As sinful as it’s delicious, this glorious chocolate peanut butter cake is the best fit for a celebration, with tiers of moist chocolate sponge bound by indulgent peanut buttercream icing. Add a sprinkle of roasted nuts for an extra crunch to go with the burst of rich nutty flavours.
This recipe is featured in Nigella Lawson’s new BBC show which focuses on her favourite recipes for home-cooking. Nigella’s Eat, Cook, Repeat, premieres in Singapore on Monday, 16th August at 7.00pm, on StarHub channel 432 and BBC Player.
- 200 g unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
- 250 ml hot water from a just-boiled kettle
- 50 g cocoa
- 100 g soft dark brown sugar
- 125 g caster sugar
- 2 tsps vanilla extract
- 225 g plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp bicarbonate soda
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- ICING (DOUBLE THE QUANTITIES FOR A FOUR-TIER CAKE)
- 300 g icing sugar
- 150 g soft unsalted butter
- 200 g smooth peanut butter
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp fine sea salt
- 4 x 15 ml tbsps (60 ml) double cream
- 4 x 15 ml tbsps (30 g) dry roasted peanuts, chopped
Heat the oven to 180 C (160 C fan-forced). Butter two 20 cm sandwich tins (or four tier-caketins) and line them with baking parchment. Don’t use loose-bottomed tins as this is a runny batter.
Cut the butter lengthways into four pieces (just to aid melting) and put into a heavy-based fairly wide saucepan and set over gentle heat. Add the just-boiled water, and whisk in the cocoa and both brown and white sugars, and keep on low heat, whisking gently, until the butter has melted, and you have a smooth, amalgamated mixture. Remove from the heat, and stir in the vanilla extract. Let stand for 5 mins.
Measure out the flour in a bowl, add the baking powder and bicarb and fork to mix. Whisk the eggs together in a small jug.
Pour the eggs gradually into the pan, whisking all the while, until they are completely absorbed.
Finally, whisk in the flour slowly and gently until you have a smooth batter, and pour and scrape evenly into your waiting tins.
Bake in the oven for 18-20 mins (or approx. 7 mins for the ultra-shallow tins), by which time the cakes will be beginning to shrink away at the edges, and a cake tester will come out leanish; it is a damp cake, though, so it’s fine if a few crumbs cling to the cake tester.
Leave the cakes to cool for 10-15 mins on a rack; they can be turned out once the tins are not so hot that you’d need to use oven gloves. Or you can leave them in their tins until cold. I always do this if making the 4-tier variant.
To make the buttercream, first sift the icing sugar into a bowl.
In another large bowl (or the bowl of a freestanding mixer that you’ve fitted with the whisk), beat the butter and peanut butter together very thoroughly; that’s to say, for 3 mins if you’re using a mixer, or 5 mins with a handheld electric whisk, by which time you should have a light and fluffy creamy mixture. Beat in the vanilla extract and salt.
Still beating, but now at a slightly lower speed, patiently add the sieved icing sugar a spoonful at a time until you’ve used half of it, then beat in the rest in 3 batches. Once it’s all in, turn up the mixer a little and carry on beating for 2 mins, or for 3 with a handheld electric whisk. Scrape down the sides, to incorporate any icing sugar clinging to the bowl, and beat again for 30 secs-1 min.
Still beating, add the cream a tbsp at a time and, when it’s all in, carry on beating for 4 mins (or for 6 mins with a handheld electric whisk) until you have a soft, aerated and moussily light mixture.
Peel away the lining papers from the cakes and place one of the layers, flat-side up, on a cake stand or plate. If this is a 2-layer cake, spread–armed, ideally, with a bendy spatula and a small offset spatula–about a third of the icing evenly onto the waiting cake layer, taking it right out to the very edges of the circle; this will bulge out a bit when you place the other cake on top, which will make it easier for you to ice the sides. And if this is a 4-layer cake, just think in terms of spreading the icing 1 cm thick.
Top with your second cake, placing it domed-side up, so that the two flat sides are meeting. Then spread another third of the icing over the top. And if making a 4-layer cake, create your tower, spreading 1 cm thickness of icing between each layer, and on the top.
Use the bendy spatula to get a dollop of buttercream onto the side of the cake, then spread it gently to cover and smooth, ideally with a small offset spatula, and carry on like this, with your two tools, until the cake is covered all the way round. Then run the offset spatula on top and all round the cake again to smooth the buttercream. Leave plain or decorate with the chopped peanuts or as your heart desires.
Text: Nigella Lawson