Tuesday, June 09, 2009

A Peanut Butter Birthday Torte

I belong to a wonderful doula group and we meet monthly to process about births we've attended, share our knowledge and experience, and eat and drink together. These potlucks have been great excuses to bake, as I know these girls will happily eat the cake and bring the leftovers home to their families.

For this month's meeting, I promised one of our doulas a birthday cake. She just turned 30 yesterday. She is extremely knowledgeable and funny, she has two adorable children and she's a chicken wrangler. She is also a placenta encapsulation specialist which I think is so amazingly awesome, and so desperately needed.

Anyhoots, I asked her what kind of birthday cake she would like to have; at first she was polite, and told me to bake whatever I wanted. I remembered how happy she was when I brought a chocolate-chocolate cake to one of our meetings, so I suggested chocolate. She then chimed in that she liked chocolate AND peanut butter, so I suggested the peanut butter torte in Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. My doula girl was very excited; when I walked in tonight she was quite pleased I came through on my promise. Awesome.

Peanut Butter Torte

June 8, 2009
Name of Cake: A Doula Girl's Peanut Butter Torte
Occasion: A Doula Girl Turns 30!
Constituents: A Chocolate Ganache Topped Peanut Butter Mousse with Spiced Peanuts and Mini Chocolate Chips in an Oreo Cookie Crust

This torte is outrageously peanut buttery and seriously decadent. It is creamy, smooth, irresistible (provided you like peanut butter), and richly satisfying. One little slice is plenty. For all of the fancy pantsy vibes this torte gives off, it is really easy to make. It is a good dessert for the summertime as you only need the oven for ten minutes.

The crust is made from 24 crushed Oreo cookies, melted butter, and a pinch of salt. It is blind baked for a few minutes and made the house smell so good.

Peanut Butter Torte

The filling is made of four main components: whipped cream, cream cheese, peanut butter, and a mix of salted peanuts and mini chocolate chips which have been mixed with a little bit of sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The whipped cream is beaten to medium-stiff peaks and set aside while the cream cheese is beaten with powdered sugar. The peanut butter is added to the cream cheese along with a little bit of milk and the peanut-chocolate chip mix. Once that gets all combined the whipped cream is folded in and the whole shebang gets scraped into the cookie shell and refrigerated for at least 4 hours or overnight. I opted for overnight.

Peanut Butter Torte

I was pretty pooped when I put this torte together last night, so I was glad it was easy to do. My peanut butter lovin' roommate got to lick the bowl clean, and he was a little sad that he wasn't going to get any torte. I told him he had to be a doula to get any of this dessert. My only complaint is that this recipe sure does mess up a lot of bowls. I am thankful I have a dishwasher but it is only a little half-size dishwasher--this pretty much filled the machine!

This evening, before the party, I made the ganache. You know, I hate to risk jinxing things, but that will be the third time in a row that I made a ganache and didn't mess it up. Have I turned a corner, or is it just luck?

Peanut Butter Torte

It turns out that two doulas were celebrating birthdays this week, and the other doula's sister is a professional baker with the cutest name ever for a cake business: MaryJane's Cakery. Cakery! I love it. Her cake was a three layer chocolate cake, not too sweet, light and airy, with a beautiful whipped cream frosting with fresh berries. It was wonderful, and just the right amount of sweetness.

chocolate cake with berries and whipped cream
(I'm sorry this photo is so blurry; I wanted to continue eating! There were chopped fresh cherries in the filling. and did you see the two different shades of whipped cream? Something about frosting that shade of pink (which unfortunately you can't really see) just makes me want to eat it.)

Everybody dug into both cakes and loved them both. These girls are smart; they know better than to say no to free cake. The doula girl that asked for the peanut butter torte took the last piece home to savor after she tucked her kids into bed. I don't know if she was going to share with her husband. My guess? Nope.

How many times do you get to say that you met with some of your favorite people, who also are women with whom you do business, and during the meeting you shared two cakes and several bottles of wine? I say that every month (well maybe not the two cakes part)! I love my life, and I love my doula girls. Happy birthdays, ladies!

