Something happened last year.  As The Fiance’s birthday was approaching in early March, I kept asking him what he wanted me to make him for his birthday.  He firmly insisted that all he wanted was a batch of White Chocoloate Macadamia Nut Blondies.  So, that’s what he got.  And if I’m not mistaken, he ate practically the entire batch all by himself, and was quite content.

He wasn’t content too long, because later in the month he saw me make this for a friend’s birthday.  Yes it’s the rich tasting, incredibly impressive looking, surprise-to-be-discovered inside, Red Velvet Cake with a layer of Cheesecake in the middle topped with Cream Cheese Frosting.  That post has went on to be the most popular post on my blog to date, with 100 comments and counting.  And it’s well deserved, as it is both delicious & beautiful.  So, I think he was feeling a bit unloved, seeing as I didn’t make him a cake like that.  Mind you, not because I don’t love him, but because HE DIDN’T WANT CAKE.

So, an entire year rolled around and he never forgot that.  I’m pretty sure it was back in the fall he decided he wanted his own version of that cake, but wanted it to include chocolate & peanut butter.  My first thought was to do a peanut butter cheesecake.  But he firmly insisted he wanted REGULAR cheesecake.  (And he thinks I’m the difficult one!)


I worried over how well the chocolate & peanut butter flavors would mesh with the tang of cheesecake.  But in the end, with some specific selections & adaptions when it came to the frosting & cake recipes, as well as adapting the cheesecake layer to elimate the lemon zest & juice, the end result tasted FANTASTIC.  I really wasn’t sure if it would reach the epic “OMG THIS IS SO FREAKING AMAZING” taste of the red velvet version, but it did!  Oh man, it did.  I think using a peanut butter frosting recipe that had cream cheese in it, really helped to mend the flavors together.  It added just the teeniest touch of tang, and really complimented the cake & cheesecake.

I think this cake can appeal to a lot of people (especially if you’re a fan of chocolate + peanut butter!)  And again, like I said in the Red Velvet post, this cake is not difficult, just a bit time consuming.  But the steps in the process make it easy to spread out over a weekend or longer.

Now for some notes on the structure and assembly of this gorgeous cake.  The assembly process is pretty much the same as in the red velvet version, but with a few minor changes.  As before, I knew when I baked the cheesecake I wouldn’t be making a crust, so I lined the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.  Once baked, I let the cheesecake cool completely, then stored it in the refrigerator overnight.  The next morning I removed the outer ring of the cheesecake pan, but left the bottom circle of the pan, and wrapped it in two layers of plastic wrap and two layers of aluminum foil and placed it in the freezer.  When baking the cake layers, I used these Bake Even strips to help achieve a level, even cake.  When I made the red velvet cake, I also used a cake leveler to level it perfectly once it had cooled, but found with this chocolate one, it wasn’t needed.  So, when it came time to put the cheesecake in the middle, I took it out of the freezer, unwapped it from the foil and plastic.  The metal bottom of the pan was easy to remove.  Then I simply peeled off the parchment paper layer.  It literally could not have been easier.  The cheesecake never seemed like it would break, and was quite sturdy.  I used the plastic wrap I had removed as a buffer between my hand and the cheesecake when transferring it, to keep the cheesecake from sticking to my warm hands.  Depending on what size pans you used (8in vs 9in) the cheesecake may be too wide for the cake.  If this is the case, just let it sit and soften for about 5-10 minutes, then cut the edges off with a knife.

Once the cheesecake layer is atop the chocolate layer, apply a thin layer of peanut butter frosting if you’d like.  I decided to do this to help bring in the peanut butter flavor.  An important tip, if you’re going to frost the cheesecake layer, you MUST do it while the cheesecake is still frozen!  Otherwise it’ll smoosh around.  Next up, layer the second chocolate cake layer, and apply the crumb coat.  (A crumb coat is a thin layer of frosting you apply first to help keep the crumbs in.  Then you set the cake in the refrigerator to chill before applying the cleaner, thicker second layer.  A crumb coat is necessary when you have such a dark cake under paler frosting.)  I found with the peanut butter frosting, it was a bit thicker than the cream cheese frosting from the red velvet version, and not as easy to spread.  Because of this, it’s best to frost this cake while the cheesecake layer is in a semi-frozen state, because as the cheesecake softens, you’ll have to be careful to not “smoosh” it too much as you frost the edges.  After some time in the fridge, apply the second, thicker layer of frosting.

If I’d had some chocolate bars to shave chocolate on top I would have, but all I had were chocolate chips.  So I lined them up around the edges.  This cake wasn’t frosted quite as pretty as the red velvet version, probably because the cream cheese frosting is easier to spread than this peanut butter frosting.  Also, my original adaption of the peanut butter frosting didn’t quite produce enough frosting to be as generous as I would have liked, leading to a thinner frosted cake.  I’ve adjusted the amounts in the frosting recipe, so you won’t run into the same problem.


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Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake Cake

Ingredients:

CHEESECAKE:
1 1/4 pounds bar cream cheese (20 oz), room temperature
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream

CAKE:
Butter, for greasing the pans
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large or large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

FROSTING:
8 ounces cream cheese
3 cups confectioners' sugar (more or less, depending on consistency, your preference)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter (not natural)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup heavy cream (more or less, depending on consistency, your preference)

Directions:

CHEESECAKE:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Set a kettle of water to boil. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese on medium until fluffy, scraping down side of bowl. Gradually add sugar, beating until fluffy. Beat in vanilla extract and salt. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down side of bowl after each addition. Beat in sour cream.

Cut parchment paper in a circle and line the bottom of the cheesecake pan. Wrap bottom half of pan in foil. Pour in filling; place in a roasting pan. Pour in boiling water to come halfway up side of springform. Bake until just set in center, about 45 minutes. Remove pan from water; let cool 20 minutes. Run a paring knife around edge; let cool completely. Cover; chill overnight, then wrap in plastic wrap and freeze.

CAKE:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 2 (9-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

FROSTING:
Beat cream cheese and peanut butter with a mixer on medium speed. Add salt, then vanilla. Alternating, add confectioners' sugar and heavy cream until desired consistency is reached.

Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate until needed.

ASSEMBLY:
Place one layer of cake on cake stand. If desired, frost top with peanut butter frosting. Remove cheesecake from freezer, unwrap, and remove from metal bottom of the pan, then peel off parchment paper. Place cheesecake layer on top of the cake. If the cheesecake is wider than the cake, and it is necessary to to trim it, wait approximately 10 minutes for the cheesecake to soften, then trim it with a knife. Place top layer of cake on top of the cheesecake, and coat with a layer of the peanut butter frosting to act as the crumb coat. Be careful not to get any crumbs in the bowl of frosting! Refrigerate approximately 30 minutes, then frost with as much of the remaining frosting as necessary. Top with shaved chocolate, chocolate chips, or decoration of your choosing. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Inspired by Lincoln's Red Velvet Cheesecake Cake

Cheesecake adapted from Martha Stewart
Cake from Ina Garten "Beatty's Chocolate Cake"
Frosting adapted from Martha Stewart