Thursday, July 28

Chocolate Sunflower-Butter Cake

I don't often crave peanut butter any more, but when I do it's fierce, relentless and has to be satisfied in the biggest and most extravagant of ways.  Last week I woke up with the craving and couldn't get it off my mind.  Like that catchy song that's stuck in your head.  You can't get it out until you sing it at the top of your lungs.  Well, this cake is the equivalent of me singing "peanut butter, peanut butter, peanut butter" in my loudest voice.  Only it's completely peanut free!  And it worked!

The base is made with my grandmother's devils food cake recipe.  It's fool-proof at high elevations, like here in Colorado.  I use it every time I need a chocolate cake or cupcake recipe.  The icing is made with creamy, salty, SunButter - the kids' favorite peanut butter alternative.  The ganache is ultra rich and luscious, made with nut-free Guittard chocolate.  There's something magical about making a ganache!  Watching the spoon trace a hypnotic path through the cream and chocolate until the whole pot is brilliant and shiny makes me feel a bit like I'm stirring a potion in an enchanted cauldron.  But the pièce de résistance is the tower of nut-free Sun Cups that tops the cake in crowning glory.  Okay, now I'm waxing poetic!  But that's because I can finally think about something other than peanut butter.  Secretly, though, I can't wait for the next craving to strike!

Chocolate Sunflower-Butter Cake with Sun Cups

for the cake:

1  1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tsp white vinegar
2 cups flour
1/2 cup all natural, unsweetened cocoa
a pinch of salt
1 cup hot water
2 tsp baking soda

Preheat your oven to 350 F (180 C).  Butter two 8 inch round cake pans.  Cut a round of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of each pan.  Press it in the pans and butter it as well.  Dust the inside of the pans with flour and set aside.

Beat the sugar and butter until fluffy.  Beat in the eggs.  Mix the milk and vinegar and set aside.  Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt.  Beat half the flour into the butter, beat in half the milk mixture.  Add the remaining flour followed by the remaining milk and mix until smooth.  Dissolve the baking soda in the hot water, and beat into the batter until smooth.  Divide the batter equally between the two pans and bake immediately, for 25 - 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Cool completely before frosting.

for the SunButter icing:

1 cup butter
1 cup SunButter
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2-3 Tbsp heavy cream

Beat the butter and SunButter until fluffy.  Add the powdered sugar a cup at a time and beat until the icing is smooth and fluffy.  Beat in the vanilla, and if the icing seems too stiff, a tablespoon or two of cream.

for the ganache:

4.5 oz semisweet, nut-free chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla

8 Sun Cups, chopped, for garnish

Place the chocolate chips in a heat-proof bowl & set aside.  Heat the cream in a small pan until it just begins to bubble, stirring constantly so it doesn't burn.  Pour the hot cream into the chocolate chips and stir constantly until the chips are melted and the ganache is shiny and smooth.  Stir in the vanilla and allow to cool.  It will thicken as it cools.

To assemble the cake:

Remove the cakes from the pans.  Frost the top of one cake and set the other cake upside down on top of it, making sure the layers are even and straight.  Using about half the remaining icing, frost the cake.  Don't worry about crumbs getting in the frosting at this point.  This is the crumb coat, designed to catch all the loose crumbs.  Place the cake in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes, until the icing on the cake has set.

When the first layer of icing is hard, remove from the refrigerator and use the remaining icing to frost the cake.  Place back in the refrigerator until the icing is completely cool and set.

When cake is cool, spread the slightly cooled ganache on the top, allowing some of it to drip down the sides of the cake.  Garnish the top of the cake with the chopped Sun Cups, pressing them gently into the ganache.  Place back into the refrigerator until ready to serve.

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