As the plainspoken, Samwise Gamgee said at the end of Lord of the Rings, "I'm back." If there's anyone left checking after my ten months long hiatus, I guess I should fill you in on why I left so abruptly after I started. I have two words that might explain it all: morning sickness.
For months, I couldn't fathom exerting myself mentally beyond what I absolutely had to. What I had to do, was work my buns off on CRAFT, the food and beverage magazine where I am a columnist and editor, and, you know, gestate a baby. When it came to reading or creative writing, my mind was a blank. I was easily distracted and couldn't focus. I even had to suspend my book group (of two) because Go Dog, Go, was about all that my fruit fly brain could handle. Getting through War and Peace wrecked me.
A quick aside, pregnancy brain is a real thing. Said prego is processing some pretty big things, so don't take it lightly. The absentmindedness that often comes with it can result in things like stepping out into traffic without looking or running red lights. The more you know, but I digress.
Now that I'm back, I've decided to celebrate by putting the devour in Devour Lit and share a recipe for the cake I made my husband for his birthday last April. Actually, I should say, recipes because this was the combination of several. Some are mine, some are not. I'm not going to lie, this cake has a lot of moving parts and needs to be scheduled and planned out ahead of time.
I really enjoy baking. I wasn't very good at it when I was younger. I wanted to riff without understanding the fundamentals of baking well enough. I had no sense of balance and spent too much time trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Subsequently, failing in many of my baking endeavors. Aside from simple cookies, I actually gave up real baking for years, even sneering at it a bit for some idiotic reason.
Now, as the patience acquired by time has taken hold, I find it a meditative practice. The feeling I get is similar to how I feel after an afternoon of reading, centered and peaceful. On top of that, the balance of artistry and science that goes into something as delicious as a cake fascinates me to no end.
When my husband asked for the ultimate peanut butter and chocolate cake, I wasn't 100% certain that I could pull it off. As it happens, I did a mini test run ahead of time and it was a complete failure. The sweetness was out of control, it felt like a diabetic nightmare waiting to happen. The final cake was a balance of sweet, salty, and bittersweet, all pulled together by a supreme richness. He was not disappointed.
I had my little gal in August and she is absolute perfection. As I'm sure you can imagine, my life has been altered in ways I could never have guessed. The future has never looked brighter.
As for the future of Devour Lit, things are looking up. I've survived my first ten weeks of motherhood and think I'll be able to exist in this space again. I can't tell you how happy that makes me. I've started reading again. The first book I read after I had the baby was Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, which was incredibly good. I will be writing about it very soon. I have a pile of mysteries (some total garbage, some not) that I'm eager to get through, as well as Philip Pullman's new novel La Belle Sauvage from his The Book of Dust trilogy.
Right now, I am reading What She Ate by Laura Shapiro. Full disclosure, this is a book that was sent to me by Viking Press. Anyhoo, if I like it, you'll be reading about it here in the near future. Hopefully next week, unless my ten week old has something to say about it.
For now, please enjoy this luscious cake and know that I'll be bringing you author interviews and book info on the regular again. Now, if only I could remember how to change images in the scrolling box.
Ultimate Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cake
A word to the wise, invite several people to partake in this beast. No one should attempt it alone.
1 recipe Chocolate Cake, baked in nine inch round pan, removed, cooled, and frozen (recipe link below)
1 recipe Peanut Butter Cake, baked in nine inch round pan, removed, cooled, and frozen (recipe link below)
1 recipe Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting
1 recipe Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache Filling
1 c. roasted peanuts, finely chopped
1 recipe Buckeyes, leave half of the peanut butter filling unfinished, you'll use it to fill the cake (recipe link below)
1 recipe Brownie Roll-out Cookies (recipe link below)
Remove the cakes from the freezer and slice in half to create two layers of chocolate and two layers of peanut butter.
On your cake stand or turner, alternate between the chocolate and peanut butter cakes. Pipe a circle of Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting around the edge of the layers. Use the bittersweet chocolate filling in between the two outer layers and the unfinished buckeye filling between the center layer. To apply the buckeye filling, roll it out to be an inch or so smaller than the cake and lay it inside the circle of frosting. When you're done layering, chill the cake for 30 minutes.
Using the Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting, frost the cake using an offset spatula. coat the sides with the chopped peanuts and decorate with the Buckeyes and Brownie Roll-out Cookies.
Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting
2 sticks unsalted butter, just at room temp.
1 c. cocoa powder
3 to 3 1/2 c. powdered sugar
a few pinches kosher salt
a little full-fat coconut milk or cream, well mixed, at room temp.
Place the butter in the mixer and mix on low speed. Add in the cocoa, sugar, salt and coconut milk or cream and blend over a medium-low speed, scraping the sides as necessary. Do not over whip! If you get too much air into the frosting you won't have a smooth frosting. Admittedly, I fall prey to this frequently.
Use the frosting to frost the cake.
Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache Filling
4 oz. unsalted butter
3 oz. full-fat coconut milk, well mixed
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
pinch or two kosher salt
Melt the butter and coconut milk over medium-low heat and then stir in the chocolate and salt. Keep stirring until it is melted. Set aside to bring to room temperature. Use to fill the cake.
Links to the recipes that don't belong to me!
Brownie Roll-out Cookies
Chocolate Cake - I used this recipe, but I would use Helen Goh's Take Home Cake from her new cookbook with Yotam Ottolenghi if I were to make it again.
Peanut Butter Cake - I only used the recipe for the actual cake, not the filling or frosting.