Tomorrow would have been – should have been – my dad’s 60th birthday. You may remember that last year on his birthday, I shared with you his very favorite cake, the one he would always request for his birthday. It’s a fabulous cake – a moist, chocolate cake with a river of cheesecake running through the middle and topped with sugared walnuts. It’s a very worthy birthday cake. However, if he were still here, I would have insisted on making something different and more elaborate than the cake he requested every year since it would be the big 6-0. I have no doubt that he would have been completely smitten with this cake and found every excuse in the world to eat piece after piece.
When we were kids, my dad apparently got some routine blood work done that showed his cholesterol as borderline high. My mom banished sweets from the house (my dad was an ice cream fanatic) and started whipping up homemade banana-nut oat bran muffins. The only problem? He went to work for eight hours a day. My dad worked for a small company not far from where we lived, so sometimes if we were out, my mom would stop by for a visit. One day we walked into his office and my sister and I saw tons of candy bar wrappers in his garbage can. Apparently, my dad was a big Snickers fan. You know little kids love to tattle… especially if they get to tattle on their parents. It took all of two seconds for my sister and I to let my mom in on our discovery. We totally busted my dad for sneaking candy at work while my mom was making batch-after-batch of bran muffins. Sorry Dad!
I’ve had the idea for this cake bouncing around in my head since last summer, but remembering that moment of finding those candy bar wrappers, I knew I wanted to save the recipe to commemorate my dad’s birthday. I’m so glad that I did – it’s definitely a special occasion cake that he would have absolutely appreciated.
I started with the chocolate cake that I used for the six-layer chocolate cake with toasted marshmallow filling and malted chocolate frosting, only left it at three layers instead of dividing it into six. For the filling, I used the peanut nougat from the homemade Snickers bar recipe, along with a smear of salted caramel sauce. I then frosted the whole cake with a thin layer of salted caramel buttercream and topped it with a milk chocolate ganache and chopped peanuts. That’s a mouthful!
Like I said, I totally delved into “special occasion” cake territory here, and it might be one of the best cakes that I’ve ever made. It truly tastes just like a Snickers bar. If I had to guess, it’s the nougat filling that totally makes it.
As is always the case, commemorating the birthday of someone who is no longer with us is bittersweet. I love to think about the time we shared, but of course wish that he were still here. It’s been a little over 14 years since he passed away and I was only a week past my 18th birthday when it happened. As I get closer to having spent just as much of my life without him as I did with him, it’s a strange feeling, but I continue to relish all of the wonderful memories of the time I did get to share with him. This cake is a celebration of that time, and of him.
Happy Birthday, Dad! I know you would love this cake… I’ll have a slice for you :) xoxo
For the Cake:
- 2½ cups (312.5 g) + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 3 cups (600 g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (86 g) + 1 tablespoon Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- 1½ teaspoons (1.5 teaspoons) baking powder
- 1½ teaspoons (1.5 teaspoons) salt
- 3 eggs, at room temperature
- 1½ cups (360 ml) buttermilk, at room temperature
- 1½ cups (355.5 ml) strong black coffee, hot
- ¾ cup (163.5 ml) vegetable oil
- 4½ teaspoons (4.5 teaspoons) vanilla extract
For the Nougat Filling:
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- ¼ cup (64 ml) evaporated milk
- 1½ cups (190.5 g) marshmallow fluff
- ¼ cup (64.5 g) creamy peanut butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1½ cups (219 g) salted peanuts, roughly chopped
For the Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting:
- ½ cup (113.5 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 4 ounces (113.4 g) cream cheese, at room temperature
- ¼ cup (56.5 g) salted caramel sauce
- 2 cups (240 g) powdered sugar
For the Milk Chocolate Ganache:
- 8 ounces (226.8 g) milk chocolate, finely chopped
- 4 ounces (113.4 ml) ½ cup heavy cream
For the Assembly / Garnish:
- Additional salted caramel sauce
- Chopped peanuts
- Make the Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper, grease the parchment, then flour the insides of the pans, tapping out excess; set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer (or large mixing bowl if you're using a hand mixer), sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix for 2 minutes on medium speed. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix for an additional 20 seconds (the batter will be very thin).
- Divide the batter evenly among prepared pans. Bake for 20 minutes and rotate the pans in the oven. Continue to bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the cakes comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs), about 12 more minutes. Cool the cakes (in the pans) on wire racks for 20 minutes, then carefully turn them out onto cooling racks to cool completely.
- Make the Nougat Filling: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar and evaporated milk, stirring until dissolved, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from heat and add the marshmallow fluff, peanut butter, and vanilla extract, stirring until completely smooth. Fold in the peanuts. Let the nougat mixture cool to room temperature before using it in the cake. You can do this leaving it at room temperature or you can pop it into the refrigerator to speed up the process. Be sure to give a stir occasionally as it cools.
- Make the Frosting: Beat together the butter and cream cheese on medium-high speed for 5 minutes (I like to use the whisk attachment for my KitchenAid stand mixer, but it's not necessary). Pour in the salted caramel and beat until combined. Reduce the speed to medium-low and slowly add the powdered sugar, a little at a time, until it has all been incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for an additional two to three minutes, until light and fluffy.
- Assemble the Cake: If your cakes baked up uneven or have domed on top, level off the tops. Place one cake layer on a serving plate. Cover with half of the nougat filling and then spread a couple spoonfuls of the salted caramel sauce over top to evenly cover the nougat filling. Top with a second cake layer and cover with the remaining nougat filling and top with caramel sauce. Place the final cake layer on top face-down. Frost the cake with the salted caramel frosting, finishing it as smoothly as possible. Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour, until the frosting is set.
- Make the Chocolate Ganache: While the cake chills, make the chocolate ganache. Place the chocolate in a medium bowl; set aside. Place the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat and warm until it just comes to a boil. Pour the cream over the chopped chocolate and let sit for 2 minutes. Begin whisking the mixture in the center, gradually working your way outward until the ganache is completely smooth. Set aside to cool, whisking occasionally, until it has thickened slightly, yet still a pourable consistency.
- Garnish the Cake: Transfer the ganache to a 2-cup measuring cup. Slowly pour the chocolate ganache into the center of the cake, letting it push itself outward and flow over the sides of the cake. Refrigerate the cake for at least 30 minutes, giving the ganache a chance to set up. To finish garnishing, drizzle some additional salted caramel sauce over the top and side of the cake, and top with chopped peanuts. Keep the cake refrigerated, removing it from the refrigerator about 20 minutes prior to serving.