PEANUT BUTTER CAKE
MAKES TWO 10-INCH/25.5 CM SQUARE LAYERS
Unsalted butter or baker’s nonstick spray for pans
3 cups/360 g all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup/2 sticks/226 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup/198 g granulated sugar
1 cup/213 g light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup/135 g peanut butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups/284 ml buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C for conventional or 325°F/170°C convection. Butter or spray the bottom of two 10-inch/25.5 cm square cake pans and line with parchment. Attach soaked DIY cake strips to the outer sides of the pans (see page 31). Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk for 30 seconds to distribute the leavening. Set aside.
Place the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. Add the peanut butter and vanilla. Mix until just combined.
With the mixer on low, add a third of the flour mixture, then half of the buttermilk, and continue to alternate between the two until combined. Take the bowl from the stand and, using a large rubber spatula, fold the batter a few times to ensure everything is well incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cake springs back when gently poked.
PEANUT BUTTER MOUSSE
MAKES ENOUGH FILLING FOR 2 PBJ CAKES OR LL 1 HEAVEN AND HELL CAKE
1 1/2 cups/354 ml heavy whipping cream
8 ounces/227 g cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup/270 g creamy peanut butter
2 cups/227 g confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup/1/2 stick/57 g unsalted butter, soft
1/4 cup/57 ml whole milk
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the cream to stiff peaks. Transfer to a mixing bowl and refrigerate.
Place the cream cheese, peanut butter, confectioners’ sugar, butter, milk, and salt in the same bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (no need to wash it first). Mix until smooth. Fold in the whipped cream.
QUICK RASPBERRY JAM
MAKES ENOUGH FOR TWO 10-INCH/25.5 CM SANDWICH CAKES
2 pints/680 g raspberries (about 11/2 pounds), hulled and cut into quarters
1 cup/198 g granulated sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pinch of salt
In a large saucepan, combine all the ingredients and allow to sit for about 10 minutes, until the raspberries release their juice (macerate). Place over medium-low heat and stir occasionally until the raspberries break down and the juices start to thicken and coat the back of a wooden spoon, 15 to 20 minutes.
The jam will thicken further once it has cooled. For a chunkier jam, transfer to a jar and allow to cool in the refrigerator, about 2 hours.
For a smoother jam, pulse until smooth in a food processor and then transfer to a jar.
1 recipe Peanut Butter Cake, baked in two 10-inch/25.5 cm square pans for 2 layers
1/2 recipe Peanut Butter Mousse
1 cup Quick Raspberry Jam or 1/2 recipe Nutella Mousse
1 (2 ounce/55 g) piece plain Fondant
Place a cake layer on a cake stand. Using a pastry bag without a tip, pipe the peanut butter mousse in an even layer over the top. Place in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes to firmly set the mousse.
Spread the jam in an even layer over the mousse and top with the second layer of cake. Roll out the fondant into a square just a few centimeters smaller than the top cake layer and transfer to the top layer of the cake.
Using a plastic fork or a chopstick (nothing with too sharp a point), gently make Indentations into the fondant to mimic the crumb structure of a piece of toast.
1 recipe Pavlova-style Meringue (see recipe below), baked into eighteen 3-inch/7.5 cm rounds
1 recipe Cocoa Cream (recipe at bottom) or 1 recipe Caramel Cream (recipe at bottom)
1 large bittersweet chocolate bar (I use Lindt’s 70% bar)
Small plain round pastry tip (Ateco 802)
Line up 9 meringue rounds on a parchment lined sheet pan.
Fit a pastry bag with a small plain tip (Ateco 802) and fill with cocoa cream. Pipe an even layer over a meringue round and top with a second meringue. Pipe a small mound of cocoa cream on top of the second layer.
Continue filling and building the remaining meringues until you have 9 meringue stacks. Place the sheet pan with the assembled meringues into the freezer to set, 20 to 25 minutes.
Pipe whipped cream around the sides of the meringue stacks and, using a small offset spatula, smooth the cocoa cream around the sides and over the top to create a dome. Transfer the meringue stacks back to the freezer for 20 minutes to set.
Gently warm but do not melt the edge of the chocolate bar, using a blow dryer, then scrape chocolate shavings from the warmed chocolate with a vegetable peeler onto a parchment-lined sheet pan. Continue warming and shaving until the chocolate is all shaved. Transfer the shaved chocolate to the freezer to set, about 5 minutes, and then gently press the chocolate shavings onto the top and sides of the cream-coated meringue stacks.
MAKES FOUR 8-INCH/20.5 CM MERINGUE ROUNDS
1 1/4 cups/247 g granulated sugar, divided
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 large egg whites, at room temperature (totaling 120 g)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Preheat the oven to 300°F/150°C.
