Sometimes a baking fail is just the inspiration I need to try something new. I originally baked my Devil’s Food Cake from Zoë Bakes Cakes in cupcake liners that promised to be sturdy enough not to need a muffin pan to support them. Well, I put them to the test and it was a complete fail! The liquid batter poured out of the sunken liners after about 5 minutes and I knew I was going to have a mess on my hands. One of the best lessons I learned in culinary school was not to panic. If things aren’t going as planned, pivot. That’s exactly what I did and ended up with these Chocolate Peanut Butter Cakettes (larger than a cupcake, but still an individual-sized mini cake). Since I had to rescue the cake from the liners and the pan (see my Instagram story for the visual), I ended up with lots of scraps of cake. Instead of just snacking on the scraps (which is how I typically roll), I used them in the Chocolate American Buttercream (also from my book, Zoë Bakes Cakes), which gave the center of these little cakes even more flavor. I added peanut butter and chopped peanuts to add a crunch and flavor that I knew would be a big hit (these were destined for my neighbor’s house and it is her favorite combo). No one looking at this post would assume it started out as a kitchen disaster. Stay flexible and give yourself permission to experiment and you will come up with something fabulous and delicious, even if it starts out a bit wonky. In my book I have a chapter called the “Cake Academy” for people looking for some of the hows and whys of cake baking. It is a fun bit of food science and technique that can give all bakers a little more confidence to play with their cakes.
“François is really just a hippie at heart who wants to spread the love through cake.” Jenny Rosenstrach from her review of Zoë Bakes Cakes in the New York Times! I will not lie, it is a total jump-up-and-dance thrill to read her generous words about the book. She captured all that I felt about writing this book in her review and I am so grateful.
Devil's Food Cake
- 2 cups 400g granulated sugar
- 2 1/3 cups 280g all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup 50g Cocoa Powder (natural or Dutch-processed), sift if lumpy
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 cups 300ml hot coffee
- 2 tablespoons rum
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup 240ml buttermilk
- 1/2 cup 120ml vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups 360g confectioners’ sugar
- 3/4 cup 170g unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- Pinch salt
- 1 tablespoon dark cocoa powder Dutch or Natural
- 2 ounces melted and cooled bittersweet chocolate You can use semisweet, but I found it a bit too sweet
- Scraps of devil’s food cake left in the pan – optional but fun
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 2-3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- 1 pound chopped chocolate
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and line a 12 x 16-inch Baker's Half Sheet with parchment.
- Combine all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and whisk until combined, set aside.
- Whisk together, eggs, buttermilk, oil and vanilla until well combined. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk, while slowly adding the coffee and rum to the batter and whisk until totally blended and smooth, about 2 minutes. The batter will be quite runny.
- Spread batter evenly over the greased and lined baking sheet, and bake at for about 20-25 minutes or until set.
- Once the cake is cool, use a 3-inch Round Cutter to cut out 18 pieces of cake. Set aside.
- Make the buttercream: Cream together the sugar, butter, vanilla, and almond extract and beat slowly until smooth.
- Blend the buttercream, cocoa, melted chocolate, devil’s food scraps, and peanut butter until smooth. Add heavy whipping cream until spreadable. You may need a little bit more heavy cream to make up for the cake in the buttercream.
- To assemble and crumb coat the cakes: Spread about 3 tablespoons of the buttercream over half the cake circles. Sandwich the buttercream with the remaining cake circles. Frost the tops and sides of the cakes with the remaining buttercream, then refrigerate the cakes to set.
- Make the ganache: Heat the cream to a simmer, add the chocolate, swirl them together. After about 3 minutes, gently whisk until smooth. Let the ganache cool slightly, so it is still pourable, but thick enough to coat the cakes in a thick layer.
- Place the chilled cakes on a clean cooling rack, set over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Pour the warm ganache over the top of the cakes to fully cover them. Let the ganache set on the cakes for about 45 minutes.
- Chop the peanuts into fine pieces and press them to the sides of the cakes. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to a day. I like them served at room temperature.