Peanut Butter & Jelly Layer Cake
I started writing this post the first week of April, and once you've read through the recipe I think you'll see why it didn't get finished until almost two months later! Every year for my big brother’s birthday I ask him if he has a cake request, and his answer is always the same: “Something interesting.” Like myself, he’s open to trying almost any flavor or combination that one could imagine, so he likes for me to go a little crazy. I’d been wanting to develop a Peanut Butter and Jelly Cake for a while, so this seemed like a perfect opportunity.
Ready for a project? This cake is no joke - multiple components, many steps - but if you break it down across a few days, it’s definitely worth it.
I started by seeing what was already out there in the cake-blogosphere, and I found a few options I could try, but none that were exactly what I wanted or from trusted sources. So I broke it down, using my own knowledge of the components I wanted to include, and finding inspiration and resources from a few of my favorite ladies - Michelle (http://www.browneyedbaker.com/about/), Rosie (http://sweetapolita.com/about/), and Christina (http://milkbarstore.com/main/press/).
Here’s how I split up making the various components:
Day 1 - up to 2 weeks in advance: Peanut Butter Cake Layers
Day 2 - up 1 week in advance: Berry Milk Crumbs, Fresh Raspberry Buttercream
Day 3 - day of, 1 or 2 days before serving: Peanut Butter Mousse, and build the cake with some Raspberry Jam (and optional Honey Roasted Peanuts)!
adapted from Brown Eyed Baker & Sweetapolita
MAKES one 8” 3-layer cake
2.25 cups AP flour (270g)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (not the “natural" kind!)
6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar (100g)
1/2 cup light brown sugar (104g)
3 large eggs
1 cup + 2 tablespoons buttermilk
3 8” cake pans
CAKE GOOP! and a silicone brush
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cake goop-up your pans. If you don’t have cake goop (you should! go make some!), you should cut out parchment circles that will fit inside the bottoms of your pans, then grease the pan with butter or shortening, line the bottoms with parchment, grease the parchment & pan sides, and cover all the surfaces with flour, tapping out the excess into the sink or trash. Now, see? Wouldn’t cake goop be SO MUCH EASIER? Also, it works better. Okay I’ll step off my soapbox now...
Whisk together the 270g AP Flour, 2tsp BP, 1tsp BS, and 1/2tsp salt. Set aside.
With your stand mixer, mix 100g sugar and 104g light brown sugar until any clumps in the brown sugar have broken up. Then add 3/4c peanut butter and 6TB butter, and beat on medium high about 4 minutes, until light and fluffy.
Add 3 eggs one at a time, mixing until completely incorporated, and scraping down the sides of the bowl in between.
Add half of the flour mixture and mix on low just until no streaks of flour remain in the batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add 1c and 2TB buttermilk, and mix just until completely incorporated (start on low so it doesn’t splash, switch to medium once it won’t splash anymore).
Add the rest of your flour mixture and mix on low just until no streaks of flour remain in the batter (you may need to stop to scrape down the sides to incorporate everything).
Evenly divide your batter between your cake pans, either using a digital scale (which you should have!), a large cookie scoop (which you should also have!), or by eyeballing it (not the best method, but you gotta do what you gotta do).
Bake for 15-25 minutes or until a cake tester/toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, and the tops of your cake layers spring back when pressed gently. Depending on your oven, it really could take as little as 15 minutes, or as many as 25, so make sure to start checking the layers every two minutes as of about 15. Read here for more info on how to tell when your cake layers are done.
Let your cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto cooling racks and let them cool completely to room temperature. Don’t try to frost warm cake layers! If you need to speed things up, once they’re not super hot, throw them in the fridge or freezer for a bit, but don’t forget about them - you don’t want them to dry out. Chilled layers are easier to work with anyways - I often make my cake layers days to weeks in advance, and then once they’re completely cool and chilled in the fridge for about 30 minutes (so that they don’t break when being handled), I wrap them in two layers of plastic wrap and then tin foil, and freeze them until the day I’m going to decorate.
BERRY MILK CRUMBS
3/4 cup nonfat powdered milk
1/4 cup AP flour
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 stick butter, melted
3 oz white chocolate, melted
7 Tablespoons freeze-dried fruit powder, from 1.5 cups of freeze dried fruit (you pick the kind, or mix a bunch! make the powder by processing the freeze-dried fruit in a food processor)
Rimmed baking sheet
This recipe will make more milk crumbs than you need, but you can freeze the leftover forever and they’re awesome in sugar cookies. If you’d prefer, just halve all the ingredients and follow the same process.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine 1/2c of the powdered milk, 1/4c flour, 2TB cornstarch, 2TB sugar and 1/2tsp salt in a medium bowl. Add 1/2 stick melted butter and stir to form a clumpy, streusel-like consistency.
