The Peanut Butter Cup

I am home from San Francisco and am enjoying going back through my pastry text books. The peanut butter cup was one of my favorites to make.  I love rich foods and sweet desserts….but this was ALMOST too sweet for me.  For you chocoholics out there, this is the cake for you!  Regardless of whether you are making it for yourself or to give as a gift, the peanut butter cup is an absolutely beautiful cake.

All of the cakes that we made in class were 6 inches.  I think that this is a perfect size for any cake…but especially a rich cake like the peanut butter cup.  The following recipe is for a 6 inch cake.  The weights are in grams (sorry guys….that’s how we did it in class).

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

  • 96 g Low Protein bread flour (or all purpose)
  • 60 g canola oil
  • 154 g sugar
  • 65 g eggs
  • 34 g cocoa powder
  • 4 g baking soda
  • 2 g salt
  • 180 g buttermilk
  • 3 g vanilla extract

For the cake, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt and reserve. Combine the buttermilk and vanilla extract and reserve.  Blend the canola oil and sugar with the paddle attachment.  Slowly add the eggs.  Add the dry ingredients alternatively with the remaining wet ingredients.  Deposit into sprayed and papered pan and bake at 335F for about 45 minutes until skewer test is clean.  Cool in the pans for 5-10 minutes.  Then un-mold and cool fully on a rack.

Peanut Butter Icing

  • 189 g cream cheese
  • 484 g butter
  • 97 g powdered sugar (sifted)
  • 5 g vanilla extract
  • 5 g salt
  • 397 g creamy peanut butter
  • 24 g molasses

For the icing, combine the softened cream cheese and butter with the paddle attachment on medium speed until no lumps remain.  Add the remaining ingredients and whip on medium speed until slightly lightened in color and smooth, scraping occasionally.  Store at room temperature for up to 24 hours, refrigerated for 5 days or frozen for 3 months.

Dark Chocolate Ganache

  • 204 g cream
  • 150 g 64% couverture chocolate

For the ganache, bring the cream to a boil and pour over the chocolate.  Form an emulsion and press plastic wrap directly on the surface until ready to use.  For use, ganache must be soft enough to spread.


After the cake has fully cooled, slice the cake into 4 layers.  Spread the first layer with roughly 80 g of peanut butter icing.  Place the next layer on top and spread with roughly 80 g ganache.  Place another layer of cake and spread with peanut butter icing.  Place the final layer of cake on top.  We always used the bottom of the cake as the top layer because it was level and smooth.

Once the cake is assembled, mask the cake with a very thin layer of icing and chill until set before finishing.  We used dough blades to mask our cakes.  I found it to be so much easier than using a spatula.

Once the cake has set, top the cake with roughly 150 g of peanut butter icing and spread evenly.  Use a spatula to create a swirl pattern.  Coat the sides of the cake with ganache and immediately coat gently with chocolate shavings.  You could also use chocolate cake crumbs or cookie crumbs.  Store the cake refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for 1 month.  I hope you guys enjoy making the cake as much I as did!

Happy Baking!

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Today, I became a pastry chef…

Baking these extraordinarily beautiful cakes today, I really felt like a pastry chef.  Not only did the recipes turn out perfect, but I was able to decorate the cakes and present the cakes so beautifully that today I felt that I had earned the title.  The absolutely divine cakes that you see above are (from left to right) a black forest cake, a Fraisier cake and a traditional Sacher cake.  The Fraisier cake deserves a post all to itself so I am saving the other two cakes for a different post on a different day.  Now, sit back and enjoy the absolute beauty that is Le Fraisier.

‘Le Fraisier’ is a formal french chiffon cake with pastry cream filling and exposed strawberries.  The top is layered with marzipan or almond cream.

We start out by baking a thin layer of golden chiffon cake using a half sheet pan.  Once the cake is cooled, using a pastry mold, cut out two 6-inch cake rounds.  Next, wrap an acetate strip inside of a 6 inch plastic mold.

Next, we insert our first layer of golden chiffon cake and brush the layer with a Cointreau simple syrup.  Next, slice strawberries in half and line the strawberries (cut side facing out) along the acetate strip.

We now want to begin adding our pastry cream, paying careful attention not to allow any cream between the strawberries and acetate.  Remember, anything that touches the acetate strip will be visible when the mold is removed.  It helps to prevent any pastry cream seepage by holding each strawberry in place as you pipe the pastry cream between the berries.

