On my husband's birthday, the only thing he ever requests is a chocolate peanut butter cake that's been in his family for years. And once you taste it, it's easy to see why.
The decadent, double-layer cake oozes rich, fudgy frosting, chocolate chips and tastes like a peanut butter cup. My mother-in-law, Lori, discovered the recipe back in the '80s and has been making it every year since for her kids' birthdays. In 2013, the baking baton was passed to me, and it's a treat I look forward to when February arrives.
One of the best parts of this delectable creation is that it only takes about five minutes to whip up, has five ingredients, plus frosting, and comes out of the oven fluffy yet moist, as if Reese's had a baby with a cloud.
For decades, the recipe has existed on one of the handwritten pages of Wida family favorites (the collection of which includes a plethora of hearty casseroles, salads and meatloaf). I have the photocopied version that's experienced its own life of wear, tear and chocolate stains.
"I found it in some cooking magazine in the '80s, probably something like 'Good Housekeeping,'" said my mother-in-law, who now goes by Gigi to the next generation of cake-loving kids. "The peanut butter was the draw for me. It’s really for peanut lovers."
When I buy ingredients, I'm usually a stickler for organic and, if they're processed, I try to buy the food products with as little ingredients as possible. But for this cake, I put personal preferences aside and skip reading the labels all together. There are other times for a vegan, gluten-free dessert and this is not one of them.
Any chocolate cake mix will do and those with a propensity for vanilla can opt for yellow or white cake mix (I've never tried it since we're all about the chocolate-peanut butter combo in this house). As for the peanut butter, the smooth, salty consistency of Jif or Skippy provide optimal results.
"The key to keeping the cake moist is to not use too much peanut butter. Maybe even use a tad less," my mother-in-law told me when I called to get the skinny on this rich dessert. "I usually like to improvise with recipes and not stick to the exact measurements but for this one, it’s important to follow the instructions carefully."
After putting the cake mix, milk, eggs and peanut butter in my bowl, I use an electric or stand mixer to whisk it for one minute on low, then, after scraping the sides, an additional three minutes on medium-high until looks whipped and silky. Then I stir in the chips.
This was the eighth year I've made the cake and actually the first time I had the pleasure of using an electric mixer. Whisking by hand is definitely doable, but it's definitely a workout and the batter just doesn't quite get as luscious.
Once you've devoted five glorious minutes of your day to this prep work, it's time to evenly distribute the batter into two tin cake rounds.
Pop them in the oven at 350 F and watch them rise. I usually bake it for 40 minutes on the nose, but some ovens may require an extra five minutes to ensure they're baked through. Once the cakes have cooled, use a spatula to loosen the edges and flip the first upside down onto a plate. Ice it with your favorite chocolate frosting or Cool Whip (if you like something creamy and tangy to balance out the bold, sweet flavors). Sandwich the other cake round on top (I prefer top-side down so it has a nice, flat surface) and frost it all over, rotating the plate to cover the sides.
Depending on the occasion — not that you need one — decorate it with sprinkles, a loving message or some candles. And voila — your new favorite cake that's over 35 years in the making is ready to enjoy.