Spread evenly across on the baking sheet; bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the crumbs are off-white and dry. Let cool.
Transfer the cooled crumbs to a large bowl, breaking up any that are larger than pea-size. Toss with the remaining 1/4 cup of powdered milk.
Pour the 3oz melted white chocolate over the crumbs and stir until the crumbs are coated and have the texture of wet sand. Refrigerate the crumbs, stirring every few minutes, until the chocolate has completely set, 10 to 15 minutes.
Toss the crumbs with 7TB fruit powder(s) until they are well coated and have a nice purplish hue. Cover; refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.
10 large egg whites (350g)
2.5 cups sugar (500g)
6 sticks butter, cut into 16 cubes each, at a cool room temperature
1 Tablespoon vanilla
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup (or to taste) raspberry puree OR 1 cup of fresh, washed, and DRIED raspberries
Pink food coloring
Small pot of boiling water (to create a double boiler with the mixer bowl)
Whisk & paddle attachments
Wipe your stand mixer bowl with a paper towel and lemon juice to remove any trace of grease (or clean and dry REALLY well).
Add 350g egg whites (10) and 500g sugar (2.5c) to the bowl of a stand mixer, and set the bowl over a small pot of simmering water (it shouldn’t actually touch the water, but be heated by the steam.)
Whisk constantly but gently until the temperature of the mixture is 160F.
Move the bowl to the stand mixer, and whisk on medium until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral (not warm; this usually takes about 10 minutes).
Change the whisk attachment to the paddle attachment.
With mixer on low, add the butter cubes one at a time until incorporated fully and the mixture has reached a silky smooth texture. The mixture will start to curdle at some point - don’t worry! Just keep adding the butter cubes and it will come together by the end. DO NOT start adding the butter if your egg white/sugar mixture is at all warm. And if your mixture is too runny, refrigerate for about 15 minutes and then keep mixing until it comes together.
Add 1TB vanilla and pinch of salt and mix until combined.
Add raspberry puree/raspberries in small increments, and mix until fully combined. Add a little food coloring until it reaches your desired color.
If you’re using the frosting within the next 3 or 4 days, refrigerate. If not until later, freeze. When ready to use, if frozen defrost in the fridge for 12 hours, and once defrosted in the fridge (or straight from the fridge), bring to room temperature for 4 hours. Re-mix in stand mixer with paddle attachment until light and fluffy.
PEANUT BUTTER MOUSSE
1 package (4oz) cream cheese, cold and cut into cubes
1 cup powdered sugar (125g)
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (130g, not the natural stuff!)
1 Tablespoon vanilla
3/4 cup heavy/whipping cream
Whisk attachment (2 if you have them!)
Stand mixer bowls (2 if you have them!)
If you have two bowls and whisk attachments, put one set in the freezer!
Whisk the 1 package cold & cubed cream cheese, 125g powdered sugar (1c), 130g peanut butter (3/4c), and 1TB vanilla on medium until smooth and fluffy, ~3 minutes. If you don’t have a second whisk/bowl, transfer the cream cheese mix to another bowl to set aside. Then wash & dry both, and put them in the freezer for 10 minutes.
Take your chilled mixer bowl & attachment and whip 3/4c cream on medium-high until stiff peaks, about 1 minute.
Fold whipped cream into the cream cheese/PB mixture gently until completely combined. Cover and chill in the fridge until ready to use.
(This recipe may make more than you need for the cake, but I ask you - really, what’s the problem with extra peanut butter mousse?)
COMPILE THE CAKE!
Measure out 1.5 cups of seedless raspberry jam (which you’ll split into two 3/4c portions).
Level your cake layers one at a time - take a long serrated bread knife and put it against the side of the cake where the highest part of the edge is. Brace your elbow against your waist so that the knife is going to be stable and stay in the same place, and turn the cake, not the knife, to level the cake. If the knife stays in the same spot it will level the top off. This is much easier with a turntable so you don't have to brace your arm - check out my favorite cake tools!
Place a dab of raspberry frosting in the middle of an 8-10” cake board, and center a cake layer on top. (Totally optional: brush some Chambord evenly over each cake layer before the next step. Maybe 2TB per layer.)
Spread 3/4c of raspberry jam evenly on the cake layer.
Spread 1.5c of peanut butter mousse evenly on top of the jam layer.
Sprinkle two handfuls of berry crumbs across the peanut butter mousse until it’s mostly covered, and press them in gently with your hands so they stay put.
Place your next cake layer on top, and repeat steps 3-7.
Chill cake in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Crumb coat your cake with your raspberry buttercream, then chill an additional 15 minutes. (Don’t know what that means? Check it!)
Frost your cake with a whole bunch of raspberry buttercream, and decorate to your heart’s content with additional peanut butter mousse, raspberry buttercream, and/or honey roasted peanuts.
Watch people freak out as they eat your cake!