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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Guest Post - PB Cup Cheesecake Chocolate Layer Cake

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This is more of a hijacking than a true guest post. You see, this is Natalie's husband, Ryan, and on her birthday I felt it would only be appropriate to gush about the love of my life the way she writes about others on their birthdays. Although 26 isn't necessarily a "special" birthday, Natalie is a special person (in case you haven't already figured that out from reading this blog) and deserves a few quick words.

She is not only an incredibly talented professional, both in her day job and as a food blogger, but is also an extremely loving, caring person, with unbelievable character. I couldn't be prouder of the woman she is and how much she has accomplished in 26 years. Basically, she's about as close to perfect as a wife and best friend can be. I love you, Nat. Happy birthday!
Now, this wouldn't be a Sweets Life birthday post without some delicious dessert! I knew I wanted to make something complicated, and this layer cake composed of alternating layers of chocolate cake and peanut butter cup cheesecake definitely fit the bill. Weighing in at 100 pounds (ok, not quite), this cake is plenty rich and filling to satiate any sweet tooth. It was definitely a serious commitment, involving multiple steps over a couple days. Without the help of my sister, Katelyn, who was kind enough to start the process while I was at work, I would have never finished the job before Natalie returned from her business trip. Thanks Kate!
Before we get to Ryan's notes on the recipe, a quick note from me...Holy Cake, right?! I was beyond impressed with this creation, which is undoubtedly more difficult than anything I've attempted. My only regret is that I didn't get great photos of it...after eating it for a few days when it was too dark to photograph, I finally took it straight from the freezer to take pictures (hence why it looks a little frosty). I pride myself in my ability to take down massive amounts of dessert, and I have to say this cake just about did me in! After eating some four days in a row (and sharing with lots of friends!), we finally passed the rest off to my sister-in-law Kate (who deserved some after she helped Ryan with this!)...lest you think I actually ate a 10 pound cake by myself in a few days! I have a pretty great guy, huh?

Adapted from Sprinkle Bakes

Rather than attempting to document the lengthy recipe accurately, I refer you to the above link (Sprinkle Bakes) for the detailed process.

Some notes:
-I used bitter-sweet chocolate chips rather than semi-sweet for the chocolate curls for a darker chocolate taste and color. I found the curls somewhat difficult to make at first. Once I figured out the perfect temperature at which the chocolate curled, I was able to make some decent curls. However, the chocolate would soften quickly, so it took numerous trips to the fridge to yield enough curls to cover the outside of the cake. The curls are a nice aesthetic touch but could be omitted. 
-The two 9" springform pans used for the cheesecake layers were slightly different in shape from the cake pans used for the cake layers. To address this, I used a serrated bread knife to shave the sides as evenly as I could once the cake was assembled and fully frozen (but before applying the ganache). It is also important to shave each layer as flat as possible before assembling the cake. My cake had some small gaps around the edges due to slight doming in the middle of the layers; however, the gaps were easily filled by the ganache and were not noticeable when the cake was cut.
-It was difficult to cut the first piece, especially due to the thick caramel. Using a knife warmed by hot water, cutting became easier after the first slice was removed. 
-Overall, making this cake was very involved and required some patience. However, I was happy with the finished product (and received rave reviews from the numerous people this fed--at least 20 servings!). I think I even managed to impress the birthday girl and skilled baker, Natalie!