Thursday, June 13, 2013

Mema's Peanut Butter Cake {with Peanut Butter Icing}

I've mentioned before that I come from a legacy of ladies who love to offer their hospitality to their families.  I'm fortunate that I got to grow up in the same city as both of my grandmothers.  We took turns rotating Sunday Sunday at Mema's house, one Sunday at ours, the next Sunday at Granny's and the next again at ours.  This was our weekly and monthly rotation until I left for college (and because the universe does not revolve around me, my family carried on with this tradition even in my absence).

Peanut Butter Cake with Peanut Butter Icing was my Mema's specialty.  It happens to be my Daddy's favorite cake, and so we were guaranteed to have it at least once a year on his birthday.  But it is also the favorite of many of my cousins, aunts, and uncles, and so we usually had it 2 or 3 times a year.  It was always fabulous and it never got old.

This is one of those recipes that I was so sure was missing something - either another ingredient or some special technique.  The first time I made it in my college apartment the cake was dry, dry, dry and the eggs in the icing curdled lickity-split.  So I put it on the back-burner, intending to ask my Mema what I did wrong.

A wedding, two moves, and two coasts later I decided to try again in our tiny apartment in San Diego.  The cake turned out marginally better, but once again the eggs in my icing curdled.  This time I called my dad to see if he knew what went wrong.  He told me that he'd never mastered the icing, but he knew for a fact my Mema switched from making cake from scratch to adding peanut butter to a box mix ages ago.  In fact, he wasn't sure I'd ever had her cake truly from scratch.

Well I never.

I have come back to this cake periodically.  With the box cake mix knowledge under my belt I ditched the cake recipe (the flour measurements never were specific) and began using a yellow cake recipe with a heaping dose of peanut butter added.  My cakes immediately improved...but my icing was still the pits.  I learned about tempering icing improved a bit, but it never has been as good as Mema's.

This week Mema had a stroke.  Sitting in the hospital waiting room talking with my aunts and cousin we started reminiscing and I mentioned that I never have gotten this recipe to work.  I love the women in my family.  They are warm, loving, and encouraging.  Immediately everyone jumped in with little bits of wisdom.  "The icing turns out ooey and gooey like Mema's when it's technically undercooked...It makes more of a hard shell glaze when you cook it as long as the recipe calls for...Temper, temper, temper the egg whites...don't rush it...go little by little."

And so, armed with the knowledge of many, I came back to try it again.  To do my Mema proud.  Oh y'all...this time it was perfection!

Mema's Peanut Butter Cake with Peanut Butter Icing

Can use two 8" pans, two 9" pans, or one 13x9" pan.

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups, plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus extra
3 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, plus extra
1 1/4 cups milk
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter

Allow your eggs to come to room temperature for at least 30 minutes.  Grease your cake pans and line the bottom with parchment paper.  In a medium bowl, mix 2 1/2 cups of the flour with the baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and set aside.

Using paddle attachment on a stand mixer, beat the butter on high speed for 30 seconds.  Reduce speed to medium and slowly add sugar, beating until well combined.  Scrape down the sides of your bowl.  Add 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk (reserve egg white), one at a time and beating after each egg is added.  Add 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla and beat.  Reduce speed to low and alternate adding flour mixture and 1 1/4 cups of milk.  Add 1/4 cup peanut butter and beat until evenly distributed.  Spread batter into the pans.

Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes for 9" pans, 40-45 minutes for 8" pans, 35-40 minutes for 13x9" pan, or until cake passes the knife/toothpick test.  Cook cake for at least 10 minutes before removing from pans to cool on wire racks.

For the icing, beat egg white on high until it forms stiff peaks.  Keep in mixer and set aside.  Then combine 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 tablespoon flour, 1 cup buttermilk, and a pinch of salt in a saucepan set on medium high heat.  Stir constantly until mixture comes to a boil where you can't stir down the bubbles.  Add 1 tablespoon peanut butter and continue to cook for about 5-6 minutes, stirring constantly.  Stir in 2-3 drops of vanilla and remove from heat.  Turn mixer with egg whites on low and add 1/3 of the boiling mixture to the egg white, one spoonful at a time.  Go slow, slow, slow...don't rush.  Return egg white mixture to the saucepan with the rest of the peanut butter mixture and fold to combine.

Ice cake, making sure to give a generous layer of icing to the middle if you are stacking layers.  I find it works best to ice in thin layers, letting each layer set before adding another.  A silicone basting brush comes in handy for making sure every nook and cranny is iced, as this icing is gooey like a thick ganache.

Feel free to drizzle any extra icing on your slice.  ;)

Pour yourself a tall glass of cold milk and enjoy a slice of peanut butter cake heaven.  :)

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