Epic Chocolate, Peanut Butter + Salted Caramel Cake {Vegan}

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This cake is peanut butter level 62017. A level of perfection so great that the creator’s friends will bestow upon them the much revered title of…

“The Peanut Whisperer”

Thanks, guys. I’ll put that on my resumé. 😉

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But seriously, this cake is the real deal.

Layers of moist, fudgy chocolate cake.

Over half a kilo of peanut butter icing.

Spoonfuls of sticky salted caramel.

Gigantic shards of peanut toffee praline.

And a hefty sprinkling of peanut butter crumble and crushed meringues.

I know. You’re welcome.

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And to Emmeline, the total legend for whom this cake was made. Happy 16th birthday!!! May this peanut-laden mound of sugar express what words cannot, may you have an utterly stellar birthday and may the DKT odds be ever in your favour. xx ❤

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Notes:

  • Unless you have a whole day to devote to this thing, I would recommend that you make everything except the cake a day or two before you want to assemble it. I did not follow my own advice and it was not fun. :/
  • Depending on your icing-to-cake ratio preferences, you may find yourself with excess icing. In this case, simply spread it on the cake cut-offs and devour it while you try to wrangle the rest of the cake into a somewhat presentable form.
  • To make this cake even more extra, transform it into a 4-layered monstrosity. Just make two batches of the salted caramel sauce and split each cake layer in half horizontally, then stack as described with 1/2 a batch of caramel between each of the four layers.
  • In case you’ve been oblivious to the wonderful discovery that is aquafaba (i.e. bean juice – 😉 hehe), just think of it as the most perfect egg substitute ever. It gives cakes a wonderful crumb, is the key to making awesome vegan meringues, and is virtually free because you would have thrown it out anyway! I generally just open a can of unsalted chickpeas and use the liquid within that, but if you have the dedication to make your own, Ania has some fabulous tips on her blog (plus lots more amazingness).
  • If you appreciate precision, weigh each tin when dividing the cake batter to ensure they are the same, transferring a little bit of mixture from one to the other if necessary.
  • Generally I use pure peanut butter because I think it tastes heaps better and it’s definitely healthier; however, to achieve the gloriously smooth fluffiness of the icing it is important that you use the super smooth, highly processed stuff. No exceptions. The flavour and texture are definitely worth it.
  • While I always buy nuts raw, feel free to buy toasted peanuts, skip the toasting and peeling, and omit the salt in the praline.
  • Describing how to assemble this cake was surprisingly difficult; however it just follows the basic principles of layering, crumb coating and icing smoothing, which I learnt from youtube. This video explains it really well.

 


Chocolate Cake

300g plain flour

40g cocoa powder

1 tsp salt

260ml soy milk

2 tsp apple cider vinegar

120g non-dairy butter + extra for greasing

300g caster sugar

90ml aquafaba*

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 tsp bicarb soda

  1. Preheat the oven to 190ºC. Grease two 6-inch round cake tins with some non-dairy butter and line the bases with baking paper.
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and salt into a medium mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. Stir the apple cider vinegar into the soy milk and set aside to curdle.
  4. Combine the non-dairy butter and caster sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high speed until it is light and fluffy. Ideally you want the sugar to have dissolved completely, but I can’t wait that long, so about 5-10 minutes seems to work well.
  5. Add the aquafaba and vanilla extract and beat to combine – it will look as though it’s split but will come together again shortly.
  6. Alternate sifting in 1/3 of the flour and 1/2 of the soy milk, mixing well in between additions and scraping down the side of the bowl when necessary.
  7. Finally, mix the white wine vinegar with the bicarb soda in a small bowl, add it to the cake mixture and briefly beat again so that the batter is smooth and glossy.
  8. Pour half* of the mixture into each cake tin and place in the oven for 40-45 minutes, or until they are springy, have pulled away from the sides and a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean.
  9. When the cakes are ready, pull them out of the oven and let cool in the tins for 5-10 minutes, before turning them out top-down onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  10. Once they are completely cool, you can start decorating!

 

Peanut Butter Icing

160g non-dairy butter

500g icing sugar

2 tbsp soy milk

6-8 tbsp smooth peanut butter*

1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Beat together the non-dairy butter and sugar on low in the bowl of an electric mixer until it comes together into little buttery crumbs or a very, very thick icing.
  2. Add the soy milk 1 tsp at a time until the icing forms a creamy but sturdy consistency, then increase the speed to medium-high and whip for several minutes, until all the sugar has dissolved, the volume has increased and it is super fluffy.
  3. Mix in 6 tbsp of the peanut butter and the vanilla extract, beating well to combine. Taste and decide if it needs more peanut butter (hint: it probably does).
  4. Use immediately-ish or store in the fridge until you need it.
  5. If using the icing directly out of the fridge, let is soften for at least 30 min, then either smear it around a bowl with a spoon (okay) or re-whip it (better) before using.

