Monday, March 26, 2012

An Ode to My Chocolate-Peanut Butter Love + Mix's Birthday

Those of you who go way back with me can probably recall many a chocolate-peanut butter dessert that I have made. It is one of my absolute favorite combinations, one I experimented with many, many times in my early baking career and to which I often return. It's comfortable.

My high school friends probably remember receiving chocolate-peanut butter buckeyes in their Christmas cookie trays. My college friends probably remember that decadent Super Bowl when I made layer bars of 1. brownie, 2. caramel and pretzels, and 3. peanut butter filling and Reese's Puffs cereal, and 4. chocolate frosting. My old coworkers probably remember their mid-day sugar coma when I brought in a brownie torte layered with chocolate frosting, peanut butter filling, and Reese's candy. My roommate now probably remembers the moment when she first discovered my obsession, much to the dismay of her peanut allergy. My boyfriend probably remembers how he did not like chocolate-peanut butter desserts until he met me, after which I slowly converted him into a chocolate-peanut butter lover.

Despite this chocolate-peanut butter obsession, you have probably noticed that there have not been that many chocolate-peanut butter combinations featured in the posts of this blog. Yes, I have been trying to diversify in an attempt to be a well-rounded baker, not a chocolate-peanut butter baker. But I feel that has only turned me into a carrot cake baker....

Anyways, as it had been awhile since I had made something chocolate-peanut-buttery, I was elated when my friend Andrew commissioned a birthday cake for his boyfriend (Scott) Mix's birthday. "He loves chocolate and peanut butter." YESSSS, because I DO, TOO. I dug up old chocolate-peanut butter recipes from the vault and sent a few to Andrew, but also included one I had seen recently on the blog Sprinkle Bakes, which was the most ridiculous cake I had ever seen. The behemoth featured alternating layers of chocolate cake and Reese's-studded cheesecake, with caramel and peanuts in between the layers, all enrobed in whipped chocolate ganache and chocolate curls. I did not think Andrew would actually pick this cake as it was enormous and sounded like something off a "Man vs. Food" challenge (actually, it's a copy of a Cheesecake Factory cake - so not too off), but I figured I would give him options - like, maybe he'd only want the cheesecake OR the cake part. Plus I was kind of scared of the chocolate curls, so I secretly hoped he did not pick it.

Andrew replied that because it was Mix's 25th birthday, we may as well go all out with the most ridiculous cake either of us had ever seen - the one on Sprinkle Bakes. Well, crap.

I was thinking to myself that I could make it easier by just pushing chopped Reese's candy into the sides instead of doing the dreaded chocolate curls when I read the next line of Andrew's email: "I really like the chocolate curls." Well, crap again.

I can do this, I told myself. I actually looked at the recipe rather than allowing myself to intimidated by the sheer enormity of the project and realized it was not that hard - more so time consuming:

1. Bake a cheesecake. Check.
2. Bake a chocolate cake. Check.
3. Sub peanut butter filling for caramel filling to make it more peanut-buttery. Check.
4. Make chocolate ganache. Check.
5. Whip ganache into a frosting. (Never done it, but sounds easy.) Check.
6. Write "Happy Birthday Mix!" on top of cake, per Andrew's request. (Writing scares me as it usually takes me a couple tries, and I'll only get one chance with this cake since I can't disrupt the ganache. I will just concentrate VERY hard.) Check.
7. Make chocolate curls. (GAHHHH. But, after watching the video, it actually seemed really easy, giving me newfound hope). Check-ish.

I started first with the cheesecake. Her recipe was kind of weird (no idea what the pudding mix was there for), so I just used my own, which is wonderfully dense yet light in flavor. I added in some chopped Reese's. The batter divided between two pans still turned out what I would consider full-sized cheesecakes. I knew then this thing was going to be a monster. I topped those with peanut butter filling and peanuts and moved on.

Next, the chocolate cake. Her recipe is actually the same as mine, so that was consoling. Oftentimes I wonder how good bloggers' recipes are, as they are not usually professionals (then again, I blog and I'm not a professional either....), so it's comforting to see similar recipes to some of your own that you know are good - gives them a bit of credibility. Only thing I also do is add some shaved chocolate to make it even more dense and chocolate-y. So I made those, then layered them with the cheesecakes:

Altogether this probably weighed a good 10 lbs or more and was 9 inches tall. A veritable sugar and cream monster (but only about one stick of butter! Shocker!). I then made the ganache, which was pretty standard. I poured a little over top to make a shiny coat, then whipped the rest to make the frosting. I really liked this form of chocolate frosting and am glad I was pushed to try something new, as I definitely see myself incorporating it into my future decorating.

And now, the writing... I made some peanut butter frosting, loaded a pastry bag, and took a deep breath. I tried to visualize the writing already on the cake as I piped so I was basically tracing lines. It turned out a million times better on my first try than it ever has in the past, which was a blessing. Phew.

But there were still the chocolate curls. I watched Sprinkle Bakes' embedded video again as a refresher. Looks so easy, but I still suspected it was not. I melted the chocolate, poured it onto a baking sheet, and allowed it to cool. I got out my spatula, which was not quite the same as hers, and prayed it would work. And I scraped... and scraped... and scraped. At first they were not coming out very curly, and I got frustrated. Finally, a couple good curls emerged, and I got the feel for the spatula angle. I scraped and scraped and scraped until I had a huge bowl of curls ready for decoration. See, not so bad!

Pressing them into the sides of the cake was when it all became real and worthwhile. They looked so gorgeous and professional. Again, I was so happy I stepped outside my comfort zone and ended up adding a new skill to my repertoire.

Here are some pics once I finished in the kitchen:

The fun thing about this order was that I was also invited to the party and could therefore see the cake enjoyed, as well as finally taste the fruits of my labor. I brought one of my cake stands to make it pretty:

After some delicious homemade pizza and beer, it was time. Andrew and Ted lit the 25 candles:

Mix acted like he hated even more attention from his surprise party, when I secretly think he loved it ;)

He blew out quite the blaze:

And then the cake was destroyed enjoyed by all:

Some of the best parts where the giant crumbs that formed on the knife and plate.

So all in all, the second most enormous cake I've made (after the wedding cake), and one of the prettiest for sure (again, probably after the wedding cake). And one of the most delicious - so many tasty individual components that also came together nicely: the moist cake crumb, the zesty cheesecake, the crunchy peanuts, the sweet-and-salty filling, the silky ganache, the almost-bitter curls.... Mmmm, just typing that made me want to go find a chocolate peanut-buttery snack....

Mmmkay I think I am done writing - time to find that snack ;)

1 comment:

Casey O'Halloran said...

Looks delicious Nicole! You're making me hungry at work right now!