Yummy birthday cake

A little while ago, I made a birthday cake for someone to have at their “Free Cake Day” party (not wanting to have a Birthday Party, or really celebrate their birthday in general – I know!  How odd.)

I’d recently acquired Rose Beranbaum’s newest cake book (Heavenly Cakes), and wanted to make something from that . I settled on Woody’s Lemon Luxury Layer Cake (page 43), because the lemon flavor seemed bright and cheery, and I hadn’t really done anything interesting with white chocolate in a while.  Plus, I wanted to try out my new transfer sheets.

The cake is a lemon butter cake, baked in two 9″ layers that are split and filled with homemade lemon curd (Rose’s fabulous recipe, that works like a charm and tastes amazingly zingy).

The white chocolate lemon buttercream was the real surprise in this recipe.  The technique Rose calls for is one that I’d never come across before – essentially, you make a white chocolate custard, cool it, beat in butter and then beat until stiff peaks form – and then leave it at room temperature for up to 2 hours until “slightly thickened and spongy”.  Then you beat until smooth, and beat in the lemon curd.

Why the fermentation period?  The buttercream was smooth and creamy and tasty – everything you want – but I can’t quite figure this one out.  It’s easier, overall, than doing either French or Italian buttercream, but you have to have those two hours of downtime.  Does anyone know what’s going on, here?

In any case, the cake and buttercream both came out delicious, I put it all together and decorated with white chocolate shards, and served with either raspberry or blackberry cabernet sorbet.  The not-birthday-boy and his friends/family were highly pleased; very little of this cake was left after the party!  Another hit, Rose.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Tart

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Tart

I am big with the love for Rose Levy Beranbaum. Her Cake Bible has been an invaluable reference to me over the years (especially when making enough cake to feed 500 people), her Bread Bible has made Jeff a very happy man… but I haven’t done much with the Pie and Pastry Bible until now, although it’s been on my shelf for a few years, among the other pie and pastry books.

(Yes, I have a cookbook Problem. Comes from being a librarian for so many years. Books just sort of accumulate. And they’re organized. Right now the baking books are sort of taking over – it used to be 50/50 with the baking/cooking, but no longer. The chocolate section alone takes up nearly a whole shelf.)

Mostly, I think that’s because I’ve never been a real big pie baker. Which is funny, because I love pies a lot more than I love cake. I think it’s probably because I mostly bake for other people, mostly for special occasions, and they like cake. It just seems to fit.

However, with the business and trying to find the right things to make for the coffee shop/wine bar, pies are back on the menu, and so I need to do a lot of testing!

Today’s recipe was the further attempt to make the ultimate indulgence for those who can’t get enough of peanut butter and chocolate, and if Jeff is any indicator, I’ve hit it right on the nose.

(I let him have his sample slice, and he finished it before I wrapped up the rest of the tart to put back in the fridge and then stood there making puppy dog eyes at me and asking winsomely for another slice, please? I said no. I am cold-hearted and cruel and want him to be healthy and live to be 100.)

Me, I’m not a fan of peanut butter (another reason I’ve never made this before). I didn’t like it as a kid, and while I can tolerate it now, I just don’t really like it. But I had a bite, and the crust is delightfully chewy (it uses a PB cookie recipe), the peanut butter mousse fluffy and peanut-buttery, and the chocolate ganache topping perfectly chocolatey. We won’t discuss the decoration I attempted to pipe on top with milk chocolate – obviously, I’m going to need to work on that idea a little longer (and no, I’m not posting it and you can’t have it for Cake Wrecks, as I didn’t sell this to anyone. 😛 Someday I aspire to get into Cake Wrecks, but it’ll for something a heck of a lot more fantastic than dribbly piping.)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Tart
From Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Pie and Pastry Bible

Makes 1 large or 8 small tarts

Sweet Peanut Butter Cookie Tart Crust
[I doubled this recipe – made measuring things easier, and it freezes forever, so I just put half in the freezer so I could make tartlets later]

Makes one 9.5 x 1 inch tart, or 8-10 four inch tartlets


1/2 cup Bleached All-Purpose Flour (I used Lily’s)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/16 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons sugar, preferably superfine (I used regular)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably Jif, at room temperature
1/2 large egg (beat before measuring)
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.

Into a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine well.

In a mixing bowl, beat both sugars until well mixed. Add the butter and peanut butter and beat for several minutes or until very smooth and creamy. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl. At low speed, gradually beat in the flour mixture just until incorporated.
[Can be stored unbaked, refrigerated up to 1 week; frozen about 1 year]

Press into pan, or roll out between two sheets of waxed paper into an 11″ circle and gently press into tart pan. Make sides about 1/4″ thick and trim even with the top of the pan.

Line the pan for blind baking using parchment or a coffee filter and pie weights. I would also highly recommend putting some foil liners over the edges of the dough, as it sort of went nuts and explody and crisped a lot when I blind-baked it.

Bake at 425F for 5 minutes, then lower to 375F and continue baking for 15-20 minutes until set. Lift out the weights with the parchment (you’ll lose some dough, this is normal), prick lightly, and continue baking 10 to 15 minutes more until it’s light golden brown. Cool completely.

I had my serious doubts about this crust, at this point. It looked burned on the edges and undercooked in the middle. Apparently, this is correct. Jeff says that it was perfect, although perhaps a bit crisp at the edges (which is why I recommend the foil covers).

You can see the crust better, here.

You can see the crust better, here.

Peanut Butter Mousse


7 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter, preferably Jif, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 liquid cup heavy cream, softly whipped

In a mixer bowl, preferably with the whisk beater, beat the cream cheese, peanut butter, and sugar until uniform in color. On low speed, beat in the vanilla. Beat in 1/4 cup of the whipped cream just until incorporated. With a large rubber spatula, fold in the rest of the whipped cream until blended but still airy. Scrape the mousse into the prepared tart shell and smooth the surface so that it is level. Refrigerate the tart while preparing the ganache. [I refrigerated overnight with no problems]

Pie sans ganache

Pie sans ganache

Milk Chocolate Ganache Topping


3 ounces milk chocolate (I used Guittard 38% soleil d’or, amazing stuff)
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I used Callebaut 70% thick)
1/3 liquid cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Make chocolate very small. Bring the cream to a boil. Pour cream over chocolate, let sit for a minute, then stir until emulsified (you can use an immersion blender if you like, or do this in a food processor). Add vanilla. Let cool to room temperature (I cooled to lukewarm. I am impatient).

Pour the ganache over the peanut butter mousse in a circular motion, so that it does not land too heavily on any one spot and cause a depression (if you’ve refrigerated overnight ,this isn’t really an issue). With a small metal spatula, start by spreading the ganache to the edges of the pastry, then spread it evenly to cover the entire surface. Refrigerate the tart for at least 2 hours to set.

Store at room temperature up to 1 day, refrigerated up to 5 days, frozen up to 3 months. (Wrap after freezing to preserve shiny coating on ganache).

The slice Jeff had. Pay no attention to the blob. It doesn't exist.

The slice Jeff had. Pay no attention to the blob.

Mmm.  Yes, this is going into the repertoire!