Chocolate Fudgy Cake with Peanut Butter Icing

Totally forkable.

Totally forkable.

I was in serious need of some kitchen therapy yesterday, so I dove into my recipe archives and chose this gem as my pet project. Did it help my choice to know that I had all the required ingredients on hand? Absolutely. But I was going to make this baby anyway – I just wound up making it sooner than I expected! And the result was fabulous: moist, dark chocolate cake layers that are dense and taste almost like a fudgy brownie, filled and iced with a creamy peanut butter icing that manages to be both light and rich at the same time. Tucking into a slice of this cake was definitely therapeutic.

I cannot rave enough about this chocolate cake recipe. I absolutely love the texture! It is unlike any chocolate cake I’ve ever made, and I’ve made a few. If chocolate cake and fudgy brownies got married, this is the kid – cake? – they’d have. I urge you to try this cake recipe, even if you fill and ice it with something other than the peanut butter icing listed below. The cake layers are heavy, to be sure – a small slice of the finished cake is more than adequate – but the flavour and texture are perfection, as far as I’m concerned. Yes, there is coffee in the cake recipe, but you cannot taste the coffee in the baked cakes, and, as you may know, small amounts of coffee added to chocolate batter actually enhance the chocolate flavour without making the resultant baked good taste of coffee. You can omit the coffee, of course, but the cake won’t taste as intensely chocolatey without the coffee. I liked that I didn’t have to level the cake layers: they mounded over as they baked, but the mounds sank as the cakes cooled, and the layers wound up nice and flat for filling and icing.

Cake 2

As awesome as this cake is, I do think it could be better. The icing recipe just barely yielded enough to adequately, but not generously, fill and ice the cake, with about 3/4 of a cup left over for piping onto the cake. Next time I make this, I will probably do one of two things: fill the cake with chocolate ganache and ice the cake with a halved version of the peanut butter icing recipe; or fill and ice the cake with the peanut butter icing, and use chocolate ganache for piping decorations onto the cake. I also felt that the texture of the overall cake would benefit from sprinkling a layer of milk chocolate chips or chopped Reese’s pieces atop the filling between each cake layer.


Those milk chocolate chips sure look friendly.

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Chocolate Fudgy Cake with Peanut Butter Icing


For the cake:
1¾ cups plus 2 TBS all-purpose flour
1¼ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
1½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for dusting pans (unless spraying pans with nonstick spray such as Baker’s Joy)
1¼ cups boiling water + ¼ cup espresso or strong coffee; OR 1 TBS instant espresso or coffee powder + 1½ cups boiling water
¾ cup sour cream
1 TBS vanilla extract
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2½ cups plus 2 TBS sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature

For the filling and icing:
¾ cup heavy cream, chilled
3½ cups powdered sugar, divided
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 TBS vanilla extract

For the garnish:
Milk chocolate chips OR chopped milk chocolate OR chopped Reese’s cups


For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Spray 3 8″ round cake pans* with Baker’s Joy or similar and line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper; spray the parchment paper. Alternatively, butter the insides of the pans and dust with cocoa powder, shaking out the excess, and line the pans with parchment paper. Note: I highly recommend lining the pans with parchment paper, as the cakes tend very much to resist coming out of the cake pans.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir with a fork or whisk to blend and set aside.

Combine 1 1/4 cups water and 1/4 cup espresso. The mixture should measure 1 1/2 cups. Heat mixture to boiling in microwave. In a medium bowl, combine the cocoa powder and espresso mixture (or combine the cocoa powder, 1 1/2 cups boiling water, and 1 TBS instant espresso powder). Whisk until smooth; set aside to cool slightly. When cooled down a bit, whisk in the sour cream and vanilla until smooth. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Gradually blend in the sugar and whip on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 – 3 minutes more. Blend in the eggs one at a time, scraping bowl after each addition.

With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients and the sour cream mixture alternately, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and beating each addition just until incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.* Bake the cake layers for about 30 – 32 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, rotating the pans during halfway through to ensure even baking. Transfer the baked cake layers to a wire rack and let cool in the pans at least 10 minutes before inverting onto the rack to cool completely.

For the icing:
Using the whisk attachment for the mixer, beat the heavy cream with ½ cup powdered sugar until stiff peaks form. Do not overbeat. Transfer whipped cream to a medium bowl and set aside.

Using the mixer’s paddle attachment, beat the butter and peanut butter at high speed until thoroughly combined and totally smooth, about 3 – 5 minutes. Blend in the vanilla. Slowly add powdered sugar, beating on low and gradually increasing speed so as not to throw powdered sugar all over the place, and beat until smooth and thoroughly incorporated. Continue to beat at high speed until quite fluffy, about 3 – 5 minutes.

Fold about 1/3 of the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture to lighten it. Fold in the remaining whipped cream until totally combined and no streaks remain.

Set aside one cup of icing for piping. Place one of the cake layers onto a cake circle or serving plate and spread with approximately 1 – 1¼ cups of the icing. Top with a second cake layer and repeat. Top with remaining cake layer and ice entire cake, starting with a crumb coat if you wish. (I did not do a crumb coat because I felt rakish.) If crumb coating, place cake in freezer for about 30 minutes to set the icing; then finish icing cake. Pipe rosettes, shells, or whatever you wish onto cake. Garnish as desired. If using chopped candies, freeze for 30 minutes to one hour before chopping to prevent candies from disintegrating under the knife.

Refrigerate cake until ready to serve.

I found that the cake should be refrigerated for about 30 minutes after filling and before icing the outside. Refrigerate cake immediately after finished icing; the icing is so soft that the cake layers will slide around if the cake is not kept refrigerated.

To make the cake in 2 9″ pans, reduce the amount of batter by one third. To make the cake in 3 9″ pans, increase the amount of batter by one third. The baking times for alternate sizes may differ, so use the toothpick test to monitor doneness.

*I own only 2 8″ pans, so I divided the batter evenly between the two pans and the mixing bowl, baked the two layers, and cleaned one of the cake pans to use again for baking the third layer.

Source: Barely adapted from Annie’s Eats


11 thoughts on “Chocolate Fudgy Cake with Peanut Butter Icing

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