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This super moist dark chocolate peanut butter cake marries the flavors of rich dark chocolate and sweet creamy peanut butter—a match made in heaven if ever there was one. Fill and coat the cake with peanut butter frosting, then cover the whole dessert with semi-sweet chocolate ganache, pipe more peanut butter frosting on top… and get ready to swoon, because this is love at first bite.

slice of dark chocolate peanut butter cake on white plate set on red checkered napkin.

Meet our newest most eligible bachelor: the dark chocolate peanut butter cake. This cake is rich. Like, ultra-rich. I think the term “filthy rich” might even apply here.

Here’s Why You’ll Swoon Over This Cake

  • Cake crumb is fudge-like and moist, yet a little light and spongey.
  • Enjoy extra texture from the chocolate chips. (I insist you don’t leave these out! Taste testers said the chocolate chips are a welcome contrast to the smooth frosting and cake… and I agree.)
  • Peanut butter frosting packs BIG flavor.
  • It’s sweet, but not overly so; the lightly sweetened peanut butter frosting and dark chocolate ganache is a nice break from cloyingly sweet buttercream.
  • Very rich! If you’re going to indulge, put this layer cake on the menu.

3 Parts to Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Let’s break down each component of this unapologetically indulgent cake:

  1. Dark Chocolate Cake: We’re starting with the cake batter from this 5-star dark chocolate mousse cake, a reader favorite. The cake batter is essentially the same as this chocolate cake, but we’re using the sour cream variation because it produces a sturdier cake—certainly beneficial for tall and towering layers.
  2. Peanut Butter Frosting: Slather on a layer of creamy peanut butter frosting between each cake layer, and use it to apply a crumb coat to the exterior of the cake. It’s a scaled-up version of my original peanut butter frosting recipe.
  3. Chocolate Ganache: Top the whole cake with 2-ingredient semi-sweet chocolate ganache. I originally frosted this cake with a chocolate buttercream, but all of my taste testers said it was simply too rich and too sweet. “Hard to finish a slice,” most said. With chocolate ganache, one taster distinctly said, “I cannot stop eating this.”

My team and I made at least 6 of these cakes during the testing phase and we had some VERY happy neighbors and friends.

A Cake With Serious Chocolate Flavor

You need a handful of basic baking ingredients for the cake batter. The acidity in both sour cream and buttermilk is a must to provide proper leavening. (If desired, see baking powder vs baking soda for more information.) A touch of espresso powder and hot coffee further enhances the chocolate flavor. The cake will not taste like coffee—rather, the two add depth to the cake’s dark chocolate flavor. Feel free to skip the espresso powder and replace hot coffee with hot water.

  • Why hot liquid? The hot liquid encourages the cocoa powder to bloom and dissolve.

Chocolate chips take the chocolate flavor to the next level, and, as I mentioned above, they also supply phenomenal texture. Toss them in a little flour before folding into the batter.

flour, baking powder, baking soda, vegetable oil, sour cream, eggs, and other ingredients.
chocolate chocolate chip cake batter in bowl and in cake pans.

Creamy Peanut Butter Frosting

I played around with the ingredients in my usual creamy peanut butter frosting recipe, and made some adjustments in order to yield just the right amount for this cake. You need 5 ingredients:

  1. Butter
  2. Peanut Butter: Use the conventional kind, like Jif or Skippy, rather than natural.
  3. Confectioners’ Sugar: I know you’ll appreciate that there’s less than 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar, a far cry from the usual 6 or 7 cups required for buttercream on a tall layer cake.
  4. Heavy Cream: You also need this for the chocolate ganache.
  5. Vanilla Extract

You’ll end up with 3.5–4 cups (about 850g), which is enough frosting for filling, crumb-coating, and some basic piping on the exterior. This frosting has incredible peanut butter flavor because it’s packed with nearly 2 cups of it! There’s no other way to make it. 😉

peanut butter frosting in glass bowl with red spatula.
spreading peanut butter frosting on and around chocolate layer cake.

