreadable. Give it a good stir to incorporate some air before you spread it on the cake.

salted caramel buttercream

adapted from sprinkle bakes

ingredients
+ 1/2 cup granulated sugar
+ 1 teaspoon sea salt
+ 4 tablespoons water
+ 1/2 cup heavy cream
+ 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
+ 2 sticks salted butter
+ 2 sticks unsalted butter
+ 3 cups powdered sugar

recipe
In a light-colored saucepan (to make it easier to gauge the color of the caramel), stir together the granulated sugar, sea salt and water. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil. Cook the mixture without stirring until it turns a deep, dark amber. (David Lebovitz has a great post on making perfect caramel). Remove from the heat and slowly add the cream and vanilla - the mixture will bubble wildly at first. Stir until it is perfectly smooth. Set aside to cool for about 20 minutes, until it is the tiniest bit warm but still pourable.

In your stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter until it is light and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the powdered sugar. Mix until fully incorporated.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the caramel. Beat the mixture on medium-high speed until it is light and airy, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times to fully incorporate the caramel. If the caramel was too hot when you added it, refrigerate it until it sets up a bit and mix it again.