This stupid easy, gluten-free, one-bowl chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting gets big flavor from roasted peanut oil, malty teff flour, brown sugar and buttermilk all crowned with swirls of salty frosting. Thanks to La Tourangelle for sponsoring this post! All opinions are my own.
Chocolate peanut butter lovers rejoice! I’m so excited to share today’s recipe because it changed my mind about three things I used to feel “meh” about: cake, peanuts, and frosting. In my book, cake is better than no dessert at all, but I’d take pretty much any sweet (pie, tart, crisp, cobbler, custard, ice cream, or good bar of chocolate) over it. Peanuts and their byproducts are only acceptable when chocolate is involved. And frosting has to have cream cheese in it to be rendered edible. And yet I would gladly eat this cake and all its offending components every day of my life and be perfectly happy.
In reality, it’s layer cakes that I used to loathe. This stems from the monstrosity of a wedding cake I had to assemble in pastry school, where I abused a perfectly decent carrot cake by hacking it into squares, layering it with an enormous amount of cream cheese frosting, and spackling it into a three-tiered monument. Several crumb coatings, basketweave frosting, and plastic pillars later, it crumbled into a pile of dry cake shards when we finally cut into it. “What’s the damn point?” I wondered.
Luckily for all of us, sheet cakes are the thing these days. Besides being quicker and easier to make, these single-layer cakes stay especially fresh because they need to be simply baked, then dressed in a layer of frosting, cut up, and eaten without much fanfare. You don’t need a stand mixer, springform pan, offset spatula, or piping bag. This bad boy can be in and out of the oven in well under an hour, then frosted and eaten soon afterwards. You can have cake on a weekday, no problem. And aren’t weekdays when we need cake the most?
Plus, I know the best chocolate cake recipe that happens to be a snap to whisk together, and gluten-free to boot. The base comes from GF baking maven and my very good friend and colleague Sarah of Snixy Kitchen. I first took a bite of her chocolate cupcakes several years ago, and I haven’t so much as looked at another classic chocolate cake recipe since. Super moist and tender, with a springy crumb and a bit of chew, it has a deep chocolate flavor and just the right amount of sweetness.
I’ve made Sarah’s chocolate cake many times over the years, and I’ve become especially fond of a teff flour version that I whipped up one night when I had some leftover boozy ganache that needed a cake to top. I love when an alternative flour bests its wheaty counterpart, as is the case here. Teff has an earthy flavor similar to malted chocolate milk (it smells exactly the way I remember Ovaltine tasting), thus it pairs beautifully with chocolate. It’s also very high in protein for a grain, and this protein gives pastry doughs and batters enough sturdiness to trap air pockets, enabling them to bake up light and fluffy. This cake batter only needs two flours – teff and sweet rice – to achieve a springy, slightly fudgy crumb with a touch of textural interest.
When the folks at La Tourangelle asked me to bake something with their award-winning roasted peanut oil, it was this cake that popped into my head. Peanuts on their own don’t do much for me, but add chocolate to the mix (and preferably a hit of flaky salt) and it’s a whole other story. I knew the chocolate teff cake base would partner well with roasted peanut oil, but I wasn’t prepared for just what a game-changer the oil would be. To make the oil, fresh peanuts are roasted and pressed right here in California. Minimal processing results in a softly toasted flavor and golden hue.
Here the oil adds warm, nutty notes to the cake, blending seamlessly with the malty teff flour and earthy brown sugar. And frosting, when whipped with natural peanut butter, vanilla, and salt to counteract its intrinsic sweetness, makes the most luscious topping.
The whole cake is like a big gooey chocolate peanut butter cup that you can wash down with a cold glass of milk (or my favorite – almond milk). Thanks to the roasted peanut oil and salted peanut butter frosting, you truly get peanut goodness in every bite. I’ve made this cake four or five times now between testing and shooting, and I still can’t keep my paws off of it. Slices of this cake are good conversion therapy for haters other than myself. The other day I brought some to a friend’s birthday brunch and another friend at the table, food writer Laura Fraser, wrinkled her nose. “I don’t like peanuts,” she said, “and I’m not too fond of cake either.”
She had seconds.
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- 1 teaspoon softened butter, for the pan
- ½ cup (80 g) GF teff flour
- 3 tablespoons (23 g) sweet white rice flour
- 1 tablespoon (6 g) tapioca flour/starch (or an additional tablespoon sweet rice flour)
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons (35 g) dutch-processed cocoa powder (such as Rodelle or Guittard)
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¾ cup (150 g) organic light brown sugar
- ⅓ cup (80 ml) buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) La Tourangelle Roasted Peanut Oil (or neutral oil such as sunflower oil)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅓ cup (80 ml) hot water
- 1 large egg
- 6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (75 g) pwd sugar, sifted (more as needed)
- 3 tablespoons (40 g) natural salted or unsalted creamy peanut butter, well-stirred and at room temperature
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt (or to taste)
- flaky sea salt such as Maldon, for sprinkling (optional)
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350ºF. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper cut to fit.
- In a large bowl, sift together the teff, sweet rice, and tapioca flours with the cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the brown sugar, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and hot water to the batter. Add the egg and quickly whisk the batter until smooth and no lumps remain. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the top springs back to the touch, 18-22 minutes (20). Remove from the oven and let cool at least 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan, peel away the parchment, and place on a wire rack to cool completely, 20 minutes. Transfer the cake to a serving board or platter.
- To make the frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a bowl with a wooden spoon) beat the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy. Add the peanut butter, vanilla, and salt. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 1 minute. Spread the frosting over the cake.
- When ready to serve, sprinkle the cake with pinches of flaky salt, cut into wedges, and serve. The cake keeps well for several days; I like to store it airtight in the refrigerator, but be sure to serve it at room temperature so the frosting softens.