2 Ingredient Chocolate Ganache

I won’t go into a lot of detail about how to make the ganache because I have a complete chocolate ganache tutorial for you. You need just 2 ingredients: chopped semi-sweet baking chocolate (about 56–60% cacao) and warm heavy cream.

#1 Success Tip: Wait 20–30 minutes for the ganache to thicken before pouring or spooning onto the cake, which is convenient because you also have to wait for the crumb-coated cake to chill.

As you can watch in the video tutorial below, a chilled cake helps set or solidify the ganache as you’re applying it, which helps prevent major drips/big messes.

chocolate ganache in bowl and spreading on exterior of cake.

How to Assemble & Decorate This Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

I’m NOT a professional cake decorator and with all of my layer cakes, I prefer simplicity. Let me share how I stack and decorate this beauty:

Assemble: Place the bottom cooled cake layer on your cake stand or serving plate. Using a large icing spatula or small offset spatula, evenly cover the top with about 1 cup of peanut butter frosting. Top with 2nd cake layer and another 1 cup of frosting. Top with the third cake and then spread a thin layer of the peanut butter frosting on top and around the sides as a crumb coat. Run a bench scraper around the cake to smooth it out. Refrigerate the cake for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours to set the crumb coat.

Decorate: Pour slightly cooled chocolate ganache on top, then, once again, run a bench scraper around the sides to smooth it out. Finally, fill a piping bag with the remaining peanut butter frosting and pipe around the edges of the cake. I use Wilton 1M for the piped detail. If desired, you can finish off this chocolate peanut butter bombshell with peanut butter cups.

If you’re just learning how to use piping tips, my piping tips guide is a helpful resource, and don’t miss this complete list of cake baking success tips.

removing a slice of chocolate peanut butter cake with cake server.
slice of dark chocolate peanut butter cake on white plate set on red checkered napkin.

Now it’s your turn! Swoooon.

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3 layer chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting and dark chocolate ganache on wood cake stand.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes (includes chilling)
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours (includes cooling)
  • Yield: serves 12 1x
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This super moist chocolate peanut butter cake combines rich chocolate cake with creamy peanut butter frosting and smooth chocolate ganache. Crumb-coated cake and ganache must chill before assembling and decorating the cake. See recipe Notes for further information about some ingredients.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (219g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 3/4 cup (62g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder* (see note)
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (350g) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons espresso powder (optional)*
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (180g) full fat sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) buttermilk, at room temperature*
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) hot water or black coffee*
  • 1 cup (180g) mini or regular semi-sweet chocolate chips (toss in 1 Tablespoon flour)

Peanut Butter Frosting

  • 3/4 cup (170g, or 1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 and 3/4 cup (440g) creamy peanut butter*
  • 1 and 3/4 cup (210g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 Tablespoons (45ml) heavy cream or heavy whipping cream, at room temperature

Chocolate Ganache

  • two 4-ounce quality semi-sweet chocolate bars (226g; 8 oz), finely chopped*
  • 1 cup (240ml) heavy cream or heavy whipping cream
  • optional garnish: chopped or mini peanut butter cups

