Food

It’s a Good Day for a Snacking Cake

snacking cake by Yossy Arefi

All year I’ve been playing a game with myself…

I’ll buy a carton of milk, look at the expiration date, and think, Maybe my daughter’s school will be in-person by the time this milk is scheduled to go bad. I’ll add something random to my Google calendar for a few months from now and think Maybe when I get my alert about this, we will have a vaccine. This morning I woke up and I did it again. The Yossy Arefi Salty Caramel Peanut Butter Cake I was scheduled to write about this week popped into my mind and I thought, Maybe by the time I buy all the ingredients for it, spend some time baking and frosting it with my daughter, then sit down to a slice…we might have the smallest glimmer of a new world? Or we might not. In which case, a cake might be a nice thing to be looking at.

Yossy’s book, Snacking Cakes, one of our favorite fall cookbooks, might as well be called Self-Care Cakes. Every one of them — from the Minty Chocolate Malt to the Buckwheat Banana — feels like a doable, delicious gift that holds a kind of micro-superpower: to make someone’s day just a little bit better.

Who wants to bake with me?

Salty Caramel Peanut Butter Cake

A note from Yossy: Make sure to use a commercial peanut butter like Skippy here, as natural peanut butter will make this cake extra oily. This style of icing is pretty old school, and you’ll find similar recipes in vintage cookbooks listed as penuche. Its fudgy rich texture is the perfect match for this sweet-salty cake. Don’t be shy with the flaky salt sprinkle at the end.

Peanut Butter Cake
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup buttermilk, well shaken
1/2 cup neutral oil, like canola or grapeseed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Fudgy Caramel Icing
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon water
Pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
Flaky salt, to finish (optional)

1. Position a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to350ºF.Butterorcoatan8-inchsquarebakingpanwith nonstick spray. Line the pan with a strip of parchment paper that hangs over two of the edges.

2. Make the Cake: In a large bowl, whisk the brown sugar and eggs until pale and foamy, about 1 minute. Add the peanut butter and whisk until smooth. Add the buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and kosher salt. Whisk until smooth andemulsified.

3. Add the flour, baking powder, and baking soda and whisk until well-combined and smooth.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, tap the pan gently on the counter to release any air bubbles, and smooth the top of the batter with an offset spatula.

5. Bake the cake until puffed and golden, and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Set the pan on a rack to cool for about 15 minutes. Then use the parchment paper to lift the cake out of the pan and set it on the rack to cool completely.

6. Make the Icing: Melt the butter, brown sugar, cream, and water together in a saucepan set over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil and cook for 3 more minutes. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool for 3 minutes, stirring once or twice to release the heat. After 3 minutes, whisk in the kosher salt and confectioners’ sugar until smooth and slightly thickened. Spread the icing over the cooled cake and sprinkle with flaky salt, if using. Let the icing set for about 20 minutes before slicing the cake. (Store the cake, covered, at room temperature for up to three days. This cake is also delicious cold from thefridge.)

snacking cake by Yossy Arefi

Thanks, Yossy! Check out 49 other great recipes in her brand new book, Snacking Cakes.

P.S. S’mores cookies and an anxiety trick.

(Photos by Yossy Arefi.)

  1. Eva says...

    Great cake for a lockdown winter sunday too. It’s delicious! Thank you :)

  2. Jen says...

    This was absolutely delicious. Thanks for sharing. Had to buy the entire book!

  3. Roha says...

    I just made this cake for my husband’s bday and it received rave reviews all around (my father in law loved it!). Very delicious and unique particularly the icing. Another way Cup of Jo has brought joy to my life — thank you! I am grateful!

  4. A H says...

    This totally worked! I was in the process of finishing it when the news broke on CNN. 😁😁

  5. I can’t wait to make this cake! Can I make the cake and caramel the night before? Also does the cake need to be refrigerated? Thank you!

  6. Sasha L says...

    I made this tonight! So yummy.

    I made a couple substitutions, natural pb for sweetened, I used the same amount and cut the oil a little. I won’t cut oil next time because it was a tiny bit dry. I also subbed sour cream for the heavy cream in the frosting and that worked, but frosting was a little thin so used it like a caramel sauce. Finally, I baked in an 8 inch round, worked fine but was very tall and I think I overbaked a tiny bit at 40 minutes. Next time I’ll do a 9 in round, and cut bake time a bit. I buttered and floured my pan and that worked!

