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I made a fantastic peanut butter cake this weekend for my friend’s birthday.  The recipe is one that my family has made for years from a xerox of a military family cookbook – it is credited to “Jean Spietsm, USMC Faculty/Staff.”  I tried out making frosting for the first time using Tracy Larsen’s Creamy Chocolate Frosting recipe; it had 4.5 stars after 733 reviews, so I figured it was worth a shot.

I’ve reproduced the recipe and some photos below, along with some hard-earned advice after about 3 hours of baking and my own tweaks to these recipes (in italics).

Jean Sprietsma’s “Peanut Butter Chip Cake”

  • 1 Betty Crock Supermoist yellow cake mix
  • 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1 c. creamy peanut butter
  • 1 c. water
  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 c. chopped peanuts (optional)
  • 1 (6 oz.) pkg. chocolate chops (optional)
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour 13 X 9″ pan or 2 (8″) square pans.  (I heated mine to 325 because my oven burns everything, and I still burnt the top.)
  2. Beat cake mix (dry), brown sugar, and peanut butter in a large bowl on low speed until evenly crumbly.  Reserve 2/3 cup of this mixture.  (I wanted to make frosting to go with this, but I ended up putting this reserved peanut butter deliciousness on top of my frosting.  I also chopped up a bowl full of reese’s peanut butter cups to put both in the cake and on the cake.)
  3. Beat remaining mixture, water, oil, and eggs on low speed; scraping bowl edges often.  Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. (My husband did this step after I accidentally dropped a whole egg shell in the cake batter and had to painstakingly fish it out.  No harm done.)
  4.  Pour batter in pan.  Sprinkle crumbly mixture on top (also chopped peanuts), and chocolate chops.  (I added chopped up reese’s peanut butter cups, and I did not put the crumbly mixture or the peanuts on anything.  Keep those suckers in reserve.)
  5. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes.  (As I said, my oven cooks hot, so the top was burnt and the middle was squishy.   I used a knife to cut off the top of both round cakes and put them back in the oven to cook some more.  The crumbled cake tops are pictured below.)

Broken cake tops

After the cakes were in the oven for the second time, I started making the frosting.

Tracy Larsen’s Creamy Chocolate Frosting:

  • 2 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 5 tablespoons evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. In a medium bowl, sift together the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa, and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter until smooth, then gradually beat in sugar mixture alternately with evaporated milk. Blend in vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy. If necessary, adjust consistency with more milk or sugar.

Chocolate frosting

I was really surprised by how thick the frosting ended up being.  Normally you don’t frost cakes when they’re hot because the frosting melts, but I actually did frost these hot since the frosting was so thick.  It was delicious, but it didn’t taste that different from store bought frosting to me, so I don’t think I would go to so much trouble again.
After preparing the frosting, I got the cakes out of the oven again.
Then I put the reserved peanut butter crumbly mix on a cookie sheet along with some chopped peanuts and roasted that in the oven until golden brown.
Peanut butter crumbly mix with peanuts

I frosted the bottom layer, and put crumbly mix and reese’s peanut butter cups across the top.  Then I added the next layer of the cake and sprinkled the crumbly mix  and reese’s peanut butter cups on top of that, and had a pretty respectable cake (and a lot of crumbs on the floor) at the end:

I learned several things in this process:

(1) Don’t sweep the floor until you’re completely finished.  Sweeping half way through is just kidding yourself – those crumblies go everywhere.

(2) When you think it might be fun to make your own frosting, just be thankful that Betty Crocker did it first.

(3) If you ask your husband to help you make cake and he is a contractor, he may tell you that hecould have made $500 by now and that this is now the world’s most expensive cake.

And last but not least,

(4) Don’t overfill the round cake pans.  It’s much easier to just have smaller cake than it is to painstakingly remove the burnt top and re-bake to get it cooked through.

 

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