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease three 8-inch or 9-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper rounds, then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the cakes seamlessly release from the pans. (If it’s helpful, see this parchment paper rounds for cakes video & post.)
  2. Make the cake: Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and espresso powder (if using) together in a large bowl. Set aside. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or you can use a whisk), mix the oil, eggs, and sour cream together on medium-high speed until combined. Add the buttermilk and vanilla and beat until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, add the hot water/coffee, and whisk or beat on low speed until the batter is completely combined. Fold in the flour-coated chocolate chips. Batter is thin and you may see some air bubbles on the surface—that’s normal. You should have about 6–6.5 cups of batter, or around 1400g. 
  3. Divide batter evenly between 3 pans. Bake for approximately 24–26 minutes. Baking times vary, so keep an eye on yours. The cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  4. Remove the cakes from the oven and set on a wire rack. Allow to cool completely in the pan. The cakes may slightly sink in the middle as they cool—that’s expected.
  5. As the cakes cool, make the peanut butter frosting: With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium high speed until creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. With a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add the peanut butter and beat until completely combined, about 1–2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed to help combine. Mixture will be thin. Add confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract, and salt and then pour in the heavy cream with the mixer running on low speed. After all of the cream has been added, turn the mixer up to medium-high speed and beat for 1–2 minutes, or until fully combined and creamy. Add up to 1/4 cup more confectioners’ sugar if frosting seems quite thin. You should end up with about 3.5–4 cups (850g) of peanut butter frosting. This amount makes enough for the filling, crumb coat, and for a little piping on top.
  6. Assemble cake + apply crumb coat: Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand or serving plate. Using a large icing spatula or small offset spatula, evenly cover the top with about 1 cup peanut butter frosting. Repeat with 2nd and 3rd cake layers, spreading about 1 cup of peanut butter frosting in between each layer. Spread a thin layer of frosting on the top and around the sides as a crumb coat. Run a bench scraper around the cake to smooth out crumb coat. Chill uncovered in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours to set the crumb coat.
  7. As your crumb coat sets, make the chocolate ganache: Place finely chopped chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it begins to gently simmer. (Do not let it come to a rapid boil—that’s too hot!) Pour over chocolate, then let it sit for 2–3 minutes to gently soften the chocolate. With a metal spoon or small rubber spatula, very slowly stir until chocolate has melted and mixture is smooth. Ganache is thin. The finer you chopped the chocolate, the quicker it will melt with the cream. If it’s not melting, do not microwave it. If needed, see Troubleshooting Chocolate Ganache. Once ganache mixture is smooth, let it chill for 20-30 minutes in the refrigerator to thicken before spreading on chilled crumb-coated cake.
  8. Pour/spoon thickened ganache on chilled cake. Smooth the top with an icing spatula and the sides with a bench scraper. If desired, pipe remaining peanut butter frosting around the edge of the cake. I used Wilton 1M piping tip on the pictured cake. Garnish with peanut butter cups, if desired. Serve cake immediately or chill, uncovered, for up to 4–6 hours before serving. Cake can be served at room temperature or chilled.
  9. Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for 5 days. I like using a cake carrier for storing and transporting.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: Prepare cake through step 4. Wrap the individual baked and cooled cake layers tightly and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze up to 3 months. Bring to room temperature, then continue with step 5. You can prepare the peanut butter frosting in advance. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before using and beat in a little more room-temperature heavy cream to thin out if necessary. You can also prepare the chocolate ganache ahead of time. Refrigerate prepared ganache for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before spreading onto cake. Frosted cake freezes well, up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature or serve cold.
  2. Cocoa Powder: This recipe requires natural cocoa powder for its acidity, so do not use dutch-process.
  3. Espresso Powder/Coffee: Espresso powder and coffee will not make the cake taste like coffee. Rather, they deepen the chocolate flavor. I highly recommend them both. If coffee isn’t your thing, you can leave out the espresso powder and use extra hot water instead of the hot coffee.
  4. Sour Cream: Instead of sour cream, you can use plain yogurt. The cake won’t taste as rich, but it’s a fine substitute.
  5. Buttermilk: Buttermilk is required for this recipe. You can make your own DIY version of buttermilk if needed. Add 1 teaspoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup. Then add enough whole milk to the same measuring cup until it reaches 1/2 cup. (In a pinch, lower-fat or nondairy milks work for this soured milk, but the cake won’t taste as moist or rich.) Stir it around and let sit for 5 minutes. The homemade “buttermilk” will be somewhat curdled and ready to use in the recipe.
  6. Peanut Butter: To prevent the frosting from separating or coming out too thin or oily, use processed creamy peanut butter such as Jif or Skippy.
  7. Why Room Temperature? All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter and frosting mix together easily and evenly. Read more about why room temperature ingredients are important.
  8. Chocolate Ganache: You can use high-quality dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips if needed, but when melting chocolate, I recommend using pure chocolate baking bars (chocolate chips have stabilizers). You can find them right next to the chocolate chips in the baking aisle. I like Bakers or Ghirardelli brands, the ones labeled semi-sweet (56% cacao), which come in 4-ounce (113g) bars.
  9. Cupcakes: Here’s a very similar recipe for dark chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting. Feel free to fill them with the peanut butter frosting (instead of frosting them with it) and top each with chocolate ganache.

