Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Peanut butter and jelly birthday cake

If there’s anything more futile than the pursuit of happiness, that would be the pursuit of perfection.

peanut butter and jelly birthday cake

People used to say I was a perfectionist. A child who painstakingly organized her room every day and fretted over the most insignificant of test scores had to be a perfectionist, or maybe fusspot or a hairsplitter (as the trusty thesaurus would have you believe). And for years, I believed it. I fussed over the stories I wrote and split hairs over school assignments as if they were the difference between life and death—even though my heart was never in it. Eventually, my unsustainable habits came back to bite me in the ass, and whoop-de-doo, I contracted the sad disease.

i haz a sad cat
Not me in there, actually. source

Nowadays, instead of getting ass in gear when faced with a less-than-desirable challenge, I tend to bitch and moan about the problem and, in the end, do nothing about it. This is not an uncommon phenomenon, I think.
My tendency to bitch and moan has led to another brilliant coping skill—avoidance! Genius, is it not? Instead of trying to deal with my imperfections, I slink back up to my room and turn on my laptop. A few hours of interneting later, I’ve totally forgotten about the original issue without having to exert all of that effort to resolve it. Brilliance in motion, I tell you. 

sleeping woman
This is also a great method of avoidance. source

You might call it laziness. I know I do; in fact, my laziness is one of the things I bitch and moan about, which is quite meta if you ask me. Lazy little Baby June doesn’t want to go out and run and face the fact that, hey, maybe she ate a little too much cake over this past winter—if she stays inside and internets the time away, she won’t ever have to confront her newfound slowness, the little bit of extra pudge. Perfectionism indeed.
My indulgence in this brilliant coping skill has even been the death of another hobby: drawing. You may have seen the chili I drew against a backdrop of odd-looking fire to accent my sweet curry pancakes.  

sweet curry pancakes with mango chutney
You may or may not have been permanently scarred.

For years, I loved to draw and did it all the time, and I’d say I was getting pretty good at it—until the internet, high school, and depression struck all at the same time. Those three factors combined leave very little time for fooling around with a pencil and paper. No; there is only time for fucking around on Reddit and Facebook and blogs, searching for validation where it was lacking inside. That may sound very deep and tragic, but in reality it was the emptiest thing possible. Drawing gave me joy; the internet just made me feel hollow. As time passed and I didn’t pick up the pencil, my drawing skills regressed until I could only muster up the likes of that chili you see above. Because I was embarrassed by my lack of skills, I avoided drawing. That, you see, is avoidance at its best.
Until, of course, I went to the hospital and had nothing to do all day except, well, draw. I drew lots and lots of doges.

pencil drawing of doge says wow
One of many.

It was therapeutic, almost, creating that inexplicably hilarious face on paper. It may or may not have made me tear up. 

lie down try not to cry cry a lot
Every fucking time. source

I may not have liked staying at the hospital, but it made me confront a lot of things. Life, for example. Life is filled with people you have to socialize with and things you aren’t perfect at right away and struggles that can’t be overcome easily. Without the internet to distract me, reality stared me in the face. Even though a hospital is kind of as far from reality as you can get.
Back home, I of course went ahead and made some cake. Imperfect cake. Very messy cake with frosting smudged all over the place and layers that stuck to the pans and pastry cream ridden with lumps. I could have cried about it; I could have ignored the imperfections I had created and gone to hide in my room. But no. I plastered the fucking thing all over the internet, like I didn’t even care. I mean, it tasted good. Probably one the most addictively delicious things I ever made, that cake was, but it wasn’t particularly pretty.
And I was pretty damn proud of that.
So today, I present to you another imperfect cake.

peanut butter and jelly birthday cake
Go on.

My own mother admitted it looked kind of weird. My own mother, goddamit! Will you believe that?
But it’s true. I could have fussed and split hairs for hours, I could have done so many things to make this cake look at least a bit more presentable, yet I was satisfied with this flawed presentation. For my own brother’s birthday, no less.
It tastes amazing. The jelly frosting is slightly lumpy; the strawberry cake layer was dense and flat (probably due to my inaccurate measurements of the strawberry puree); the peanut praline didn’t come out quite like I had imagined. And yet I am satisfied. How could this be? Isn’t Baby June a perfectionist?
No. I’m not a perfectionist. It’s hard enough for me to care about basic things like my own body odor let alone the presentation of cake. It’s time for me to be realistic. I just don’t fucking care anymore, you know?

