Sunday, September 22, 2013

Whole Wheat Chocolate Cake w/ Peanut Butter Buttercream Frosting and Ganache

**Warning: This cake will make your house smell amazing. In fact, you may have unexpected visitors if you leave the windows open**

It's Birthday Time!

Ok so tomorrow is my husband's birthday and I just had to make him a fabulous cake - we have been through so much in the past year: We had our beautiful son, my husband finished his PhD, we moved across the country, I left work to stay home with our son, and we decided to start making our lives healthier by using more and more organic and less of the store bought preservative full foods that so often tempt us.

Such a busy year for sure! And what a better excuse to make a super fabulous, decadent, and whole wheat chocolate cake than a Birthday after a year like that? And to make it even more amazing, I frosted the cake with a homemade chocolate buttercream icing with a perfect drippy ganache! (in other words, heaven in your mouth).

So with another fabulous recipe for the family successfully made in our kitchen, I simply had to share. And don't worry, just because most of the recipe is preferred organic, you don't have to use orgainc. Only if it fits your budget:)
Whole Wheat Chocolate Cake
What You Need: (all ingredients Organic Preferred)
2 cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 1/4 cups Organic Sugar
4 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
1/4 tsp Salt
1 1/2 cups Warm Water
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Eggs
2/3 cup Extra Virgin Coconut Oil (or cooking oil of your choice)
Butter or more coconut oil for greasing pan(s)

To start, pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Next, mix all the dry ingredients together (flour, sugar, baking powder, cocoa powder, salt). Dig a whole in the center of the dry ingredients and add the two eggs. In a separate bowl (or measuring cup) place the water, oil, and vanilla. Mix together by hand or on low while slowly adding the oil water mixture to the bowl. Once combined go ahead and grease your pans.

Next, pour the batter into 2 9inch rounds or 1 large spring form or round baking pan (10" by 4" pan was used for photos)...of course you can really just use whatever shape and size pans you desire. Squares, rectangles, stars, hearts - I don't judge and I love them all!

Bake the two cakes for 18-22 minutes or the large single cake for 40-45 minutes. Cake is done when there is no movement if you jiggle the pan and/or a toothpick comes our clean. For me it was 43 minutes exactly both times I baked.

Let the cake cool completely before icing (especially since we will be using a butter based frosting). In fact, I would even go so far to actually chill the cake in the fridge. A cold cake makes frosting a breeze.

For the birthday cake, I doubled the cake recipe and baked two separate large cakes (I wanted to layer them.... yes one recipe can make two cakes but I couldn't find my 9 inch pan and so used my 10 inch spring form. We all compromise and get creative in life).

I did not have to double the buttercream recipe below however, as it made plenty. Another reason for doubling the cake? I needed to be sure I made a serious cake to celebrate such a fun birthday... and since peanut butter and chocolate are my husbands favorite dessert flavors I took this cake to the next level.

Note: If you make the frosting before using it, store it in the fridge. Let it sit at room temperature at least 30 minutes and re-beat it to get that spreadable whipped cream like texture that makes frosting simple and fun. Otherwise since it is butter based, it will harden and trying to frost with a hard frosting will only be traumatic. Nobody wants trauma cake.

Peanut Butter Buttercream Frosting
What You Need:
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) Butter
2 lb. Powdered Sugar (yes. 2 lbs)
1 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
1 tsp Vanilla
1/4 cup half and half*
*to start

This is the absolute best peanut butter buttercream frosting I have ever made or had. True story. Hands down... delicious.

To start, let your butter sit at room temperature for about 1 hour. This will help it soften. You could always try to microwave it but do so at your own risk and with 10 second intervals. You do not want liquid butter. You want soft butter.

Add the soft butter and sugar to a large bowl (or kitchen aid mixer). Before starting to blend (aka turning on those beaters) fold the two together (this will prevent the dust storm). Add the peanut butter and vanilla, then turn the mixer on low. Add in the half and half, starting with 1/4 cup. For me this was all I needed but you may have a different situation so have the half and half on hand. Once the ingredients are blended enough you won't have a dust storm of powdered sugar, crank up the beaters and let the frosting fluff.