Line two half sheet pans with parchment. Use a dark marker to draw two 8-inch/20.5 cm circles on each and flip the parchments over. Make sure you can see the circles through the first piece of parchment. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup/49 g of the sugar and the cornstarch. Set aside. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and mix on high speed until just foamy. Sprinkle with the salt and cream of tartar and continue to mix until the whites just begin to gain volume. Slowly add the remaining cup/198 g of sugar and then slowly add the cornstarch mixture, whisking until the meringue holds a stiff, glossy peak.
Transfer the meringue to a pastry bag fitted with a medium open tip (Ateco 805). Starting at the middle of a traced 8-inch/20.5 cm circle, pipe a spiral up to the edge of the outline. Do the same with the remaining three 8-inch/20.5 cm guides. Lower the oven temperature to 200°F/90°C, place the meringues in the oven, and bake for about 1 hour, or until dry to the touch. Turn off the oven and open the door, allowing the meringues to cool in the oven.
STABILIZED SWEET WHIPPED CREAM
MAKES ABOUT 4 CUPS/946 ML WHIPPED CREAM
1/4 cup/28 g confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon Instant ClearJel
2 cups/472 ml very cold heavy cream (see sidebar)
1 teaspoon extract or flavoring
Variation: COCOA CREAM: Add 1 tablespoon of Dutched cocoa along with the confectioners’ sugar.
Place the confectioners’ sugar and Instant ClearJel in a small bowl and whisk together to combine. Note: If you add the Instant ClearJel straight to the cream, without whisking it into the sugar first, it can clump.
Place the cream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or simply use a large bowl, a whisk, and your muscles) and then the confectioners’ sugar mixture. Whisk on low speed to combine. If using, add your extract at this time, and then slowly raise the speed so that you don’t splatter yourself and your kitchen with cream as it thickens. Whisk until it just reaches medium peaks and then continue to whisk by hand until you reach firm, stiff peaks.
MAKES ENOUGH TO FILL ONE 8-INCH/20.5 CM CAKE
1 cup/198 g granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup/118 ml hot water
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 3/4 cups/414 ml heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup/56 ml water
1/2 (7 g) packet powdered gelatin
Place the sugar in an even layer in a large, stainless-steel skillet and then sprinkle with the lemon juice. Stir gently over low heat to melt the sugar and then continue to cook until the color is a light amber brown (I always think of it as the color of a brand-new penny). Take the caramel from the heat and slowly add the hot water, and then the salt, stirring to melt any clumps of caramel that may have seized. Allow the caramel mixture to cool. Once cool, the caramel should be syrupy enough to be easy to incorporate into the cream.
Place the cream in a stand mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk to medium-soft peaks. Take a generous dollop of the cream and stir it into the cooled caramel. Pour the cream mixture back into the stand mixer bowl and whisk until medium peaks form.
Place the water in a heat-safe bowl and sprinkle the gelatin in an even layer over the water, then place over a pot of gently simmering water to melt. Remove from the heat and add a large dollop of the cream mixture to the gelatin and stir to combine to temper. Gently but very quickly fold the gelatin mixture into the cream.
MAKES ENOUGH TO COVER ONE 10-INCH/25.5 CM LAYER CAKE
1 (7 g) packet powdered gelatin or 3 sheets silver gelatin, softened
1/2 cup/170 g glucose syrup (available at cake supply stores)
1 tablespoon glycerin (available at cake supply stores)
2 tablespoons shortening, plus more for your hands (I use Crisco)
8 cups/880 g confectioners’ sugar, divided
Melt the gelatin over a double boiler by placing either the softened powdered or the softened and drained leaf gelatin in a heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over a pot of gently simmering water, making sure that the water isn’t touching the base of the bowl. Once melted, add the glucose and glycerin and stir to combine. Add the 2 tablespoons of shortening and remove from the heat. The residual heat will continue melting and softening the shortening.
Place 4 cups/440 g of the confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the warm gelatin mixture, continuing to mix until smooth. Slowly add the remaining 4 cups/440 g of confectioners’ sugar and mix until just combined. Transfer the mixture to a clean work surface. Rub a dime-size bit of shortening into your hands and continue to knead the fondant until it is smooth and no longer sticks to your hands or the work surface. If the mixture looks dry, add more shortening to your hands, a bit at a time, until the fondant is smooth and shiny. If it’s too sticky, sprinkle a bit of confectioners’ sugar on your work surface, as you knead until it’s smooth and no longer sticky. If not using immediately, wrap well in plastic wrap and place in a large, resealable plastic bag. Store in a cool, dry place but do not refrigerate.