Friday, August 24, 2012

A Welcome Home Cake

I've been on a serious baking kick lately. Cakes, breads, tarts, muffins, you name it, I want to taste it.

Last Friday when Tim was flying home from his business trip, I brilliantly decided to bake him a cake... because I missed him and I'm wonderful.

After a short brainstorm, I decided on chocolate peanut butter. I hadn't made this flavor combo in a while, so it was about time.

When I was 8 or 9, my BFF and I were on a camping trip at Malibu Creek State Park when I was first introduced to the deadly combination of chocolate and peanut butter. I had had prepackaged peanut butter cups before, but never combined chocolate and peanut butter myself. We had snuck junk food into our packs and hid away in our tent to share contraband. I had brought tiny chocolate nutcrackers or someother leftover from who knows what, and she had stashed away a tiny jar of peanut butter. After that day I was forever changed - no more prepackaged pb cups for me! I had had the magic of real chocolate and real peanut butter together and there was no going back! Ok, that's not entirely true, but for dramatic effect, let's just say it is.

I used my FAVORITE chocolate cake recipe and divided it by 4.

In my (relatively) recent baking adventures I learned that coffee makes chocolate chocolatier.  Why is chocolatier not a word? Really, who hasn't used it in a sentence before in their life? WHO?

A lot of recipes I've found call for instant espresso, but recent invention has made this easier for us! Thank you Starbucks and all those who followed in their footsteps for VIA packets. For my tiny cake, I used one packet. When making a whole recipe, I'll usually use two or three - depending on how coffeey I want it. :)

For pretty and even stacking, you need to cut the tops off of each cake.

That means I get to snack when I bake, and chocolate cake is always a welcome snack.

When I made the peanut butter buttercream, it was too warm out. The frosting was ooey gooey so I had to throw it in the freezer for a bit before putting it on the cake. Kind of annoying since I'm impatient.

But once it was cool enough, I frosted the cake, put it back in the fridge for a bit and then busted out a tub of chocolate frosting I had. It was gross. My sister won it in the gift game at last year's family Christmas gathering and it was still "good"- to give you an idea of all the chemical crap they put in there - but for my decorating purposes, it worked perfectly.

Then I wanted to do something on the sides...

Oh hey, so, there's an actually recipe for the peanut butter buttercream, but to me it reads like this:
Some softened butter
A little more peanut butter than butter
Slowly mix in powdered sugar until you like the consistency.

So that's what you get too. ;)

For the cake, I'll help you out a little more,(because Kim asked for the recipe and I thought 'why not just post it?') but please bare in mind that when I divide a recipe by 4,  if it says 1 1/4 cup of something I quite literally and use a 1/4 cup as my "cup" and then estimate what one quarter of it is for the 1/4 cup. It's a very "exact" science.

1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 stick of butter
1/3 c. sugar
3/4 of a 1/4 cup of cocoa powder (make sense? - you can also do an 1/8 c. plus half an 1/8th c. I'm here to confuse you.)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
1/3 c. milk
1 packet of Starbucks VIA or similar instant coffee/espresso

Preheat oven to 350

Grease two 4" round cake pans, line the bottom with parchment, grease again. Set aside. Don't have 4" round cake pans? Use the smallest pan you got. :)

In bowl (1) combine four, baking powder, and cocoa powder. Mix until blended evenly.

Combine softened butter and sugar in bowl (2). You really want to make sure the butter is soft (but not melted) so they blend together to become a sort of sugar/butter cream. Feel free to use any kind of electric mixer, but since this recipe is so small, a stand-mixer is major overkill. You'll only end up mixing 1/3rd of the batter, have to mix it by hand anyway, and then you'll have lugged that huge thing out for no reason. ;)

Add the egg, gently beat in.

Add 1/3 flour/cocoa mixture, mix in evenly
Add 1/2 of your milk, mix in evenly
Add a second 1/3rd of the flour/cocoa mixture (aka half of what is remaining), mix in evenly
Add the rest of the milk and the vanilla, mix in evenly
Mix in the rest of the flour/cocoa mixture
AND FINALLY, add the instant coffee packet, mix in evenly.

Pour half the batter into each of your 4" pans and put them in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until you can stick a toothpick in the center and it comes out clean. These will bake faster than normal cake because they are smaller. Hooda thunk?
You can also use one small cake pan. Careful not to fill it too high or the batter will rise and spill out all over your oven - speaking from personal experience.

Allow them to cool. They should pop out of the pans pretty easily - that's why you did the grease & parchment routine. Trim the tops so they're flat and lovely. Put some peanut butter buttercream on top of one and stack the other on that. Then cover the whole thing with that stuff. :)

Write a note to your hubby in strange leftover icing and then put it in the fridge for a little while. Or don't. Scarf it down right there. It's small... right? It's not like you're eating a whole cake by yourself.

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