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.)
(Photos by Yossy Arefi.)