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Yesterday our Baby Neek, as we still call him, turned 6. Six and full of fire. Fire to learn, fire to create, fire to love, and yes plenty of temper to go around too. That’s just who he is, and we adore every bit of it. This year he requested some smaller, more intimate celebrations. One at the pier with his friends, arcade games, and roller coasters. Another at Disneyland, and yet another with a smaller group of old family friends. Three renditions of “Happy Birthday”, three sets of candles blown out. And of course there were (are) lots and lots of Legos.

The search for the perfect cake began a couple of weeks ago, and he first thought he wanted the chocolate peanut butter pretzel pie from Momofuku Milk Bar. He eventually settled on a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting but with a peanut butter layer inside, topped with peanut butter cups. Yes, indeed.

Of course, just for extra fun, I went with a recipe that was a little more complicated, but certain it would be worth it in the end, which it was.

6-year-old boys deserve it, after all.


Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake

{adapted from America’s Test Kitchen}


12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), very soft, plus extra for greasing pans

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces), plus extra for dusting pans

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa (3/4 ounce)

1/2 cup hot water

1 3/4 cups sugar (12 1/4 ounces)

1 1/2teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon table salt

1 cup buttermilk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 large eggs

2 large egg yolks


Chocolate Frosting

16 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)

1/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons corn syrup

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon table salt

1 1/4 cups heavy cream (cold)


1. FOR THE CAKE: Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch-round by 2-inch-high cake pans with softened butter; dust pans with flour and knock out excess. Combine chocolate, cocoa powder, and hot water in medium heatproof bowl; set bowl over saucepan containing 1 inch of simmering water and stir with rubber spatula until chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup sugar to chocolate mixture and stir until thick and glossy, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and set aside to cool.

 2. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. Combine buttermilk and vanilla in small bowl. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whisk eggs and yolks on medium-low speed until combined, about 10 seconds. Add remaining 1 1/4 cups sugar, increase speed to high, and whisk until fluffy and lightened in color, 2 to 3 minutes. Replace whisk with paddle attachment. Add cooled chocolate mixture to egg/sugar mixture and mix on medium speed until thoroughly incorporated, 30 to 45 seconds, pausing to scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Add softened butter one tablespoon at a time, mixing about 10 seconds after each addition. Add about one-third of flour mixture followed by half of buttermilk mixture, mixing until incorporated after each addition (about 15 seconds). Repeat using half of remaining flour mixture and all of remaining buttermilk mixture (batter may appear separated). Scrape down sides of bowl and add remaining flour mixture; mix at medium-low speed until batter is thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds. Remove bowl from mixer and fold batter once or twice with rubber spatula to incorporate any remaining flour. Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans; smooth batter to edges of pan with spatula.

 3. Bake cakes until toothpick inserted into center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool cakes in pans 15 minutes, then invert onto wire rack. Cool cakes to room temperature before frosting, 45 to 60 minutes.

4. TO MAKE FROSTING: Melt chocolate in heatproof bowl set over saucepan containing 1 inch of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and set aside. Meanwhile, heat butter in small saucepan over medium-low heat until melted. Increase heat to medium; add sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt and stir with heatproof rubber spatula until sugar is dissolved, 4 to 5 minutes. Add melted chocolate, butter mixture, and cream to clean bowl of standing mixer and stir to thoroughly combine.

5. Place mixer bowl over ice bath and stir mixture constantly with rubber spatula until frosting is thick and just beginning to harden against sides of bowl, 1 to 2 minutes (frosting should be 70 degrees). Place bowl on standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed until frosting is light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir with rubber spatula until completely smooth.

6. TO FROST CAKE: Place one cake layer on serving platter or cardboard round. Spread 1 1/2 cups frosting evenly across top of cake with spatula. Place second cake layer on top, then spread remaining frosting evenly over top and sides of cake. Cut into slices and serve.

Peanut Butter Frosting

3 cups sifted powdered sugar

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Add all ingredients, then mix with hand or stand mixer until smooth.