    My husband was delighted to have a treat for no reason, while we watched GBBO and Somebody Feed Phil.

  7. Nadya says...

    This sounds amazing, where I live (Spain) buttermilk isn’t readily available, does anyone have ideas for a substitute? Many thanks!

    • Daniela says...

      I use milk with a teaspoon of vinegar or a squeeze of lemon juice squeezed in to get something similar :)

    • Jeanne says...

      You can stir a hefty spoonful of yogurt into milk too.

  8. Sophia says...

    This looks awesome. Also, thank you for linking to the book on Bookshop.org instead of amazon!

  9. Cathy Mikula says...

    Hi, this recipe sounds great! Was wondering if there was something that could replace the peanut butter? I love peanut butter but other than peanut butter cookies I don’t like baking with it. Please help. Many thanks.

  10. Emma says...

    I love cake yet these are not gluten free cakes, so does anyone have a cookbook for gluten free cakes? It would be so greatly appreciated, Thank you Ladies……..

    • Agnès says...

      Replace with à mix of 60% corn flour and 40% chestnut flour, that works well with cakes.

    • Eliz says...

      Ive found a lot of success swapping cup 4 cup flour with cake recipes. The best gluten free cookbook (imho) is Cannelle et Vanille :)

  11. Monika says...

    Oh, I’m running to get this book right now because life needs this kind of simple sweetness, for sure! But what got me is the beautiful first paragraph of this post, the lovely hopefulness/realness made me tear up and feel really good about people (and excellent about baking cake for no real reason!) Thank you Jenny, for writing what I’m thinking, with far more eloquence than I could manage.

  12. Hannah says...

    I just started baking from it today, and I’m in love! I received a bag of fresh cranberries in my Imperfect Foods box today, so I made a Cranberry Cream Cheese Cake, following the variation on the first cake in the book. My plan was to bake my way through the book, but I may just get stuck in this recipe and try all the variations! I’m thinking of buying some Turkish apricots and soaking them in whiskey or bourbon and using them in this recipe next!

    • Cathy Mikula says...

      Hi, what is Imperfect Food Box? Sounds interesting.

    • Hannah says...

      Hi Cathy,

      When Covid hit, I signed up for fruit, veggie, and pantry deliveries from Imperfect Foods and Misfits Market. Both services say they rescue less than perfect (usually size and color) or surplus produce. I don’t necessarily base my decision on this, since their function in the food supply chain is more complex than what they claim. It’s just nice to get a box of fresh produce at my door step every week. Other than some occasional delivery issues, they’ve been very good for our family during Covid. We get a small box (typically around 15 lbs with the extras I order) each week for our family of three and spend around $40-50 on it.

  13. suki says...

    This looks reallly good : D
    However, I just made a poppyseed cake called a mohntorte, both because I love poppyseed flavor and because they are supposed to help with relaxing and this week. . . well. But I’d love to try this one next. Perhaps as a celebration cake for getting through this election! I love the look of single layer round cakes.

    • Su says...

      oh my goodness that sounds yum. Can you share the recipe?

    • Cathy Mikula says...

      Me too for the recipe.

  14. Elizabeth_K says...

    Made this cake as soon as I saw your post, and my husband and children loved it. Added peanut butter to frosting as well, and topped it with chocolate chips. Why? 2020, that’s why!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      ooh so glad to hear it!!

  15. Allyson says...

    Looks delicious! I assume this is the cake pictured? Just wondering why the recipe says to use a square cake pan rather than round like the photo.

  16. Sarah says...

    I made Smitten Kitchen’s sticky toffee pudding cake last week, and it was the warm hug I didn’t know I needed. I halved the sauce because 2 sticks of butter in a dessert felt a little indulgent for a weekday, and that turned out to be just fine for me! I think I need all the comforting, warm spices this fall.

    • Helen says...

      I’m sold because I really would love a warm hug after the stress of this week. I live alone so I don’t have anyone to give me one right now but this cake will surely help!

    • Cathy Mikula says...

      I’m with you both. I like, “2020. That’s why.” Spices for fall are an absolute necessity.

    • Sasha L says...

      Oh my gosh, that is one of our very favorite cakes ever! I often as for it for my birthday cake. The banana variation is also excellent. This pb cake tastes quite similar because of the frosting.

  17. Em says...

    Everything Jenny posts I end up pining in a ‘recipes to try’ board. Everything always turns out perfect.

    This cake is no different and I can’t wait to make it ASAP.