keep calm because frankly idgaf
My new motto, everyone. source

Time to relax. Nobody cares if you are imperfect. We’re gonna keep calm whether your cake falls apart in a mess of buttercream and crumbs or wins Cake International.
Maybe someday I’ll even socialize a little bit. But let’s not get our hopes up.
Here is the recipe du jour:
Peanut butter and jelly birthday layer cake
Makes one giant cake
Strawberry cake (adapted from Baker Bettie)
93 grams ● silken tofu, blended until smooth ● ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons
61 grams ● nondairy milk ● ¼ cup
87 grams ● strawberry puree ● ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons
3 grams ● vanilla extract ● ¾ teaspoon
1 gram ● almond extract ● ¼ teaspoon
137 grams ● cake flour ● 1 cup
5 grams ● baking powder ● 1 teaspoon
2 grams ● salt ● ¼ teaspoon
113 grams ● sugar ● ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon
38 grams ● Earth Balance, softened and cut into small pieces ● 1/3 cup
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease one 9-inch baking pan and set aside.
In a small bowl, mix blended tofu, milk, strawberry puree, vanilla, and almond extract.
Add cake flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer and pulse a few times to combine. One piece at a time, add Earth Balance with mixer on low until the dough looks sandy—not doughy quite yet.
Add about half of the wet mixture and beat on low speed until combined, then increase speed and beat until light and fluffy. Add the remaining wet mixture on low speed and mix just until incorporated. The batter will look a bit curdled, and that’s okay.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about 23 to 25 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove from baking pan after cooling for ten minutes. Allow to cool completely before using.
Peanut butter cake (adapted from Pastry Affair)
60 grams ● vegetable oil ● ¼ cup
65 grams ● peanut butter ● ¼ cup
50 grams ● sugar ● ¼ cup
50 grams ● brown sugar ● ¼ cup, packed
93 grams ● silken tofu, blended until smooth ● ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons
3 grams ● vanilla extract ● ½ teaspoon
140 grams ● all-purpose flour ● 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons
5 grams ● baking powder ● 1 teaspoon
2 grams ● salt ● ½ scant teaspoon
122 grams ● nondairy milk ● ½ cup
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease one 9-inch cake pan and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat together oil, peanut butter, sugar, and tofu until uniform. Add vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, sift together all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture and milk in alternating additions, mixing until batter is uniform and smooth.
Pour batter into cake pan and bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from baking pan after ten minutes. Cool completely before using.
Strawberry curd (adapted from Healthy Happy Life)
122 grams ● nondairy milk (I used soy) ● ½ cup
60 grams ● water ● ¼ cup
16 grams ● cornstarch ● 1 tablespoon
75 grams ● sugar ● ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons
90 grams ● strawberry juice, fresh or bottled (or try using fresh puree) ● ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons
2 grams ● lemon zest ● 1 teaspoon
71 grams ● Earth Balance or other vegan buttery spread ● 5 tablespoons
Head on over to Healthy Happy Life to get the instructions, being sure to replace lemon juice with strawberry juice. Allow to cool completely before using.
Peanut butter frosting (adapted from All Recipes)
113 grams ● Earth Balance, softened ● ½ cup
256 grams ● peanut butter ● 1 cup
45 grams ● nondairy milk ● 3 tablespoons
288 grams ● powdered sugar ● 2 ¼ cups
Salt to taste
Place Earth Balance and peanut butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until fluffy and lightened in color. Gradually add powdered sugar while the mixer is running on low, then increase speed and whip it like you mean it. Add nondairy milk to make it nice and spreadable, and sprinkle in some salt if you think it is too sweet.
Strawberry frosting (adapted from Food Network)
56 grams ● Earth Balance ● ¼ cup
256 grams ● powdered sugar ● 2 cups
30 grams ● nondairy milk ● 2 tablespoons
3 grams ● vanilla extract ● ½ teaspoon
40 grams ● strawberry jam or preserves ● 2 tablespoons
Place Earth Balance in the bowl of an electric stand mixer and beat until fluffy and light. Slowly add powdered sugar. Beat in nondairy milk, vanilla, and strawberry jam / preserves until thoroughly combined and fluffy and smooth and wonderful.

Peanut praline (from Serious Eats)
220 grams ● brown sugar ● 1 cup, firmly packed
146 grams ● peanuts ● 1 cup
Go to Serious Eats to get the complete recipe. Allow to cool completely before using.
1 layer strawberry cake
1 layer peanut butter cake
Strawberry curd
Peanut praline
Peanut butter frosting
Strawberry frosting
Place peanut butter cake layer at the bottom of a nine inch springform pan. Smear strawberry curd all over that bitch, then top with peanut praline. Top with strawberry cake layer. Put the whole thing in the freezer until it is nice and hard and easy to frost.
To finish, frost the entire cake with peanut butter buttercream. At this point you can freeze the cake for another few minutes to harden up the frosting, or you can just go ahead and add strawberry frosting in stripes. Doesn’t really matter. Tastes good no matter what.

Now, if you want to attempt this cake, be sure to measure the ingredients for the strawberry cake layer accurately. You’d think that would be a given by my lazy ass thought measuring was optional for a few ingredients, for some reason.

peanut butter and jelly birthday cake how to philosophize with cake
Wow. Fancy.

I’d also try using fresh strawberry puree instead of bottled strawberry juice, because frankly that store bought stuff is nasty. If you have a juicer, feel free to use that.
But it hardly matters. This cake was delicious. Was. Before we devoured it.
Even if it’s not perfect.


  1. Wow so many components, well done! I reckon the end result looks pretty darn sweet if you ask me, and I bet it tasted a million bucks too! Mmmm :D x

    1. Thanks! It did taste like a million bucks. :)

  2. No one is a perfectionist... Only the most ineffective people are!
    Lovely cake! It looks like it took a really long time!

  3. Hi June, it's on the inside that counts, even with cake.

  4. Hmm.. I think that perfection is attainable. No matter, on with the cake eating!

    1. Thanks for reading! And yes, I guess our definitions might differ a little but that's okay. :D

  5. I find cakes super hard to make look pretty, but in the end it's all about the taste anyway, right?! Love this PB+J flavor! It would probably be a favorite cake!

    1. I agree, I'm still working on my decorating skills too. :) I'm sure you would love this!

  6. It is so nice to meet you June. Thanks for stopping by to visit me! I love this cake, I love it's imperfections, even though I don't see any, and I love the recipe. I find baking very therapeutic and a creative outlet. I do get upset when I have several failures in a row, in the kitchen, but oh well - learning to live with that too. Letting go - and forgiving myself is the way to go. Have a WONDERFUL weekend!

    1. You have a great weekend too! Thanks for stopping by, I'm glad you can relate to what I wrote! I agree, imperfections have their own charm sometimes. :)

  7. I have never had a pb+j cake, sounds like fun though!