I baked this simple, single layer cake as part of a Father's Day Bake-Off on Real Baking with Rose. Honestly, I'm not a huge peanut butter fan - candy is fine, but ice cream, pie, cake, and frosting is a no go for me. It's no surprise I wasn't a fan of this cake. I found the flavor combination to be very odd. Even my peanut butter loving husband wasn't a fan, but maybe you'll like it.
This particular recipe, an "early release" from the book Rose's Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum (Sept 2009), was found on the blog Heavenly Cake Place by Marie. Marie is a bread baker, but she received an advanced copy of this cake book and has decided to dive into the cake world by baking her bake her way through the book, blogging as she goes. If you'd like to follow Marie on her baking journey, you can visit her blog Heavenly Cake Place.
I started by preparing my 9" cake pan. Lined it with a parchment (waxed paper works too), and sprayed the bottom and sides with a fat/flour mix in a can. There are a couple of brands available - I like Baker's Joy. Alternately, you can grease and flour your pan.
Don't forget about this wonderful trick... use insulated baking strips around your cake pans to help your cakes bake up nice and level. If you don't use them, the cake batter closest to the metal pan walls will 'set' faster, allowing the batter in the middle of the pan to continue to rise, resulting in a domed cake.
Oh, don't forget to preheat your oven to 350F - now is a good time.
Okay, time to mix. I weighed all the dry ingredients directly into my mixing bowl. You guys know I prefer to use gram weight when baking... precision in baking is essential for consistent results, but Rose is kind enough to include more common measurements as well (cup/teaspoon/lb/oz), so don't think you can't make her recipes if you don't use a scale to weigh your ingredients.
Sadly, my camera battery died right after this shot, so there are a couple of missing pix, but I'll walk you through it. In a medium bowl, mix the wet ingredients together, reserving 3 tablespoons of the buttermilk; set aside. In stand mixer bowl, mix the dry ingredients, then add the butter and the reserved buttermilk as directed. Lastly, add the wet ingredients as directed.
Okay, my camera battery recharged for a couple of minutes... enough to get a few more shots. The cake batter is done mixing and I poured it into my prepared pan, being sure to level it with an offset spatula. I drop my filled pans down onto the counter a couple of times to eliminate any trapped air bubbles (don't do this with a thin batter), and I usually give the pan a quick spin on the counter which allows centrifugal force to help level the batter perfectly (plus it's fun).
Here's the finished cake. See how nice and even it is? Thank you insulated baking strips!!! Place the cake pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes before turning the cake out onto the rack to finish cooling completely. Don't attempt to frost a warm cake - you'll have a melted mess on your hands.
Hey look, even those of us with a lot of baking experience occasionally have to deal with "sticking issues". You can see that a portion of my cake stuck to the parchment liner, so I carefully placed the parchment back on the cake and used my trusty offset spatula to gently dislodge the stuck bit of cake, placing it right back where it belonged. A dab of frosting glued it in place, and once the cake was frosted, you would never know.
To make the frosting, the recipe instructs you to put all the room temperature ingredients into the work bowl of your food processor and mix them up - super simple. If you don't have a food processor, you can certainly use a hand held mixer, or you can even cream the ingredients together by hand.
Personal note: since the top rack of my dishwasher fills up the fastest, I probably will avoid using my food processor to make this frosting in the future. (why can't they make a dishwasher that's completely "top rack only" friendly, even on the bottom rack?)
To keep my cake plate nice and clean, I put a couple of strips of waxed paper under the cake edges, frosted the cake, then removed the waxed paper. Oooh, nice and neat!
For the top of the cake, I did a simple swirly pattern using my turntable. I held my spatula in the center and pulled it outward slowly as I kept the turntable spinning (you could use a spoon).
My review - the spice cake layer was yummy, tender, and moist, but I didn't think it paired well with the peanut butter/cream cheese frosting (chocolate cake would have been ideal). The frosting, in my opinion, wasn't sweet enough, but my husband, the true peanut butter lover, liked it.
Spice Cake w/Peanut Butter Buttercream
Makes one 9-inch cake layer
For the cake:
2 large eggs (100 grams) (3.5 oz.) at room temperature
2/3 cup (160 grams) (5.6 oz.) buttermilk, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups (200 grams) (7 oz.) cake flour (or 1 3/4 cups bleached all-purpose flour)
1 cup (200 grams) (7 oz.) superfine sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dutch processed cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
8 tablespoons (113 grams) (4 oz.) unsalted butter, room temperature
For the buttercream:
1/2 cup (133 grams) (4.7 oz) peanut butter, room temperature
1/2 cup minus 1 tablespoon (113 grams) (4 oz.) cream cheese, room temperature
4 tablespoons (56 grams) (2 oz.) unsalted butter
2 teaspoons sour cream
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons(50 grams) (1.7 oz.) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
To make the cake:
Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick baking spray.
Preheat oven to 350F and place rack in lower third position.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, 3 Tablespoons of buttermilk, and vanilla until lightly combined.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, mix the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cloves on low speed for 30 seconds.
Add the butter and the remaining buttermilk.
Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened.
Raise the speed to medium and beat for 1 1/2 minutes.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Starting on medium-low speed, gradually add the egg mixture in two parts, beating on medium speed for 30 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure.
Using a silicone spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface evenly with a small offset spatula.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a wire cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. The cake should start to shrink from the sides of the pan only after removal from the oven.
Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
Run a small metal spatula between the sides of the pan and the cake, pressing firmly against the pan, and invert the cake onto a wire rack that has been coated lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Cool completely,
To make the buttercream:
In a food processor, combine the peanut butter, cream cheese, butter, sour cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla and process, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until the buttercream is smooth and uniform in color.
To assemble the cake:
When the cake is completely cool, spread a little buttercream on a 9-inch cardboard round or serving plate and set the cake on top. If using the plate, slide a few wide strips of wax paper or parchment under the cake to keep the rim of the plate clean.
Frost the top and sides with swirls of buttercream. If using the paper strips, slowly slide them out from under the cake.