Brownies Cakes Cheesecakes Chocolate Cheer Cookies Fancy Pantsy

He Who Shall Not Be Named Ruins A Day That I Don’t Feel Like Talking About (I Made Cake)

But not birthday cake. Apparently that would be sad. And I am not one to be sad

This isn’t sad. Neither is this. Nope.


Yeah, so… it’s early October, which can only mean two things: the Fall TV season has started, and my birthday is nigh (as in, today. bleh). And that first thing also apparently means another thing. Ugh:

THE HELL? Who let you back in to ruin my life? I knew it. I felt it. The air was heavy with the scent of apples and terror; there was to be some (*shudder*) Stamos in my doomed future. Just the name, the name alone is upsetting. Jimmy is now well-trained enough to change the channel as soon as he hears either “John Sta-” (changed) or “Uncle Je”-(switched). But seriously, things have been lame lately. I, like many humans, have a tendency to want to cry uncontrollably around my birthday and I sort of don’t know why. It’s not really so much because I feel old– as I drunkenly found out last Saturday night, I can still climb a chain-link fence like a boss (though I also went to bed around 9:30 that night. “Bed” being the F train, but still, I would have been out cold if I had not been roused at my actual stop by my trusted companion). It’s more because I find the passage of time and all that comes with it to be almost too much to handle. So much is different this year, so much that I always thought would be the same– people I thought I’d know forever that I had to let go of, ideas about myself that I’ve had to change, velvet scrunchies becoming popular again. These things can do irreversible damage to one’s psyche. Permission to sleep this year off and come back for the little 3-0? Granted? Yes?

While you ponder, let’s talk about cake. Or, more accurately, Things That Are Greater Than Or Equal To Cake But Are Shaped Like Cake. Guys I didn’t know what to call this monstrosity. WTF Cake seemed like it was probably taken, I’m So So Sad Cake seems too on-the-nose, and Chocolate Chip Cookie/Peanut Butter Cheesecake/Dark Chocolate Brownie Cake with Peanut Butter Ganache seemed… lengthy. So bear with the title.

Not Birthday Cake, Because Apparently Baking Your Own Is Sad

For the Chocolate Chip Cookie layer

1 cup of all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon of salt

1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup of butter (I recommend browning it first: set in a saucepan over medium heat, allow to melt and then brown until you start to see little buttery bits and it smells nutty)

1 cup of brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla

1/2 cup of chocolate chips or chunks

Coarse sea salt for sprinkling, optional

For the Peanut Butter Cheesecake layer

1 8oz package of cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup of confectioner’s sugar

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter

6 tablespoons of half-and-half

3 to 4 mini peanut butter cups, chopped (yeaaahhhh)

For the Brownie Layer (adapted from Smitten Kitchen, also first post on this blog!)

3/4 cup of cocoa powder

1 cup of white sugar

10 tablespoons of butter, softened 

1/4 teaspoon of salt

2 eggs

1/2 cup of flour

Yeah. This is a lot. Shibow never said this would be easy, just that it would be worth it, and NOT SAD AT ALL. Let’s WORK. 

For the cookie layer, preheat oven to 350°F and generously butter an 8×8 round cake pan. Combine all ingredients except coarse salt until batter forms. Gently fold in chocolate chips until distributed evenly. Spread batter in pan, evening out the top with a rubber spatula, then bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is set and the sides have browned. Sprinkle sea salt on top if using, then let cool in pan for 10 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely. 


Let’s work on our brownie layer next, since the oven is already on and we’re the kind of people who want our cake, want it now, and are slightly, disturbingly obsessive about the goals we make when the goals we make are cake-related. Preheat the oven to 325°F this time, and wash out that large bowl you used for the cookie layer, because you’re gonna need it again (fancy rich folks, sure, use another large bowl, whatever, not even bitter at all about it, kudos for making all those good life choices). Cover the bottom and sides of an 8×8 round cake pan with foil. Combine cocoa powder, butter, sugar and salt in bowl and sift together until lightly mixed. Heat in microwave for up to a couple of minutes, stopping every 30 seconds to stir everything together (alternatively, you can set this over a simmering pot of water as long as you’re not accident prone, which is to say, as long as you’re not me). You can stop when it’s warm but not hot and appears grainy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, with a wooden spoon, until mixture takes on a nice sheen. Stir in flour and beat vigorously until you’ve got yourself a gorgeous batter. Send into the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until the top is set and a cake tester comes out with just a few delectable crumbs on it (that you will not immediately lick, for you have manners and know the dangers of Licking Hot Things. It’s late guys. I’m well aware of how accidentally dirty this whole post is, and IDC). Let cool completely before removing from foil and pan.

