Sometimes You've Just Gotta Have Chocolate Cake
Perhaps because I'm not eating anything with added sugar right now, I found myself thinking wistfully about a chocolate cake I made two weeks ago. It was a Valentine's Day cake for my family, and although I'd originally planned to make a heart-shaped one, when the moment came that seemed precious and twee. Instead, I made up a peanut butter ganache, a chocolate frosting, and three layers of moist chocolate cake. The moist (sorry to use that abhorred word twice!) part is worth mentioning because that tends to be the Achilles' heel of gluten free cakes, of which this was one. For the record, I don't believe in sifting. At all. Except when it comes to cocoa. I use Equal Exchange baking cocoa. It's organic and Fair Trade and tastes fantabulous, but it tends to clump a bit, so sifting is necessary. I also use organic powdered sugar, and it doesn't have the convenient additives that usually appear in powdered sugar that make it lump-less. So, again, sift if you use this stuff. And because of the environmental and human rights problems involved in the production of conventional chocolate and sugar, I recommend doing so.
Make this cake with wheat flour or the gluten free flour mixture of your choice. Either works. It doesn't care, it just wants to be eaten by people enjoying each others' company.
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (if you're using gf flour)
1 cup cocoa, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup warm water
10 ounces of powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup cocoa
3 ounces of melted and cooled semi- or bittersweet chocolate
1/3 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons of milk
a pinch of salt
Peanut Butter Ganache:
5 ounces of powdered sugar, sifted
1/3 cup of peanut butter (I used creamy salted)
3 tablespoons of butter
1/4 cup (or more) milk
Butter 3 8" round cake pans. If you're feeling anxious about getting the cakes out, dust the pans with sifted cocoa. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Mix the wet ingredients for the cake together in a large bowl. Whisk the dry ingredients in another bowl. Add half of the dry ingredients to the wet. Mix as little as possible to combine. Add the second half of the dry, mix. While you want a smooth batter, you want to achieve that smoothness with as little mixing as possible if you're using wheat flour. If you're using gf flour, mix to your heart's content.
Pour the batter into the pans and cook for 50-60 minutes, until a tester comes out dry. Let cool 5-15 minutes, then flip onto a cooling rack.
To make the frosting: Gently combine the cocoa and powdered sugar. Cube the butter. In a mixer, use the whip attachment on lowest speed to combine the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla and two tablespoons of the milk. Mix. Add the melted, cooled chocolate (be sure it's cool or it will melt the butter) and mix. Add the rest of the milk (and more) as needed to achieve a smooth, spreadable consistency.
To make the ganache: In a mixer, whip the sugar, peanut butter, and butter until it forms bits the size of pomegranate seeds. Then add the milk by the tablespoon until you've got a spreadable consistency. This is a somewhat delicate cake, so while you want a firm frosting, you don't want a stiff one.
If you feel like gilding the lily after you fill the cake with the ganache and frost it with the chocolate, you may pat some finely chopped, slightly salted peanuts onto the sides of the cake. But it truly doesn't need it.