 

Salted Caramel Sauce (adapted from this recipe)

125g caster sugar

40ml water

125ml tinned coconut milk

1/2 tsp salt

  1. Start by combining the sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. If it starts to get slightly bubbly, take it of the heat for a minute and keep stirring, before continuing on the stove.
  2. Meanwhile, gently warm the coconut milk over a low heat in a separate saucepan.
  3. Once all the sugar has dissolved, increase the heat to medium and allow to cook, undisturbed, until it is a rich golden colour. Add the warm coconut milk and salt, stir constantly for 30 seconds or so while it bubbles profusely, then remove from the heat and keep stirring a little as the bubbles subside.
  4. If you would like the caramel to be darker, you can return it to a low heat until it develops the flavour you’re after, but this is not necessary.
  5. To use the caramel, wait until it has cooled completely. Otherwise, pour the warm (but not hot!) caramel into a container and store in the fridge until you need it.
  6. When the caramel from the fridge, give it at least 30 minutes to soften at room temperature before using it in another application.

 

Peanut Praline (adapted from this recipe)

100g raw peanuts*

150g caster sugar

1/2 cup of water

pinch of fine sea salt

  1. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Toast the peanuts over a low heat until they smell nutty and the skins are falling off a little. Take off the heat and wait until they are cool enough to handle before removing the skins by pushing/rubbing them off, breaking the peanuts into halves and quarters as you go.
  2. Return the peanuts to the frying pan for a few more minutes until they become golden around the edges.
  3. Meanwhile, pour the sugar into a small saucepan and cover it with the water. Stir gently over a low heat until all the sugar has dissolved, then increase the heat to medium and let it bubble, undisturbed, until it is a deep golden colour.
  4. Add the peanuts to the caramel, along with the salt, then pour the mixture onto the prepared tray, ensuring all the peanuts are well coated but the toffee layer is thin. Leave to cool, before breaking it into shards of various sizes and shapes. Store the praline in an airtight container until you are ready to use it.

 

Peanut Biscuit Crumble

75g non-dairy butter

50g caster sugar

2 tbsp smooth peanut butter

125g plain flour

25g rice flour

pinch of fine sea salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line a small tray with baking paper.
  2. Combine the non-dairy butter and sugar in a small bowl with an electric whisk on medium-high speed until it is super light and fluffy. Beat in the peanut butter
  3. Sift the flours and salt into the bowl and fold into the mixture with a spatula. Smooshing the mixture against the side of the bowl is also a very effective way of combining the two!
  4. Form a large ball with the dough and place it on the prepared baking tray. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough into a 4mm layer of dough then place in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until lightly golden around the edges but still slightly soft in the middle.
  5. When the biscuit comes out of the oven, press down on it with another tray then allow to cool enough to handle comfortably.
  6. Break the biscuit into crumbles of various sizes – about 1cm or less – and spread out on the tray like granola. Return the crumbles to the oven and bake in two-minute intervals, shaking the pan slightly in between, until all the pieces are various shades of caramel colour.
  7. Remove from the oven and allow the crumbles to cool completely before using them or transferring them to an airtight container, where they will keep for a couple of days.

 

To Assemble

2 6-inch chocolate cakes

1 batch of peanut butter icing

1 batch of salted caramel sauce

1 batch of peanut praline

a handful of peanut biscuit crumble

a few of these meringues

  1. To prepare, have all the components at the ready and fill a large piping bag fitted with a 5mm round nozzle with the peanut butter icing.
  2. Start by levelling your cakes, creating two flat, even layers.
  3. Taking the first layer, place it on your cake board (or in my case, a sheet of baking paper) and pipe a layer of icing on top in a spiral pattern. Use an offset spatula to smooth out the layer into an even circle, then pipe a border around the edge of the icing circle.
  4. Spoon most of the salted caramel sauce into the middle of the border, reserving some for the top of the cake, then follow with the second layer of cake.
  5. Spread a thin layer of icing over the entire cake to create a crumb coat and place the entire thing in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  6. When the cake has chilled, spread a thick layer of the remaining peanut butter icing all over the cake. Smooth the sides with a bench scraper (or your offset spatula) then drag the excess icing at the top into the centre of the top of the cake, smoothing it out as well.
  7. Crush some of the less gorgeous shards of praline into little gems of peanut toffee with a mortar and pestle, or your strong hands.
  8. Drizzle the remaining salted caramel sauce over the top of the cake in a groovy pattern, stick the most aesthetic shards of praline directly into the cake then sprinkle generously with crushed praline, peanut biscuit crumble and the crushed meringues.
  9. Briefly admire your handiwork, then dismember it and serve to a group of hungry friends. 😉
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