Keywords: dark chocolate peanut butter cake

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. This cake was incredible. I can’t stop eating it! The peanut butter frosting is pure heaven. Next time I make it I will half the ganache and just put on top.

    1. Followed the recipe to the T and it was perfect! Loved the crumb on the cake and also the sweetness of the peanut butter layers. Really liked that the amount of confectioners sugar is scaled back. I am sure this one will be made a few more times.
      Thank you for all your recipes.

    1. Hi JoAnne, because of the baking soda in this recipe, you need the natural unsweetened cocoa powder to react properly with the baking soda. This is key for helping the cake to rise. This post on Dutch process vs. natural cocoa powder has more information on the differences between the two, if you’re interested. Let us know if you’re able to give this one a try!

  2. Hi Sally,
    I am making this for a bd cake, but needs to be transported- so how would you think about putting it in a 13×9 cake pan?

    1. Hi Birdie, You can bake this cake in a 9×13 inch baking pan. Same oven temperature, about 35-40 minutes bake time. You may want to halve the frosting and ganache for topping.

  3. I want to make this cake in a Wilton ball cake pan. Is it sturdy enough or do you have another suggestion?

    1. Hi Lisa, We have not tested this recipe in that particular pan but let us know if you give it a try!

  4. Hi Sally, just a clarification question on pan sizes—do I need three 9” cake pans for this recipe or just two?

  5. I just made this cake for a birthday party, everyone said it was the best dessert they had ever eaten. Thanks for all the great recipes Sally, your site is where I start.

  6. Hi Sally, The cake is in the freezer and I plan to serve it on Sunday. Can I make the peanut butter frosting a few days before and put it all together on Saturday. Thank you.

    1. Yes, absolutely! See recipe notes: You can prepare the peanut butter frosting in advance. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before using and beat in a little more room-temperature heavy cream to thin out if necessary. Happy baking!

  7. I made this cake for friends birthday yesterday…beautiful cake..they all loved it..
    Followed the directions to the T, but I did wind up having to make more icing to decorate on the top!
    Added a few mini Reece’s pieces and mini pb cups in the middle..for me, it was a project, a labor of love, and therapy!!

  8. Hey Sally, how would I alter the ingredients in this recipe if I were to make a smaller cake using 6-inch round pans? 🙂

  9. I requested this recipe for my birthday. My mom made it and it was PHENOMENAL. The peanut butter frosting is just so, so good. Thank you for your reliable, delicious recipes with clear instructions and lots of helpful tips. Your website is my number one go-to for baking. <3

  10. I messed this cake up first time round, forgot to put the sugar in! I’m blaming the fact it was a dry ingredient instead of a wet! Fortunately the second one came out beautifully, thank goodness! I also split my ganache but manged to rescue it over a bain marie and despite using 70% cocoa chocolate which I though might be too dark, along with the PB frosting it was amazing. I used two 9 inch pans as I didn’t feel there was enough batter for 3, it turned out fine with the same bake time. Thanks Sally & team!

  11. I’m preparing to make this cake for a going away party and I’m wondering if it will work to substitute the mini chocolate chips with chopped mini peanut butter cups or Reese’s pieces? I am a huge fan and everything I’ve made from your website turns out perfectly! Absolutely my go to for baking tips and recipes. Can’t wait to make this one.

    1. Julia, either would be delicious. Of the two options you mentioned, I would go with chopped peanut butter cups.

  12. This is a great recipe, and relatively easy for something with such complex flavor and texture. I made it for a birthday and got rave reviews!
    One question: how could I make the peanut butter frosting a little milder in flavor (less peanut-ie)?

    1. Hi Jefferson, it would take a bit of tinkering, but you can try replacing some of the peanut butter with additional regular butter to keep the frosting thick but with less of a peanut butter taste. Glad the cake was a hit!

  13. My 11-year-old son make this cake as a fun baking challenge and it was the best cake ever!!!

  14. When you say semi-sweet chocolate, what is the %? I’m often finding chocolate bars listing the % not just as semi- sweet.