Once the berries are in place, pipe a small amount of cream on top of the exposed cake and add a layer of sliced strawberries.  Add one more layer of cream and one more layer of strawberries.

We want to make sure to add one final layer of cream….enough to cover our strawberries entirely.   Then, add the second layer of chiffon cake.  Brush the layer lightly with syrup. It helps add flavor and preserve moisture to spread a VERY thin layer of pastry cream on top of this cake layer.  This pastry cream should not be visible from the side.  Therefore, be careful not to spread the cream all the way to the acetate form.

The cake is topped with a thin layer of marzipan.  We rolled out the marzipan and used a pattern roller to imprint a basket weave on top.  We used our pastry mold to cut out a 6 inch circle.  Gently press the marzipan layer on top.

SFBI used a photo of this cake to advertise for this particular course…and it is obvious why.  Not only is the Frasier beautiful, however, it is absolutely delicious!  I can’t wait to experiment with this recipe at home and share this cake with friends and family : )

Happy baking!

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Butternuts Beer & Ale

Although we are doing some great things in our class that I can’t wait to share, I wanted to take a short break from my SFBI reporting to get back to beer.

Jeff and I found these beers a couple of weeks before I left for San Francisco while we were out exploring our local pubs.  We both love to try new, local beers…..and I absolutely can’t turn down an opportunity to sample a local pale ale….especially one in a can.  We tried two beers from Butternuts Beer & Ale (Porkslap Pale Ale & Snapperhead IPA) out of Garrattsville, NY.

As a beer brewing and reviewing amateur who is still learning how to recognize the distinct flavor profiles of different categories of beer, my review is certainly based more on my overall impression (basically meaning ‘did it taste good?’ and ‘would I buy it again?’) of the beer.

I found the the Porkslap Pale Ale to be sweet but not offensively so, and I liked the floral hoppiness of the pale ale.  The Snapperhead IPA, on the other hand, was not as hoppy and (seemed to me) to have an assertive citrus aroma and malty flavor.  Basically, I enjoyed the Porkslap and would purchase again.  I would, however, pass on the Snapperhead (unless it was my only IPA option).

Regardless of my impression of the actual beer, I have to give two thumbs up to the unique names and the fact that it is served in a can.  I also have to give credit to the brewery for being recently voted as the ‘best beer in Garrattsville.’  (We won’t focus on the fact that they are the only brewery in Garrattsville).


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Ten lessons from Starter Bakery

I wrapped up my week at Starter Bakery by helping them with the Grand Lake Farmers Market in Oakland.  I snapped this picture near the end of the market and after most of our product had been purchased.  It really was impressive listening to the customers gush over their pastries.   It was a great week, and I was able to learn a lot from Brian and Jamie.  Here are a few things that I learned this week (in no particular order of importance).  Some of these, Jamie and Brian, shared.  Some, I learned on the job.

1. Crocs are REALLY comfortable bakery footwear.

2. Never leave a knife in the sink.  Wash it immediately and personally put it back in its place.

3. Hire interns from local culinary programs (or take in SFBI students whose classes have been canceled).  You really can’t beat cheap (or free) labor.

4. The best equipment for any future bakery is of the used variety.  Ebay is a start-up’s friend.

5. Be the BEST at at least one thing….and market that one thing like crazy.


7. No waste.

8. It’s a small foodie world.  Every baker that I know across the country…knows one another.  It’s a small world and a network is important.

9. Start small and expand slowly and in a way that is sustainable.

10. Smile….you’re working 12 hours a day, but you’re doing what you love.

Happy Baking!

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A friend that I haven’t yet met

I hopped downstairs for a scone and coffee at Arizmendi this week.  This is a GREAT worker-owned cooperative that specializes in pastries, bread and pizza.

I was impressed by the simple set-up of the bakery.  They have a small store front and very little inside seating and no table service.  They display the pastries and bread in attractive stands and carts.  Customers help themselves to what they want and then pay for their products at the counter.  It seems like a simple, no frills, very effective business model.  They bake a superior product that keeps people coming back.  I was lucky to get an unobstructed photo of the pastry/bread displays….the line is usually out the door.

I managed to put down my yummy scone long enough to snap a photo of a happy Arizmendi customer leaving the bakery (at 8:00 a.m.).  He is definitely a friend that I haven’t yet met….maybe next time.


Happy baking!

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