    Also, COJ team, thank you for not pretending this is a normal week. It’s hard to read typical content right now and I’m just so comforted to see continued posts recognizing that most/many of us are super anxious and stressed with election outcomes and that it’s ok – you’re there with us too.

  18. Emma says...

    I was so well-intentioned recently and bought Amy Chaplin’s Whole Food Cooking Every Day, so that I could try to nourish myself with healthy, seasonal, natural food and try to get my hormones and my body back in check. But on second thought, with how this year is going, maybe I’ll just make a snacking cake every day and give Amy a try next year.

  19. Lauren E. says...

    I think I like snacking cakes more than regular cakes. I can’t even explain why! The marble loaf cake from Starbucks?? Yes please. This looks delicious!

    • b says...

      I miss the lemon loaf. I haven’t had Starbucks since February. I don’t miss the coffee like I thought I would (I’ve adjusted to at home brewed black coffee), but I miss the snacks – the lemon loaf, the doughy bagels, the holiday themed sugar cookies.

    • Hilary says...

      YESSS. I’ve never tried the marble loaf, but oh the memories of the lemon loaf with an iced chai. It’s a loaf and not a cake, so it’s perfectly acceptable for breakfast, right? Right?!

  20. Lauren K says...

    I love Yossy’s work, and am super excited to get her book! In the meantime, before opening this beloved browser tab this am, I made SK’s perfect blueberry muffins, but as one big cake that I topped with an oat spiced streusel. It’s baking as we speak, and our house smells like the big hug our whole world needs right now. Sending love to the CoJ community and beyond.

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      I’ve made those perfect muffins before — this sounds AMAZING.

    • Kristin says...

      Those are the best muffins! Anytime I make blueberry muffins now, my husband asks if they are the SK version, as if I will ever make a different one!

  21. Justine says...

    This is making my goal of cutting back sugar in my diet really challenging, lol. That cakes looks and sounds amazing!

    • courtney says...

      Haha Justine, I know that feeling! But, while of course these cakes inevitably have sugar in them…you could maybe still make them with less sugar? I think these recipes usually have way too much, anyway! I just made a pumpkin loaf, cut the sugar by about 33%, and it was perfect. Making them a little less sweet and skipping any icing makes topping a slice with butter even better.

    • Justine says...

      @Courteney – good idea! Compromise is better than denial.

    • Cathy Mikula says...

      Check online for substiTunes for sugar. I’ve used apple sauce for years.

  22. Amy says...

    I feel like any cake is a snacking cake if you believe in yourself and make it happen.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahahaha

  23. Brynn says...

    I’ve started a new ritual of baking something once a week–usually weekends. I used to do it as a girl and now it brings me such comfort to be able to feed my loved ones sweetness. x

  24. stacy says...

    I just got this book as well and the two cakes I made so far were perfect! I love the variations offered for each cake. I suspect I will work my way through each and every recipe before spring!

  25. Samantha says...

    I’m dying for this cookbook…I keep seeing mentions of it!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Yossy is such a huge talent!

    • Sara says...

      I finally caved and just ordered from my local bookstore. They’ve done an excellent job of promoting it!

  26. Awads says...

    i am going to make this cake, as soon as i’m done bingeing all my son’s halloween candy, and drinking all the bourbon in the house. definitely will be in snack cake mode by then. (come on georgia and pennsylvania!!)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha I have had SO MANY REESES over the past couple days.

    • courtney says...

      OMG bourbon would pair perfectly with this, wouldn’t it??

    • Rae says...

      Ha! BEST comment Awads. Same here. Same.

  27. Ruth says...

    I have already made 2 cakes from this book and can’t wait to just bake my way through it. Yay!

  28. Abesha1 says...

    That’s such a disappointing instruction regarding the peanut butter… hey, buy something theoretically made from something good, but filled with sugar and salt and preservatives that are unnecessary, to bake a cake.

    Or, here’s an idea… “if you use natural peanut butter, reduce the oil to 1/3 cup.”

    • Lindsey says...

      This? This is the nasty comment you’re gonna put out in the world? I mean, seriously.

    • a.n. says...

      lol it’s a recipe for a cake, not vegetables. there’s gonna be sugar in it, relax.

    • Amy says...

      im not so into the generic pb either- cutting the oil is a great idea! maybe there was a nicer way to say that? or maybe you’re just stressed. i bet most of us here are stressed too and are turning to cake! if you try the recipe your way report back! im sure it would be well received by this lovely comments section.