  15. This recipe is absolutely amazing!! I made it for my son’s 15th birthday, and it was a teenager crowd-pleaser!

  16. Hi Sally, I want to make this recipe with two 8 inch tins and suggestion about quantities? Look delicious

    1. Hi Saffy, you can use two 8 inch pans for thicker layers, the bake time will be longer. Or, for a smaller cake, you could make 2/3 the amount of batter, but that math may be a little tricky. Happy baking!

  17. Hi there! I made this cake and added the floured chocolate chips to the batter. Yet the chocolate chips still sunk to the bottom of the cake. This has happened to me before with other recipes. Any time that I add floured chocolate chips (or floured blueberries for that matter), they always sink to the bottom. Any thoughts on what I am doing wrong? Thanks!

    1. Hi Jim, the only thing I can think of is that the batter is too thin so it’s not holding up your add-ins. The chocolate chips sink slightly in this cake, but they shouldn’t all settle at the bottom. Try adding another 2-3 Tablespoons (15-24g) of flour to help bulk up the batter so it can hold onto the chips better.

    1. This review is for the peanut butter frosting and chocolate ganache icing, so delicious, loved the almost fluffy texture of the frosting, not too sweet and the clear directions for the yummy ganache with Ghirardelli bittersweet bar.
      I made the best cake ever, all because of those recipes plus your outstanding chocolate cupcake recipe! Needed a 6” cake so used the chocolate cupcake recipe as suggested to make three small layers, then halved the peanut butter frosting and chocolate ganache recipes. Instead of choc chips in cake, crushed peanut brittle over peanut butter filling layers, and decorated ganache with broken pieces of brittle and quartered peanut butter cups. The combination of your three recipes and the peanut brittle was amazing! Thank you so much for your carefully constructed recipes, step by step instructions and photos, your site is my go to for baking.

  18. I made this for my son’s birthday. It was a hit! Everyone loved it and my husband said it was the best cake he’s ever had. I will be saving this recipe and making it for many more family gatherings.

  19. Death by PB and chocolate???? Take me now!!!!!
    Made this for a friend’s birthday and over 25 people asked for the recipe. I shared Sally’s site as my secret weapon…needless to say, it was a hit. . Never a disappointment!

  20. Made this recipe in 9 by 13 pan 3 days before the birthday party. Followed make ahead instructions to a tee. Cake was dry but topping was delicious. Next time might use triple chocolate cake recipe instead.

  21. Just made this cake with my 14 year old son. It’s the first time he baked a cake.We had lots of fun. Thank you. Can’t wait to try it.
    A weird question but do you know roughly how many carbohydrates there are per 100g or a portion? My son is type 1 diabetic and we carbohydrate count everything? Many thanks

    1. Hi Sandrine, We don’t usually include nutrition information as it can vary between different brands of the same ingredients. Plus, many recipes have ingredient substitutions or optional ingredients listed. However, there are many handy online calculators where you can plug in and customize your exact ingredients/brands. Readers have found this one especially helpful: https://www.verywellfit.com/recipe-nutrition-analyzer-4157076

  22. Hi Sally! I was wondering what your thoughts were on doing a chocolate buttercream on top of the peanut butter buttercream crumb coat and then doing a chocolate ganache drip to make a drip cake? Also, would the bake time for three 8inch pans be different than three 9 inch pans?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Kate, that sounds delicious– and sweet! It will, for sure, be a much richer, more indulgent cake that way. Not necessarily a bad thing! The bake time is within the same time frame, about 24-26 minutes. Feel free to begin checking after 22 minutes though.

      1. Thank you so much! I ended up just using the peanut butter buttercream as the outer layer and then did the chocolate ganache as the drip. It was amazing. My husband said it was easily his favourite cake I’ve made and he is my toughest critic!!!

  23. Hello, I was wondering if I could pour the ganache on while it’s (the ganache) is still warm or will that have an affect on the peanut butter frosting? If so will it still be pourable after it cools?

    1. Hi Dedewells! The trick with ganache is letting it cool the perfect amount to not be hot, but still spreadable. You can always re-heat it if it cools too much.

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