When the frosting reaches a thick but soft texture you are done. It is a frosting that once made it is ready to frost.  Just to repeat for sanity's sake. you can make this ahead of time (we all need to prep sometimes!). If you do make this ahead of time, please keep it in the fridge. Being butter based it must be chilled otherwise it will be super soft and drippy. In fact this whole cake will need to be refrigerated when you are not eating it.

1. Add a thick layer to the first cooled cake
2. Place the second cake on top and ice completely
3.) You can frost the cake however you want... I wanted spiked edges so I taped the spatula against the cake sides
4.) One the buttercream has cooled on the cake (at least an hour) you can pour the ganache on top and spread!
When you want to frost the cake, the frosting will need to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes and then re-whipped (beat with beaters or mixer) unless you use it right after making it. I know I already said this but it's so important to remember. If you try to use the hard frosting you are going to tear the cake up and what looks like a cookies and cream frosting vs. a smooth and creamy peanut butter one. And if that sounds good to you, I want to point out I never said the cake would still be round in that scenario... the crumbs would be the cake's sides falling apart.

With that, you should be ready to frost. Go to town and have fun! And if you have extra, well, grab a spoon! (or the spatula.....)

Busted! Ok how do you not lick the frosting off the spatula?
Aimee wait! how did you get that chocolate layer on top?  
I did admit earlier I also made Ganache. It is so easy why wouldn't I? I mean... I recently started running again and have signed up for some races (with baby).... I actually served my cake with fresh whipped cream and a homemade hot fudge sauce... but trust me, the sweet factor was a whole new place on the list of sugar highs and indulgences.

Chocolate Ganache
What You Need:
1 1/2 cups Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
Start with 2 tbsp Heavy Whipping Cream*

Ganache is super simple. It is melted chocolate with cream blended in. Once you make it you can also whip it or chill it for fluffy frosting or truffle centers. It's super fun, simple, and delicious.

All you need to do is heat water in the bottom part of a double boiler. Some people prefer to heat the cream and then add that to the chocolate chips. Either way, it will work, I just always have the most success with it this way.

So you bring the water to a close boil, turn off the heat and place the top of the double boiler over the water. You cannot get even a mL of water in the chocolate pan or this will be devasting. No one likes sad chocolate, so be careful. Once the chocolate begins to melt, whisk in the cream. I say to start with 2 tbsp because you may want a thicker ganache.

Just be careful and don't add a ton of cream and make soup, otherwise you will have some of the best hot chocolate you can imagine.  (or in my case I purposely did it for some hot fudge sauce).

You must wait for the buttercream to set again on the cake before pouring ganache on it otherwise the warm chocolate and the soft butter will make a big mess. A tasty mess, but a big one that will break your heart. You do not want a broken heart. Do not make the ganache until your buttercream frosted cake has chilled at least an hour.

1. The water is hot, turned off the heat, put the top pot on with the chocolate chips
2.) Whisking the melting chocolate
3.Added cream and making a shiny silky, not too thick ganache.  
There it is. I used just about everything Organic to made this cake less... guilty? Plus making a cake from scratch means I didn't have to order a cake from the bakery only to complain it was dry and full of questionable ingredients. On top of that... I had a BLAST in the kitchen!

So for close to what I would pay for a questionable cake, I made an organic one. You of course don't have to make it organic. everyone has their own preferences.

Organic or not, this cake is amazing. I am so happy to share it with you, and would love it if you shared your experiences!

Thanks for baking with us, and Happy Birthday Husband!!!

~Aimee and Family


  1. Holy cow that looks incredible, but extremely dangerous. I would definitely devour that cake!

    Happy Blogging!
    Happy Valley Chow

    1. Thanks! I don't always bake cakes, but when I do.... I go big! We just had our first slices... sugar high heaven :)

  2. This whole wheat chocolate cake is really gorgeous, i hope you enjoyed your 29th birthday. It's one of the best chocolate recipes i know you can make. Thanks.

    1. Thank you so much! His birthday was great we got to have our first of many birthdays with our 8 month old son. As for the cake.... We somehow ate the whole thing within the week (ok we did share some at my husbands work but only some... It was so delicious!).


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