    • Hilary says...

      I’m a big fan of natural peanut butter, and that’s all we really keep in the house; however, it can be hard to do baking recipes with natural PB because they’re all very different. It’s not just about reducing oil x amount. If you’ve seen PB taste tests (Minimalist Baker did one, for example), you’ll see that natural PB can be stir, no-stir, super oily, super dry, oily-unless-you-store-it-upside-down, etc. If you’re putting your name on a cookbook, I’m sure you want the recipes to turn out well every time. You could always try to bake it with natural PB and see how it goes!

    • Lynn says...

      FYI Skippy and Jiff make “natural” versions that don’t separate and can likely be used (worked for me in a frosting). But I’d love for you to try your suggestion and report back.

    • sanjay says...

      TJ’s has a natural peanut butter with a similar texture to the hydrogenated ones. I also like the commentor’s idea of using less oil to compensate for a natural nut butter.

    • Sasha L says...

      I thought of just reducing the oil a little too. I only like Adam’s pb, the natural, stir kind. I’ve made other recipes that say you can’t use it, and I always do anyways, and it’s always been fine. I don’t change anything. I live on the edge lol

    • Sasha L says...

      I tried this tonight with Adam’s natural pb and you don’t need to cut the oil with that one (I did, and it was a little dry, still really good). Hope this helps for those wondering. (Adam’s natural is *oily*, you have to stir it up, not hydrogenated. Based on this, I don’t think you’d need to cut oil at all with subbing natural pb)

  29. Cecile says...

    Made the brown butter, pecan and white chocolate snacking cake a week ago. The kitchen smelled amazing and the cake turned out beautifully moist, not too sweet and a cozy, fall-like combo of flavours. You have to buy Toddy’s book!!!!

  30. Krista says...

    The recipe says line a 8″ square pan, but the images are of a circular cake. Did the book call for a circular pan, if so what size? Still 8 inches round? I only have an 9″ square pan but I have all sizes of circular pans.

    • KC says...

      Use a 9″ round to sub for an 8″ square cake, normally (it’s 63 and some change inches in area, vs. 64 inches in diameter, which is *plenty* close enough for cake). pi*r^2 = pi*radius*radius = (in this case) pi*4.5*4.5

      Sometimes when subbing cakes *from* round *to* square you get crispy corners – where the cake was protected on the edges a bit extra by being round, but in a square pan has the corner squares slightly overbaked – but I’ve never had any baking issues goes from square to round (except that you can’t make parchment slings to get tricky cake out easily, sigh).

      (also, when halving recipes or subbing, say, two 6″ round cake pans for one 8″ round cake pan [the square inch math is farther off than the numbers for this recipe, but I’ve never had it fail], be cautious about baking times and check on them earlier – they tend to be done faster. Smaller cakes also rise a bit higher than larger cakes even when they have the exact same cake batter volume per square inches, because they can climb the sides easier [they’re cake toddlers…]. But making a 6″ 2-layer cake is magic and I 100% endorse it.)

    • Alison says...

      KC this is amazing, thank you! I’m going to write down your pan size suggestions. As someone who’s always trying recipes in different pan sizes and shapes this is super handy :)

    • Katy says...

      I’ve done nothing but devour election content from the internet, TV, and newspapers for the past two days, and KC’s comment above is still the most info-rich material I’ve consumed lately. Thanks so much for these conversion tips! Very helpful and very appreciated.

    • Anna says...

      Omg KC you’re like Matt Damon in Goodwill Hunting, but for cakes!

  31. Jeannie says...

    It looks amazing, and really, when is it a bad day for a snacking cake?

  32. Stephanie Gutierrez says...

    I made the spice cake yesterday it is AWESOME.

    • Heather says...

      Would be very interested in your recipe if you love it!

  33. Jackie says...

    Such a great way to put this slow burn existence. There is such a contrast between our instant gratification / social media / more more more existence with the extremely slow-moving progress of the resolution of the pandemic and now the election. It’s another wake-up call about our utter lack of control of the world except that we must choose kindness, hope, supporting each other, supporting good for all, and the like. And baking cakes! Thanks, Jenny, for capturing it so well.

  34. Cynthia says...

    My Mama made a spice cake with penuche icing when I was a child, and it was so good. I can taste it now.

  35. Julie says...

    I just got this book and I am in love with it! It’s hard to choose which to make first but I think it will be the All the Spices cake with Vanilla Glaze since my spouse loves spice cake in any form