If you’re not totally done with me yet, let’s work on our cheesecake middle (also what I call my torso, waka-waka?). Beat cream cheese with electric mixer on high until fluffy, then gradually add in sugar until combined. Mix in peanut butter, then slowly add in half-and-half until the mixture is creamy and totally smooth. Gently fold in chopped peanut butter cups and spread into a generously buttered, foil-lined 8×8 cake pan (yes, of course I recommend using the same pan over again thrice. Not the same foil though. We’re not animals). Freeze until completely solid, at least an hour. Remove and sandwich between your giant cookie and giant brownie. Refrigerate while making your ganache. 

Just some previews. idk. The paper towel? I knew this was going to be messy and I wanted napkins nearby, but I figured it would just make sense to have them under the cake, so I could just rip some paper towels off the actual cake to save time. I'm joking. No I'm not. I am. (I'm not)
Just some previews. idk. The paper towel? I knew this was going to be messy and I wanted napkins nearby, but I figured it would just make sense to have them under the cake, so I could just rip some paper towels off the actual cake to save time. I’m joking. No I’m not. I am. (I’m not)

Peanut Butter Ganache

2/3 cup of heavy cream

6 ounces of dark chocolate, chopped

2 tablespoons of smooth peanut butter

Set chocolate aside in a heatproof bowl. Heat heavy cream in a small saucepan until simmering but not boiling. Pour cream over chocolate and let sit for one minute before stirring. Continue to stir until chocolate has melted and mixture is shiny. Stir in peanut butter until melted, then immediately pour this glorious nectar over your cake, letting it spill over the sides like the beautiful disaster it is. Refrigerate until ganache has set.

Top with more peanut butter cups if you like (you like). 
Top with more peanut butter cups if you like (you like). 

Uhhhh…. I know. I’m crazy. This is madness. It’s pure madness. But I needed it, dammit. I needed that glorious, messy, indulgent, unbelievably unhealthy madness.

Pretty much my view for the past couple days, because I love this cake and I am a shut-in.
Pretty much my view for the past couple days, because I love this cake and I am a shut-in.

Oh and other people had this cake and were able to confirm that it was completely not sad but, instead, positively OMG. 

So? Well. Currently I am sippin’ on some serious Courvosier, eating some Not Birthday (and Not Sad) Cake, and listening to Biggie, throwing my hands in the air, because I’mz a true player. Only two of those things are true, and it’s the thing about eating cake and listening to Biggie, because BIGGIE, and also because I have often spoken about how broke I am due to circumstance, the economy and some Star Wars-related purchases I recently made. I guess there are worse ways to spend one’s… regular old Tuesday. Baby. BABAYYYYY.   


Cakes Chocolate Cheer Fancy Pantsy

Twenty Eight And Still Miraculously Kicking. And Screaming. And Baking.

Lots of older people shake their heads wistfully, smile and gently say, “Well, it’s all downhill from here!” once I tell them that I’ve just turned twenty eight. I know it’s a joke, but I’ve heard it enough times in the past two weeks to be suspicious. Really, ya’ll? It can’t be that bad. Look at George Clooney! Hell, look at Flavor Flav! Flavor Flav has the best life ever.

Truthfully, there have been some sad times recently– too many sad times, to be honest– but, fortunately, also some very, very happy times. I’ve spent the past month or so struggling to weigh the great stuff against the horrible, and I realized that I have always had a serious negative bias. Are you shocked? That’s shocking, right? I’m trying as hard as I can to get rid of it, or, at least, shrink it to the point where you’re all giving me the shady side-eye and wondering what I’m on.

