Chocolate Peanut Butter Zebra Cake

It was recently one of my lovely friends’ birthdays’! After asking her what she wanted for a birthday cake flavour, she did some pondering and came up with chocolate and peanut butter. This is, obviously, a classic combination. It is one of Paul’s all-time favourite cake flavours, but for Sandi, I wanted to create something a little different.

I had made a zebra cake before, a few years ago, and it had turned out well. (Of course, the recipe came from the wonderful Annie of Annie’s Eats –  http://www.annies-eats.com/.) I decided to change it up by doubling the amount of batter, and turn the vanilla layer into peanut butter. The original recipe made one single layer cake, with the batter split in half to create the two flavours. I made two layers, one chocolate and one peanut butter. I sandwiched them together with a beautiful chocolate ganache, and topped the whole thing with some fluffy peanut butter frosting.

Sandi was wonderful enough to let me photograph the inside of the cake, and the zebra stripes turned out beautifully.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Zebra Cake 3

I definitely recommend making a double layer cake. The two layers really makes a visually stunning cake slice. While it is not the most flavourful cake ever (it was good, but not knock-your-socks-off amazing), it is a tasty, moist cake that holds up well to frosting.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Zebra Cake 5

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Zebra Cake

For the chocolate layer:
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup vegetable oil
1 ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
5 tbsp. cocoa powder

For the peanut butter layer:
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt

For the chocolate ganache:
8oz. chopped semi-sweet chocolate
½-1 cup heavy cream

For the peanut butter frosting:
¾ cup softened butter
1½ cup smooth peanut butter
3 cup icing/confectioners sugar
3-5 tbsp. milk

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a mixer bowl, beat together eggs and sugar until sugar is nearly dissolved. Add milk, oil, and vanilla. If making the peanut butter cake batter, add the peanut butter at this time. Beat until smooth. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt (and cocoa if making the chocolate layer). Add the dry ingredients to the wet and beat until smooth. Do not mix the two batters together – you should have two separate bowls, each with a batter flavour in them.

Cover two 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper along the bottom and sides. Using two small measuring cups (I used two ¼ cup measures), layer the batters slowly, one at a time, making sure the batter spreads out before adding the opposite flavour. The cakes, when done properly, should look like a bullseye from the top, with distinctive rings of cake batter layers, shown below.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Zebra Cake 6

Bake cakes for 38-45 minutes, making sure a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, and then invert onto a cooling rack and remove parchment paper. If desired, level cakes when cool.

In a double boiler, melt chocolate and cream together. Ganache is tricky, and amounts listed above are approximate. To make a nice, smooth ganache, you may need more chocolate or cream. Whisk ingredients together. Cool until slightly solidified, but still workable, and spread between cooled cake layers.

To make the peanut butter icing, beat butter and peanut butter together until smooth. Add in icing sugar, a cup at a time, until frosting is smooth and thick. Add in milk, 1 tbsp. at a time until frosting is fluffy, smooth, and spreadable. If it gets too liquidy, add more sugar. If it is too difficult to spread, add more milk. Frost cake as desired. I garnished mine with cocoa powder and made stripes with parchment paper.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Zebra Cake 2

 

 

Soft Pretzels

I know a lot of you have been waiting for the recipe to my soft pretzels. Well, after a request from a friend to make them for her, I decided to oblige.

Golden brown and delicious!
Golden brown and delicious!

I never realized how much I love soft pretzels until I made them for the first time. Then Paul gobbled them all up (he loves soft pretzels almost too much). This recipe is wonderful because it can be made in different ways depending on how you are feeling. The original recipe, which I got from the wonderful Annie of Annie’s Eats (http://www.annies-eats.com/), makes 8 large pretzels. This recipe, and these pictures, are from making 16 smaller pretzels. However, you can also make these into pretzel bites, for bite-size fun.

The recipe is quite simple. It is the time that the pretzels take that is the kicker. They take time to rise, and then a LOT of time to roll and shape. The result is worth it. The only change I make is that I use coarse sea salt instead of kosher salt. Not only is kosher salt slightly more expensive, both Paul and I love a good, salty pretzel. We have found that with sea salt, you get a perfect, soft, salty bite. These beauties are amazing with a cheese sauce (for Paul), or a jalapeno ranch (for me). Whatever you dip them in, go make these now! You won’t regret it!

Soft Pretzel 1

 

Soft Pretzels

Yields: 8 large pretzels, 16 small pretzels, or approx. 2 dozen pretzel bites

Pretzel dough:
1½ cups warm water (110-115° F)
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. kosher or sea salt
2¼ tsp. instant yeast
22 oz. all-purpose flour (about 4½ cups)
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Cooking spray

Finishing:
Cooking spray
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tbsp. water
Kosher or sea salt

To make the dough, combine the water, sugar, salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed to dissolve the yeast.  Add in the flour and melted butter and mix just until the dough comes together.  Switch to the dough hook and knead on medium speed until the dough is smooth and clears the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes.  Transfer the dough to a bowl lightly greased with cooking spray, turning once to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place, about 50-55 minutes or until doubled in size. (I like to preheat my oven to about 200°F, turn the oven off, leave the door open for about 10 seconds to release most of the heat, and then let the dough rise in the warm oven.)

Preheat the oven to 450° F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray.  Bring the water and baking soda to a boil in a large pot.

As you wait for the water to boil, form the pretzels. (Annie’s Eats has a beautiful step-by-step photograph guide of how to shape the pretzels.) Split the dough into 8 or 16 equal parts (depending on the size of the pretzels you want). Roll the dough into a long, thin rope. Make a U shape with the dough, and cross the ends over each other and on to the bottom of the U shape to form a pretzel. Place onto the parchment lined baking sheet, and repeat with remaining dough pieces.

In small batches (of no more than 1 or 2 depending on pretzel size), place pretzels in boiling water. Boil pretzels for 30-40 seconds. Remove from water with a slotted spoon, and place back on baking sheets. Once the pretzels have been boiled, brush the tops with the egg wash and sprinkle with salt. Bake in the oven until golden brown, about 12-14 minutes, depending on size. Transfer to a cooling rack for about 5 minutes before serving. Serve warm with your favourite dip!