Peanut butter plays a big part in my life. I eat it every single day. This proves two things; I’m an extreme creature of habit, and that I love peanut butter (I put it in my oatmeal every morning!!). When I realized National Peanut Butter Day was just around the corner (January 24th), I knew it deserved a cake. I grew up on PB&J sandwiches, and have wanted to make a peanut butter and jelly cake for quite a while. The stars seemed to align, and I finally had the perfect opportunity to relive my childhood through cake!! The recipe and instructions are included below.
Vanilla Cake Ingredients:
- 3 1/4 cup (416 grams) all purpose flour
- 3 cups (600 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 1/2 tsp (13 grams) baking powder
- 1 tsp (5 grams) salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter or 2 sticks (226 grams), room temperature
- 2 tsp. (9 grams) vanilla extract
- 1 cup egg whites (244 grams) – about 7 large egg whites; I use egg whites from the carton to avoid wasting egg yolks
- 1 1/2 cups (360 grams) buttermilk, room temperature
- 1/8 cup (28 grams) vegetable oil
American Buttercream Ingredients:
- 6 sticks (3 cups) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 12 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 4 Tbsp. heavy cream
- 3 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup of peanut butter + 2 Tbsp heavy cream (to be added once made)
Additional Ingredients and Decorations:
- 1 jar of your favorite jam or jelly (I used strawberry jam)
- 1 bag freeze dried strawberries
- 1/2 cup chopped, salted peanuts
- Additional peanut butter (to drizzle and spread on the sides of the cake)
- 8 medium sized strawberries
Begin by making the vanilla cake layers. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line four 7” round pans with parchment rounds, and grease with non-stick cooking spray.
Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined.
Mix chunks of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly.
Pour in egg whites, and mix on low until just incorporated. Mix in the buttermilk in two installments, on a low speed. Add in vanilla and oil, and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds.
Divide evenly between the prepared cake pans. Bake 37-38 minutes (or until a skewer comes out clean). Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan. Place cake layers into the freezer for 45 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process.
Once the layers have fully cooled, trim the caramelized bits from the sides of the layers using a serrated knife. While these layers bake pretty flat, sometimes I’ll also trim the top of the layers too. Be sure the layers are completely cooled or chilled before trimming. If you try to trim the layers while they’re still warm, they will crumble apart.
While the layers bake and cool, prepare the vanilla and peanut butter frosting. Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream. Once fully mixed, add in the vanilla and salt, and beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached. If the frosting is too thick, add in cream (1 teaspoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).
NOTE: When making frosting for a cake, it is important to mix the buttercream on low at the end of the process for a couple minutes, to get out any extra air that might have be incorporated during the mixing process. This will make it easier to get super smooth sides on your cake!
Once the vanilla frosting is made, place 1/4 of the frosting in a separate bowl. Add 1 cup of your favorite peanut butter, and 2 additional Tbsp of heavy cream. Mix until fully incorporated and smooth.
Fill one large piping bag with vanilla frosting (to create a frosting dam, to contain the jam that will be added between each layer).
Then it’s time for the best part, the assembly of the cake! Stack cake layers, and pipe a ring of vanilla buttercream around the edge of the layer.Spread a layer of peanut butter buttercream inside the vanilla frosting, then add a drizzle of warm peanut butter (I heated a small jar in the microwave for about 20 seconds).
Chill the cake in the freezer for about 2 minutes to allow the peanut butter to firm up, then spread jam on top, ensure it’s contained by the ring of vanilla frosting.
Repeat this process with all remaining cake layers. Cover the cake in a thin layer of vanilla frosting (crumb coat) to trap any run-away crumbs. Chill the cake in the freezer or fridge for about 5 minutes, until the buttercream is firm to the touch.
Next, add a thicker, second layer of vanilla buttercream. Use a bench scraper to smooth the sides of the cake, then add on dabs of peanut butter. Smooth again using a bench scraper, to create a watercolor effect with the peanut butter. You can see a full tutorial on how to frost a cake with smooth sides here. Use a small offset spatula to smooth the top of the cake.
Add crushed freeze-dried strawberries and chopped peanuts around the base of the cake. Spread peanut butter on the sides of a piping bag fitted with aWilton 1M frosting tip, then fill with vanilla buttercream. Pipe 8 larger swirls on top of the cake, and place a strawberry on top of each swirl. Sprinkle additional freeze-dried strawberries between the swirls.
This cake serves about 16 people, so be sure you have lots of friends around to help you enjoy it!! It is every peanut butter lovers’ dream, and is an epic way to celebrate one of my favorite national food holidays. While the outside of the cake is pretty, the inside is really the star of the show! Just look at jam!!