Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Chocolate coma... otherwise known as Crunchy Milk Chocolate–Peanut Butter Layer Cake

Since this is a short work week at Jeff's office due to Thanksgiving, we thought we better move up the weekly Wednesday Treat Day to today as we thought more people would be working. And since this is a holiday week, I thought we could do a more elaborate treat and chose this Crunchy Milk Chocolate–Peanut Butter Layer Cake.

Looking at the recipe, this stunning cake might seem fairly intimidating, but when you break it down to the individual sections, it really was not that bad. Fair warning though, it does take a bit of time to complete from start to finish! The cake was pretty massive so it was hard to get a good shot of it whole.

A rich, extremely moist and chocolate-y cake is the first order of business. This cake is easier than most as there is no creaming of butter and sugar - it just comes down to adding a bunch of liquid ingredients into the dry. You could even probably make this a one-bowl cake by making a well in the center of the dry ingredients, add all the wet and quickly whisk them together before pulling in the flour mixture from the sides. The recipe didn't specify between natural or Dutch-process for the cocoa powder, so I used a combination of both for an added depth. The addition of boiling water does make the cake batter fairly thin and runny, but don't worry as that is how it is suppose to be.

Crunchy Milk Chocolate–Peanut Butter Layer CakeWhile the cake is cooling, the next part to work on is a crunchy meringue layer - this is just egg whites, whipped with a little sugar, then mixed with ground almonds and confectioners' sugar. Here's a tip - you will get the best volume if you make sure the egg whites are at room temperature and your mixing bowl and beaters are very clean. There are a couple important textural contrasts that are added - while the meringue gets crispy, some chopped salted peanuts are scattered on top of the meringue for more crunch. After this layer is baked and cooled, a mixture of creamy peanut butter, milk chocolate and butter is melted and combined with a special addition - yes you are reading this right - Rice Krispies! This decadent mixture is slathered over the peanut-topped almond meringue and placed in the freezer to firm up.

Crunchy Milk Chocolate–Peanut Butter Layer CakeNow comes the fun part - assembly! The dark cake needs to be sliced in half to fill it - if you've never attempted this before, you can make life easier and place a few toothpicks all around the sides of the cake to help guide your knife to make the layers even. The bottom cake layer is smeared with a milk chocolate ganache (this is milk chocolate combined with cream to form a luscious frosting) and then topped with that crunchy meringue layer. Another helping of ganache is smoothed on top, followed by the top layer of the cake. At this point, chances are the sides of the cake are not even due to the meringue layer and how well the cake fit together. Since you want a nice surface to frost the cake, the edges are trimmed just enough to make the sides level. Don't look at this as waste... think of it as nibbles for the baker! You should have just enough ganache leftover now to encase the entire cake in a sweet, delicious and thin coating.

Crunchy Milk Chocolate–Peanut Butter Layer CakeAs you might imagine, the cake is quite sweet using milk chocolate. However, when you slide your fork into the dark cake and pierce the crisp layer inside to take a bite, you tastbuds are whisked away into chocolate overload with the salty peanuts and peanut butter helping to cut through that milky sweetness. This not-to-be-missed cake was a complete hit today - we even got a few "best treat ever!" comments. If you enjoy the combination of milk chocolate and peanut butter, don't deprive yourself - get the ingredients into your kitchen and make this soon!

Crunchy Milk Chocolate–Peanut Butter Layer CakeI think we may also have to just make the cake part again, replacing the water with coffee, and frosting it in a mocha buttercream - oh my!

Since I knew I was going to be fussing with the cake, I kept dinner very easy and laid back with a recipe for New Orleans-Style Shrimp. Now, let me say that I didn't name this and we've never eaten shrimp in New Orleans, so I can't say either way if this is anywhere close to being authentic!

A couple pounds of shrimp are tossed in a pungent lemony marinade consisting of Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, melted butter, fresh rosemary, minced garlic, thyme, cayenne pepper sauce and a couple lemons thinly sliced. For less clean up and easy cooking, the shrimp are baked in foil packets - the key to keeping them tender throughout this process is to leave them in their shells. You can remove the shells before you serve them if you don't want your guests picking at them when they eat - but who says they can't do a little work to get at their dinner? The same flavorful liquid they were marinaded in is also drizzled into the packets before they cook - this leaves you with an aromatic and intensely flavored "broth" that practically begs to be soaked up with some crusty toasted bread.

New Orleans-Style ShrimpBe rustic and cut a couple slits into the foil and serve them right in the packets or un-crimp one edge and slide the contents into a shallow dish. Fresh, very light and a fairly hands-off dinner to end a busy day.

New Orleans-Style Shrimp


  1. That is fan-freakin-tastic, Joe. I see it's from Food and Wine, but originally whose recipe is it?

  2. Oh my ... and I don't even like peanuts. I'm thinking this would work with salted almonds, or perhaps walnuts/pecans. What am I saying??? We don't do this sort of cooking / eating, on account of the dread cholesterol.

    All the same, I think it's irresistible, and that I will find myself sleepwalking to the kitchen to make it

    Thanks for sharing!


  3. Hi Joe.

    MMMmmm...chocolate and peanut butter - you just can't go wrong! ;)

    If you enjoyed this one, you might want to try the Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Cake that I tried this summer - it's similar. It's a crunch layer (like a Nestle crunch bar), a chocolate cake layer, a faux peanut butter mousse layer (made with whipped cream instead of egg whites, and a faux chocolate mousse layer - all topped off with a ganache. Definitely not for the faint of heart!

  4. I made this shrimp back in June. I recognized it immediately!!

    This cake looks so wonderful! I wish I had someone's birthday coming up....but then again, there never has to be an excuse to bake!!

  5. Oh my word! I have never seen such a decadent cake. Its looks absolutely amazing. I was drooling over my keyboard reading it. You really do spoil those co-workers. Just an idea, how about a layer of cherry or raspberry jam too, or is that one step too far? :)

  6. Jeeezus that WOULD make for a chocolate coma. Looks delicious though and makes me feel bad for my friend who recently developed an allergy to chocolate! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours if you're celebrating!

  7. Joe - Oh my goodness. That cake looks like a piece of heaven on earth. I love that it has rice crispies in it.

  8. Manggy - It is from Nancy Olson.

    Joanna - yes, it is pretty decadent! I think I would prefer keeping the peanuts though, in this recipe.

    Alysha - It is definitely one of our favorite combinations!

    Deborah - This would be a show-stopping birthday cake for sure!

    Katie - I think a layer like that would just get lost with the other intense flavors already happening. Good thinking though, especially if you just make the cake by itself!

    Hillary - Thanks, back at you too!

    Ed - hee hee, I know! That is one of the reasons we had to make it.

  9. Holy Smokes, that cake looks good.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Joe!

  10. I'm glad you posted this as I already decided a few days ago to make this for Robin's bday. As soon as she saw it in the Food and Wine she knew she wanted it. Did you make the cake as written? It calls for a lot of sugar.

  11. I just went back and looked at the recipe. Its very similar to my all time favorite Black Magic Cake.

  12. Anna - Thanks! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

    Randi - Pretty much, it is a sweet cake, but no one found it cloyingly so.