Peanut Butter Torte

Other doula favorites: Mom's Apple Cake, and Lemon Pudding Cake.


  1. That looks wonderful.. I love chocolate and peanut butter.

  2. Yummy! I've had a cake very similar to this, and you're right, it's r-i-i-i-ch.

    I'm so glad to see you write "I love my life." That makes me so happy!

  3. Anonymous10/6/09 09:18

    Now I wish I was a doula! You know, I am guessing 'doula' means what we call a 'midwife'... but I'm not sure! I just looked it up in my little Oxford dictionary and it's not listed, perhaps you can enlighten me. Anyway, you seem to enjoy your work and your colleagues and I would certainly enjoy those cakes!

  4. Anonymous10/6/09 09:19

    That last comment was from me, Jeannette! I forgot to put my name in, sorry!

  5. As always...yum! I've been meaning to make a chocolate-PB concoction for so long now, and still haven't gotten around to it. Dang. If you ever see a Vosges Peanut Butter Bon Bon bar, you should try it. It's worth the high price tag...best PB chocolate bar ever!

  6. Ooh so many comments! Let's get to it, shall we?

    Laurie, this is a good one for chocolate-peanut butter lovers. I also loved the Oreo cookie crust.

    Raiuchka, you are so sweet to be happy that I am happy! I never got around to replying to your last comment re: awesome phrases we heard in Ukraine, but the one about Tobias was hilarious!! I totally remember when Jenni said that. Good times, good times. I wonder what all those Germans are up to now.

    Jeanette, hi! Doulas are similar to midwives in some ways but we have no medical training so we can't catch the babies or check blood pressure or anything like that. We're there to provide support to the laboring couple with our hands (ie massage), our heads (experience and knowledge of what labor and birth can be like, latest research) and our hearts (emotional support and intuition). We are popular here in the US because most couples labor and birth in hospitals where they are often left alone for 50%-80% of the time, whereas we provide continuous support until the baby is born. A lot of the times the couples are hoping to give birth without pain medications or other interventions if possible and look to us to help them do so. Here's a link if you'd like more info: What is a doula?>

    Amanda, I will totally look for that Peanut Butter Bon Bon bar...even the name sounds decadent!

  7. I haven't kept in touch with any of them. But you did know, didn't you, that I ran into Helmut at the Kiev train station the following year and talked to him for a good part of the way down to Simferopol -- he had actually learnt Russian! And they'd let him back into the country!

  8. Helmut....was he the one who would sit in the corner and smoke and stare and not talk? You are compelling me to dig out my journal from that time!

    This is hilarious. You remember so much!!

  9. Yes, that's him! Remember, then he broke the window in his room and (allegedly) tried to eat the glass, and the dijournaya had to call the cops, and Reiner and Astrid had to go with them so they could translate for him. He was deported.

    The next year he seemed perfectly normal.

    I wish I had kept a better journal! But I do have the "Purple Teddy Bear" song, and Tim being a lampochka. :-)

    We have to get together and reminisce, girlfriend.

  10. Anonymous11/6/09 08:20

    ECL, thank you for all that information! I don't think we have the equivalent of 'doula's' over here but my daughter-in-law is a midwife, I will ask her, she is bound to know. It sounds a very useful and needed service in my opinion and I am sure you are greatly appreciated. Jeannette

  11. ECL,
    That looks crazy rich and tooth-hurtingly sweet! (Not that I'd say no to a piece). Would you make it again?

  12. Raiuchka, yes, yes we do need to get together! And it is all coming back to me about Helmut. I thought he tried to allegedly kill himself but wasn't so sure. I do remember Reiner and Ute as they were my favorite Germans. (Well and of course Tobias since we shared a flooded, spider-infested bathroom.)

    Jeanette, you are welcome, and very kind! I keep thinking that doulas must be a mostly US invention since most other countries seem to provide better birth choices...I could be wrong!

    BBC, it was crazy rich, but not completely tooth-hurtingly sweet. I would certainly make it again, provided there were going to be at least 11 other people to help me eat it! Dorie suggests serving it with a strong espresso and that would help cut the richness.

