the chocolate peanut butter gallery

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Chocolate Opera Cake & Happy Face Peanut Butter Pancakes

August 25, 2010

Chocolate Opera Birthday Cake

Double birthdays means double the birthday treats! Taste Tester and I celebrated our birthdays with Chocolate Opera Cake and Happy Face Peanut Butter Pancakes (see sketch after the break). Read on for the recipes!

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For my birthday last year, Taste Tester made me Salted Fudge Brownies, which were fantastic (it’s since been my favorite brownie recipe) and seemed pretty unbeatable. However, he was up to the task this year and made me what just might be the best birthday cake I’ve ever had. It was a very intensive, and very delicious three-tier chocolate cake with four fillings/frostings. Sound crazy? It was! We shared with the family, but I probably ate half of the cake all by my little ol’ self and savored every single bite.

It’s called Chocolate Opera Cake and the recipe came from our friend Kesha’s blog, Shared Sugar (originally from here). It consists of super moist chocolate cake layered with coffee buttercream, chocolate charlotte and coffee sauce. These layers all get covered in rich, thick chocolate ganache. Oh, and he made the cake using Askinosie Del Tambo (70%) dark chocolate. Ho-ly cow. Yum!

I had a hard time getting a decent photo of it, but here’s a slice so you can see the various layers. I made sure to get a piece of the cute little hearts he drew on top. Super sweet.

Chocolate Opera Birthday Cake, made by Patrick

I managed to convince myself that since the cake had coffee, it was perfectly normal to eat it for breakfast the next day… and the day after that. Clearly aging has improved my logic.

I’m not going to kid you that it was easy to make because it definitely wasn’t. Poor Taste Tester slaved in the kitchen for hours making it, but he seemed alright with all the work after a single bite.

As you can imagine, when Taste Tester’s birthday rolled around, the pressure was on to keep the deliciousness going. Since his birthday was only two days after mine and we still had some leftover Chocolate Opera Cake, I wanted to make something different for him (aka: not cake). Luckily, he loves breakfast, so I decided to make fancy pancakes.

I started out searching the web for peanut butter pancake recipes. Since Taste Tester’s most regular criticism of CPB treats is that “there’s not enough peanut butter” I had to make sure and find a recipe with a decent peanut butter ratio. I found this one and decided it needed some tasty toppings.

A few google searches later, I had my birthday concoction: peanut butter pancakes topped with caramel sauce, caramelized bananas, homemade whipped cream and a few dark milk chocolate chips. I of course, couldn’t resist and had to make a smiley face pancake (the bananas were the hair, whipped cream made the face and chocolate dots stood for eyes). Unfortunately, I goofed a little and put the cream on first and by the time I was done adding the banana “hair”, the whipped cream face had melted and didn’t look so happy anymore. So, FYI, when you serve this: Add the caramel sauce first (drizzling some around the plate so that it all doesn’t soak into the pancake). Next add the bananas and then the whipped cream. Quickly dot with chocolate chips and serve.

It was a thoroughly delicious birthday week. We hope you enjoy our birthday treats as much as we did!

Chocolate Opera Cake
Get the recipe from Kesha's blog, Shared Sugar

Happy Peanut Butter Pancakes (sketch below)
In addition to the ingredients listed below, you'll also need some whipped cream and milk chocolate chips for garnish. I used Askinosie Dark Milk Chocolate, but regular milk chocolate chips would work just fine.

Caramel Sauce
recipe from my kitchen addiction

1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup milk

Combine the butter and brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once combined, add the corn syrup and bring to a slow bubble. Cook for a minute or two. Reduce heat and simmer, gradually stirring in the milk. Continue to simmer over low heat while making the pancakes. (These are the instructions as written, but I've burnt caramel so many times that I no longer attempt multitasking while making it. Do so at your own risk!)

Caramelized Bananas
recipe from epicurious

2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 firm, ripe bananas

1. Prepare a medium fire in the grill.
2. Combine the butter and brown sugar in a shallow dish. Peel the bananas, cut in half lengthwise, and then again crosswise. Add the bananas to the butter mixture and toss very gently to coat.
3. Grill the bananas, turning once, until a crispy brown coating of caramelized sugar forms on the surface, about 5 minutes per side. Watch carefully; don't allow the sugar to char.
4. Remove from the grill. Serve hot.

Peanut Butter Pancakes
modified recipe from Dine & Dish (I doubled the recipe here so that I could make larger pancakes. Click the link if you want the scaled down original version)

2 cups flour
1 Tbsp + 2 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 1/4 cups milk (the blog I found this on suggested adding an extra Tbsp or two of milk)

1. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, sugar, and oil until smooth. Beat in the egg, then the milk. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture, stirring just until blended. Let the batter sit for 10 minutes or until it fluffs up.
3. Next, lightly coat a griddle or skillet with oil and heat it over medium-high heat. Drop the batter onto the griddle by 1/2-cup measures. If desired, add milk chocolate chips to the batter as the pancakes cook. Cook until tiny bubbles appear on the surfaces of the cakes, then flip them and cook a few minutes more.

Happy Face Assembly
Since I added the whipped cream too early and it melted, I didn't get to snap a good shot of my cute pancakes. So, here's a little sketch so that you get the gist.

Center pancake on plate. Drizzle a strip of caramel sauce in a circle on the plate around the entire pancake and then drizzle some more across the top of the pancake. For the "hair", line 1/3 of the edge of the pancake with caramelized bananas. Draw the eyes, a nose and a smile with the whipped cream and quickly dot the eyes with chocolate chips. Serve immediately.
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