When it comes to matters of food and cooking for the holidays, I have high standards, which makes this recipe a perfect feature for the festivities.
Not all recipes are easy. Just so you know. Composed of 4 different steps, this cake comes together in a sheet pan and can be frozen up to 3 months ahead of time. Look at the photo again: stay here!
This is truly fancy restaurant style dessert, adapted from Johnny Iuzzini ‘s cookbook Dessert Fourplay. He is a rock star pastry chef who worked for many years at Jean George’s restaurant in NYC. I love his work.
This recipe is a true gem. Godsent. It makes any home cook appear to be better than he or she really is, elevating average baking skills into something that approaches alchemy. Tell no one how many steps this takes though. Make it sound like a breeze, especially since you’ll forget about all the work after freezing the cake. I promise.
If you feel intimidated by it, don’t. I’m here with you, and I’ll be with you every step of the recipe, holding your hand in the kitchen while you make this recipe, and you’ll hear my voice in the procedure.
I’ve made this recipe a few times, so by now, I made my own adaptations and I’ll share a few tricks (like using parchment paper for the sponge; add the peanut butter at the ganache after it is done).
About the feuilletine: this is really the secret of this dessert. If you buy it in a pastry supply store, you are bound to buy a 5lb bag. So, I found these cookies that are made of feuilletine; just crunch them up with your hands (be careful not to over crush them).
Hunting for praline paste is also a little time consuming, so if you want to make life easier, just use almond butter and call that your praline paste.
Chocolate Peanut Cake
Chocolate Peanut Praline
1 cup (250g) smooth peanut butter
1 cup (250g) hazelnut praline paste
4 oz (105g) white chocolate
8 oz (230g) feuilletine
Hazelnut Peanut Sponge
½ cup (50g) hazelnut flour
½ cup (50g) peanut flour
8 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 cup + 4 tablespoons (250g) sugar
8 egg whites
Pinch of cream of tartare
8 tablespoons chopped peanuts and hazelnuts
Chocolate Peanut Ganache
10 oz (324g) milk chocolate, chopped
1 ½ cups heavy cream
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (250g) smooth peanut butter
Caramel Chocolate Mousse
2 cups + 3 tablespoons heavy cream
6 oz (170g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 tablespoon (50g) sugar
4 egg yolks
Cocoa powder to dust over the cake
- Prepare the Chocolate Peanut Praline: Line a 12 X 18-inch baking sheet with parchment paper. Put the peanut butter and praline paste in the food processor and pulse to combine, scraping the bowl.
- Melt the chocolate over low heat in double boiler (without touching the water). At this point you can’t go anywhere or your chocolate will overheat. Use a rubber spatula and as soon as your chocolate is just melted, take it off the heat. Add to the food processor. Pulse to combine. Scrape into a bowl. Fold in the feuilletine and mix thoroughly, being careful not to break the pieces too much.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared baking sheet and use an offset spatula to spread it evenly into the pan. It’s not super easy as the feuilletine will present some force against spreading, but just have patience and it will spread. Cover with another piece of parchment paper and freezer until needed.
- Prepare the Hazelnut Peanut Sponge: Center a rack in the middle of the oven and pre-heat it to 350˚F. Lightly spray a baking sheet with grease, line with parchment paper, then spray grease again. (Warning: a silpat will not work well).
- In a bowl, whisk the hazelnut flour, peanut flour, and all-purpose flour until is well mixed and light in texture.
- Put the egg whites and a tine pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Start beating the egg whites on low speed, slowly and gradually increasing the speed to medium and slowly adding one third of the sugar. Continue beating on medium until the whites develop more body. Add another one third of sugar and continue beating. Gradually increase the high speed as you add the remaining sugar and beat the whites at full speed until they are completely structured and looing shiny and glossy and at soft peaks. Remove from the mixer.
- Carefully sprinkle the dry ingredients over the whites, and fold them with a rubber spatula. Spread the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and smooth it out with an off-set spatula. Scatter the nuts on top.
- Bake in the oven until it just starts to get golden, about 8 minutes. Be very careful here. You are looking for a sponge that is completely malleable after baking. If you over bake, even by a few minutes, the sponge might get too hard and become more like a meringue than a sponge—you don’t want that.
- Remove the pan from the oven, let it cool for 3 minutes, then careful peel off the parchment paper off of the sponge. Let cool on a rack, then transfer to a clean baking sheet—this is the first layer of your cake.
- Now we are going to start assembling the cake: on the bottom, the sponge. Then, take the praline from the freezer, and invert on top of the sponge, pressing down firmly to make sure you don’t have any air bubbles between the layers. Peel off the parchment paper from the praline layer, and chill in the fridge while you prepare the Ganache and Mousse.
- Prepare the Chocolate Peanut Ganache: Put the chocolate in a medium bowl (glass or stainless steel). Place the cream in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Pour over the chocolate (be sure it is finely chopped) and let it sit for one minute, to allow the heat of the cream to melt the chocolate. Using a rubber spatula, start mixing slowly, from the center to the edges, until the ganache comes together beautifully. When it’s nice and smooth, add the peanut butter, and continue mixing, until it’s smooth again. Let it cool completely to room temperature. But not that long that the ganache is set. 20 minutes should do, and only then, spread over the praline layer, using an off-set spatula to make sure it’s nice and smooth. Every time you add another layer to the cake, place it back in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
- Prepare the Chocolate Mousse: Place 4 tablespoons of the heavy cream in a small bowl to be used in the caramel. Place the remaining heavy cream in the mixer of an electric mixer and whip to soft peaks. Transfer whipped cream to a bowl and reserve in the fridge for just a few minutes. Warning: remove from the fridge a few minutes before mixing in the mousse as you don’t want the whipped cream to be icy cold when mixing with the chocolate.
- Melt the chocolate over the top of a double boiler on low heat, without touching the water, until the chocolate is just melted, mixing with a rubber spatula. Remove from the heat and let it sit at room temperature.
- Put the sugar in a small pan and moisten with a few drops of water to make it moist. You’re looking for the consistency of wet sand, so about 1 tablespoon of water should be fine. Cook the sugar over medium heat, swirling the pan as it begins to color, until it riches a golden amber color. Pour in the cream from the bowl and mix well. Let it cool completely.
- Meanwhile, put the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Start beating on low speed and gradually increasing speed. When the yolks have developed some structure (if the yolks are too little on your bowl, feel free to whisk by hand), carefully pour the caramel (should not be too hot) into the yolks, and beat now at high speed until it’s higher in volume, thicker, fuller and completely cool.
- Fold the melted chocolate into the yolks, mixing well.
- Then fold in the whipped cream, using a rubber spatula, and making sure the mixture is homogeneous. This mousse is easy to break; work fast as you are dealing with temperature sensitive components here.
- Spread the mousse evenly over the ganache layer on the baking sheet. Freeze overnight.
- Remove the cake from the freezer and dust it lightly with cocoa powder. Use a knife dipped in hot water to cut the cake, cleaning the knife between each cut. You want to cut the cake while it’s still frozen, but you don’t want to serve it frozen. Keep the cake in the fridge until ready to serve. Cake can be served by itself, or, if you want to dress it up a little, serve with some chocolate sauce, or gold leaves, or some chocolate décor, or a caramel sorbet, or a chocolate sorbet… or anything that you might desire. You don’t need too much with this cake. It’s a lot of work, but worth it! Enjoy!