One of those great things…

So that’s what I plan to do with this new year: be a little bit more positive. If you know me, you are laughing hysterically, given that I seem to have the unfortunate ability to turn even the greatest news (only when it comes to me, of course) into a complete nightmare. I assure you, I am changing. Slowly, very slowly, but I am trying. Even the negative events of late have put things into perspective, which is very necessary, given my tendency to sweat/cry/shake/cry/cry the small stuff. Here’s what I’ve realized: there isn’t time. There isn’t time to worry about my frizzy hair, or the almond milk I forgot to pick up, or the completely fixable minor work mistake I made. There isn’t time. And yes, I’ll still beat myself up over ridiculous situations from time to time, but now I’m also going to try to take as much time as possible to just be thankful.

First thing I’m thankful for? The invention of cake. Specifically, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake. Yeeee-up.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake (makes one 3 layer 8-inch cake)

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the cake

2 cups of all-purpose flour

2 cups of sugar

3/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons of baking soda

1 teaspoon of salt

1 cup of vegetable or canola oil

1 cup of sour cream

1 1/2 cups of water

2 tablespoons of white vinegar

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract or coffee liquer (I used the latter…awesome)

2 large eggs

For the peanut butter frosting

10 ounces of cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese, softened

2 tablespoons of butter

3 cups of powdered sugar

2/3 cup of smooth peanut butter

For the peanut butter chocolate glaze

8 ounces of semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons of smooth peanut butter

2 tablespoons of light corn syrup

1/2 cup of heavy cream

So, as you can see from the above, this cake is a little bit of work. But, as you can also see… it’s a chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting AND freaking peanut butter chocolate ganache. So, you know, worth the couple of hours of fun.

To start, preheat your oven to 350ºF and butter and flour (confession: I use cocoa powder instead of flour because I’m wild like that) three eight-inch round cake pans. You can also line the bottoms with parchment paper, but since I didn’t have any I was able to get away with a generous buttering/powder dusting. Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt until totally combined. Stir in sour cream and vegetable oil and whisk until fully mixed. Stir in water, then blend in vinegar and vanilla. Lastly, beat in your two eggs until completely mixed in and batter is formed. Yes folks, one bowl. Be still my lazy heart. Divide batter among your pans and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a cake tester comes out with just a few stray crumbs on it. Let cool in pans for 15-20 minutes, then invert onto cake racks. I’m going to second Deb from Smitten Kitchen in saying that these cakes are very, very soft. If you plan on frosting them (and don’t think twice about it, you plan on frosting them), it’s a good idea to wrap these cakes tightly in plastic wrap and freeze them for at least half an hour. It will firm them up and make them much easier to work with.

To make your frosting, beat cream cheese and butter together in a large bowl, with a hand mixer or stand mixer on high speed, until fluffy. Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula from time to time. Beat until completely combined, 2 to 3 minutes, then add in peanut butter and mix until smooth.


To frost, unwrap a cake layer and place on a cake stand/paper plate (I’m poor, guys). Top with a generous amount of frosting, then place another layer on top and repeat. Top with third layer, then frost top and sides. It’s easiest to frost the sides by doing a light “crumb coating,” where a thin layer of frosting is spread along the sides and top of the cake as a base. Then you can continue with more frosting layered on top of this base.


Lastly, we’re going to work on our chocolate peanut butter ganache. In a double boiler or in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water, combine your chocolate, peanut butter and corn syrup. Heat while stirring often, until the mixture is smooth.


Remove from heat, then whisk in heavy cream. Beat until smooth, then pour evenly over cake, like so:


Make sure to cover the entire top of the cake, then basically just wait for the goodness to drip down the sides. You can smooth the top with a rubber spatula, if you’d like, but I chose to keep things pretty rustic, because, um, I’m rustic and this was my birthday cake?

Refrigerate the cake, uncovered, until the ganache is firm.


Ohhhhh. Yeah.



So this cake was terrible. I mean it obviously was, right? After all of that work, and those weird ingredients no one ever puts together, how could this have been anything but a disaster?

Guys, I’ve eaten my weight in this cake. I should be embarrassed. “Should be” are the key words there, folks. Everyone who has had a piece of this cake has expressed nothing but wonder. It certainly rivals last year’s S’mores Cake and WILL be making repeat appearances in my life.

(One more for good measure)
(One more for good measure)