For this cake, I ended up taking inspiration from several recipes - frosting and ganache here, and a chocolate cake Frankenstein recipe pieced together from several different sites.
I didn't want to make a cake from scratch. I was making two kinds of frosting from scratch. I only have two hands. That's enough love for one cake. So I doctored up a cake mix as follows:
- 1 box chocolate cake mix (I used Chocolate Fudge flavor, "with pudding in the mix")
- 1 1/3 cup espresso or very strong brewed coffee
- 1 cup sour cream (I used light sour cream)
- 3 eggs
- 1 small box sugar-free fat-free chocolate pudding mix
The peanut butter cream cheese frosting came next:
- 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 3/4 stick unsalted butter or margarine, at room temperature
- 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)
This made perfect sense to me. I love me some PB and cream cheese on a bagel. If this sounds wrong to you, do me one favor: TRUST. You will not be sorry. I followed the original website's directions, although I altered the ingredient amounts:
1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.
2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.
No problems there. I placed the first layer upside down on the platter, spreading the PB CC frosting on top. I cut off the rounded top of the second layer, and placed it upside down on the first, so the cake would lay flat. Because chocolate crumbs are ugly in pretty cakes, I made a crumb coat and chilled the cake for a half hour before frosting it completely.
Then I chilled the cake again while I made the ganache. The ganache, I confess, intimidated the hell out of me. I'd never made it before, but I have seen scorched chocolate, and the birthday girl was breathing down my neck, and the pressure to perform was high. Again I followed the original recipe's site, and it made the perfect amount of ganache:
- 8 ounces seimsweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1/2 cup half-and-half (I actually never use half-and-half. I used fat-free evaporated milk.)
1. In the top of a double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.
I was screwed from the get-go. First of all, there is nothing but solid pieces for the first 10 is minutes, so whisking is out. Stirring works. Second of all, this is a very slow process. Tedious. It took so long for the chocolate to get smooth I thought I'd somehow bypassed the finish line and headed straight for Scorch Land. I seriously started to panic. But finally we arrived with almost-perfect smoothness and shine, and I poured that over the chilled cake and let the excess drool over the edges like a halloween blob. Suddenly I had a beautiful cake.
It took a long time and this is not one of the healthiest things I've ever made, but it was cheap and elegant and delicious. And now I know how to make ganache! Now... what to do with all the excess peanut butter cream cheese frosting?