  13. I love how a bit of it is oozing out in the pictures. It looks mouth watering good. I adore the chocolate and peanut combination. Perfect.

    Helmut sounds like a handful.

  14. Melinda, heh, Helmut was a handful, but it looks like he turned himself around!

    Were you inclined to make this, would you need someone to airlift peanut butter to you? I am assuming the Brits, like the Germans and Ukrainians, don't care much for peanut butter. In Munich I only found peanut butter around the 4th of July when the grocery store would have little "curious American food items" display. They would have jars of peanut butter and Betty Crocker cake mix, among with other embarrassing American boxed food items.

  15. We have peanut butter. Skippy brand.
    We don't have good dill pickles. Just thought I'd tell you.

  16. Hi Melinda, speaking of peanut butter in the UK, have you been able to get any British people to try a PB&J? (You're an expat American, right?)

    My husband is English and frowns when I give them to our son. He says that he won't try them because it would be "like eating kippers and custard" and that it's disgusting. I don't understand his position. It's delectable. I ate one yesterday while hiking. :-)

  17. Raichka, Yes, I am an Oregonian. I've been in England a long time now. Since 1978.
    I always say I am growing a Union Jack on my bum. That is funny about your husband saying it would be like eating Kippers and custard to eat a PB&J sandwich! It's not really the same, but it describes the abhorrence well. I make PB&J all the time and my daughter loves them. My husband does too, but he is South African. About the only thing here that a lot of Americans find totally disgusting is, Marmite. But I really love it on toast. My sisters think it is axle grease.
    I find Piccalilli a bit gross, it is so acrid!
    My English friends find the sweet jello salads Americans have during a main meal strange/odd, too. My adorable aunt used to make one with salmon, jello and cinnamon hot candies in it. (We all hated it but always ate it anyway. We never wanted to hurt her feelings.)
    I am sure you had some interesting disgusting foods when you were in Russia. All nations have them.
    Do you visit your England relatives? Cheers

  18. I know, abhorrence is exactly the right word. It's so strange -- why do all English people refuse to even *try* PB&J? Other friends of ours have the same attitude.

    I love Marmite on toast too -- I eat it all the time. What I find gross in English cuisine is the offal. We do visit my husband's family every other year for Christmas, and my MIL always makes dishes with kidneys, livers, hearts, you name it. ughhh. We just weren't brought up to eat it. My husband's fave dish is steak and kidney pudding, so I make that once a year, for his birthday. Dealing with the kidneys just dispenses with my appetite (and I hate the taste of the suet pastry anyway), so I never eat it. This year DH and our son ate up the pud while I had buttered potatoes and asparagus. :-)

    Salmon, jello, and red hots? Eeeeek! You were all very kind to eat that!
    That's hilarious about the sweet jello salads, because there's one we have at all family gatherings made with raspberry jello atop a crust of crushed pretzels, with whipped cream on top, and my husband always complains that there's a pudding on the dinner table! (only to me, of course...)

    As ECL can probably attest, the grossest things we were offered in Ukraine were salo (salt-cured pork fat, eaten in chunks or spread on bread), kholodets (meat in aspic -- it grossed me out, meat jello!) and liver. In general Russian food is very good, and when i lived there after the time ECL and I were together, I ate pretty much everything, except salo. They knew better than to offer me liver at that point, and for myself I cooked a mostly vegetarian diet, along with lots of farm-fresh eggs and dairy, and the occasional piece of meat directly from the herder. Not a bad way to eat!

    (ECL, have I blocked out any disgusting food? Do you remember when we took Lena to Odessa with us and she ate the liver off all our plates and couldn't figure out why nobody wanted theirs?)

  19. You ladies are so cute. I love that you're getting to know each other!

    My top two gross Ukrainian foods are 1. salo and 2. meat jello (meat in aspic). So I think you covered it.

    The only way I'll eat liver is Kalbsleberwurst (calf's liver wurst--tasty on toasted white bread).

    My family, being not proper Americans, doesn't do the jello salads but the Filipino relatives make the chocolate meat. It shows up at every celebration.