Triumph from disaster- the invention of the casserole cake!

Earlier this fall, two of our friends got engaged and asked me to make a dessert for their celebration. They both love peanut butter and chocolate so I decided to just make a cake with their favourite flavours. As with most things in life, the weekend of their party, I had three other projects I was helping out with so it was going to be busy. I planned and organized my time pretty well to manage everything successfully but there wasn’t much room for error.

I arrived home a few hours before the engagement party and began baking. I don’t generally use cake mixes but under the circumstances and the time crunch, it was the best option. I have found that you can really play with these pre-made mixes to enrich the flavours and make them your own so I added some Hershey’s special dark chocolate chips for great texture and extra chocolatelyness! One thing I don’t compromise on is frosting. I always use homemade because the store-bought kind is made with Crisco and I find the texture and aftertaste an unpleasant one. While the cakes were baking I mixed up a batch of my rich chocolate-peanut buttercream.

In the midst of all the rushing around, I didn’t line my cake tins with parchment paper and so when it came to turning them out, they of course stuck and fell out in pieces. For a moment, I was mortified – with only a couple of hours left, there was no time to make them again so the casserole cake was born! I quickly forked out the first layer into a Pyrex dish and then poured over the buttercream filling, crumbled the second layer of cake, covered with the remaining frosting and topped with crushed Reece’s cups. I happened to have some candy melting chips on hand, so I made some medium-sized chocolate hearts as a topper using a heart mold.

It was delicious and the couple were really happy. I have made it a few time since (on purpose) and have loads of compliments and requests for recipes. It’s a super quick dessert full of rich flavour and this basic technique can be used with any cake and frosting variation.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Casserole Cake:

Cake base:

Use your favourite chocolate cake mix (the fudgy-er the better) and follow the instructions.  Reserve about 1/4 cup of the cake mix before adding wet ingredients and mix in about 1/2 cup of chocolate chips. This helps coat the chips so they stick in the batter and won’t sink to the bottom while in the oven. Add the powedered chips into the cake mix and then separate the mixture evenly into two 9 inch cake pans. Once baked according to the box instructions, let them cool completely.

Peanut Butter buttercream:

1 stick of butter at room temperature and cut into small cubes

2/3 of a pound of sifted confectioners sugar

1/2 cup of sifted  Hershey’s special dark cocoa powder (you can use other dutch processed cocoa powder but I highly recommend this one for the very rich flavour)

1/2 cup of peanut butter (smooth)

2-3 tbsp of boiling water to help everything mix well and be smooth

Mix all the dry ingredients first until combined then make a well in the center for the butter, peanut butter  and hot water. Using a fork, mix together by working in from around the well until all the dry ingredients are just about absorbed. Then use a hand-held (or standing mixer) until the frosting is very smooth (about 7 minutes). If you feel that there is not enough moisture and the buttercream is too stiff, add some milk or more hot water; likewise if it’s too thin, just add more sugar or cocoa powder. You can also add a drop of lemon juice to help cut through the sweetness – you won’t taste it but it helps take the edge off the sugar. Feel free to put in more cocoa powder or peanut butter according to your flavour preferences. The consistency should be just a tiny bit thinner than the store-bought frosting so it will spread easily without sticking to the cake crumbs.

Method:

  •  Fork out one of the cooled cake layers into a large Pyrex dish making sure to remove any lumps. Gently flatten all the crumbs (either by hand or with a spatula) so that it forms an even layer without being too squashed.
  •  Empty half of the buttercream into the middle on top of the cake crumbs. Starting at the center, slowly and patiently work the large mass outwards with a cake spatula until you have reached the edges of the Pyrex dish. This takes a little time but it ensures that you won’t be picking up cake crumbs and getting them mixed into your buttercream.
  •  Repeat A and B for the second layer of cake and the rest of the buttercream.
  •  Put about 8 regular sized Reece’s Cups in a food processor and pulse a few times until they are broken down. If you pulse them too many times, they begin to bind together and become one big lump instead of the crumble texture which  we are going for.
  • Top the Pyrex cake with the broken up Reece’s Cup pieces.

 You can either serve immediately or place in the fridge until needed. I think this would also be amazing just slightly warmed through accompanied with your favourite ice-cream. It makes about twelve decent sized servings.

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