Chocolate espresso cake with peanut butter buttercream

So last week was my 23rd birthday, and, tasked with making my own cake (outrageous!) I decided to make the cake I would throw out there if someone demanded to know what my dream cake would be, on the spot. Never hurts to prepare an answer for such a question. 


While I generally try and create recipes that are free from refined sugar and those peskily delicious ingredients found in the everyday baked good, I firmly believe in a bit of yolo on a birthday. So much so, in fact, that my excessive consumption on the day rendered me physically unable to eat until the afternoon of the next day. And trust me, (and my Will and Grace quote) heavy G like to eat. 




75g dark cooking chocolate
100g butter
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup coffee (I freshly brewed an espresso but whatever you have)
1 1/2 cups almond meal
2 eggs
80-100g sugar (I used 100 and my barely sweet tooth ached a bit, but mum thinks I never add enough suga)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice


60g room temperature butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup natural peanut butter (I used the smooth Ridiculously Delicious Nut Butter company one)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


For the salted caramel popcorn: I am a bit of a caramel noob so I halved the quantity of this recipe which was still way too much for a cake decor but the perfect amount for wandering through the kitchen and snacking a bit every time. 
2 figs. optional but purdy



1. Preheat the oven to 180 degree Celsius.
2. Using the double boiler method, melt your dark chocolate and butter over boiling water.
3. Once nice and melted, add your espresso and cocoa to the bowl and mix well.
4. Let it cool for just a little while, and then add the rest of your ingredients and mix until well combined. 
5. Here, you can either transfer the batter into three mini tins, for a stacked cake (Australians: I used the tins that can be bought embarrassingly cheaply at Coles, and greased them first) or a single normal sized tin can be used. Greasing tins is not optional tho. Also, springform is ideal.
6. Pop the cakes in the oven. Cooking time will depend entirely on what form of tin/s you use. If you are using mini tins, check back at 20 minutes and see if a stick comes out clean and go from there.
7. While this is happening, cream your room temperature butter with a beater. It should be come lighter and buttercream consistency. Once it is sufficiently light and butter-creamy, add your sugar and continue beating until it has been incorporated. Repeat this again with the peanut butter and vanilla extract. Try not to inhale it all before it comes to icing the cake.
8. When the cakes are ready, whip them out of the oven and allow them to cool completely. Go read a book or have a nap.
9. Time to ice! If you are doing mini cakes, you will have a delicious morsel of icing between each layer of cake, which makes it that much more delicious when it comes to eating. Just sayin'.
10. If you are putting the salted caramel popcorn on top, make the popcorn and salted caramel as per the instructions here, halting before assembly. I made a little tower of popcorn and glued it together with a bit of salted caramel. After that, I put it on top of the cake, assembled the figs around it, and then used extra salted caramel to drizzle over generously and cement everything in place. While the hotplate should be off by now, keep the pan on the residual heat so the caramel doesn't harden up. If it does (it does easily) just turn the heat on for a minute or two until it loosens up. After this, continue to make the popcorn as per their instructions, and you will have two delicious treats for the time of one. What a bargain!