Chocolate-Peanut Butter Pretzel Cake

I (Molly) haven't posted a recipe to this blog since November 24. November 24!! Technically last year. I can't believe it. Between holiday baking and holiday traveling and, well, the holidays, I haven't actually baked anything that wasn't a Christmas cookie or hostess gift in weeks. It's hard to believe it's been that long. Where did the time go?? Speaking of which - how about 2014? Where did that disappear to?! Maybe I'm just getting old. Is this what aging is like? The inability to adequately account for large chunks of time? Frightening.

Anyway, when it hit me how long it had been since I'd last baked just to  bake, I decided I needed to rectify that, like, immediately. So I decided to bake my brother a going away cake before he went back to school after his month-long Christmas break. I'll miss him of course, but really that was just a convenient excuse. Mostly I just wanted to make cake.

If this cake looks familiar to you, it should. It's from the cover of Joy's Homemade Decadence. I have been ready to make this cake from the minute she released the cover sometime last spring. I mean. Chocolate cake? Peanut butter frosting? Pretzels arranged so prettily along the outside? Dark chocolate shavings on top? It was infatuation at first sight. I was crushing on this cake in a big way, you guys.

(Forgive the poor quality of this picture; I wanted to give you some sense of the sheer scope and intensity of this cake. Which is copious.)

(Forgive the poor quality of this picture; I wanted to give you some sense of the sheer scope and intensity of this cake. Which is copious.)

Now finally, finally, I'd made the perfect excuse to bring my big fat crush to come to life. And I do mean big and fat - this cake is a monster. Three gigantic layers stacked on top of each other, stuffed with thick smears of peanut butter frosting and generous handfuls of crumbled pretzels and dark chocolate shavings. Gosh, this thing has to be well over half a foot tall. We cut our slices the width of one pretzel adhered to the frosting on the outside (for ease of cutting) and they were almost too much.

But only almost.

I'm happy to report that what started as an unrequited crush has blossomed into true love. This cake is my every chocolate/peanut butter, sweet/salty loving dream come true.

I may or may not have picture hidden under my pillow at night. Don't tell anyone.

- Molly

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Cake

3-Layer Chocolate Cake

3 cups cake flour

3/4 cup cocoa powder

2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 tsp instant espresso powder

2 sticks butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

4 eggs

1 tbsp vanilla

2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350. Prep three 9-inch round pans.

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and instant espresso powder. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together on medium speed until light and fluffy (3-4 minutes). Add eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Reduce mixer speed to low, add half of the flour mixture, and beat until incorporated. Add buttermilk in a slow stream and beat until thoroughly combined. Add remaining flour mixture and beat until just combined. Remove bowl from mixer and finish stirring with a spatula. Divide batter between the three pans.

Bake until golden brown on top and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. (If you have all three cakes in at once, it may take longer. Don't worry. Just keep an eye on them, testing centers every 3 minutes or so. For me it took close to 30 minutes.) Wait until cakes are completely cool before frosting.

Salted Peanut Butter Buttercream Frosting

4 sticks butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups smooth all-natural peanut butter

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp vanilla extract

6 to 7 cups powdered sugar

3 to 4 tbsp heavy cream

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed until softened, about 1 minute. Add the peanut butter, salt, and vanilla and beat well. Add 2 cups of the powdered sugar and beat until well combined. Add another 2 cups of sugar along with 3 tbsp of heavy cream. Add remaining 2 to 3 cups of sugar and remaining cream until it is your desired consistency. Beat on medium speed until frosting is smooth and fluffy, about 4 minutes.

Assembly

1 cup crushed pretzels

1 cup dark chocolate shavings

1/2 cup salted peanuts (if desired)

Frost each layer of cake with the peanut butter frosting, adding a handful of crushed pretzels and shaved chocolate between the layers. Frost exterior of cake, then line with whole pretzels. Scatter shaved chocolate and salted peanuts (if desired) on top.

Recipe from Homemade Decadence