My Grandma’s Chocolate Cake Is the Only One That Matters

published Feb 10, 2022
Kitchn Love Letters
Grandma’s Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting Recipe

The combination of moist chocolate cake and creamy peanut butter frosting is truly a match made in heaven.

Serves12 to 15

Prep30 minutes to 45 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Credit: Taylor Kocher

If you asked me what my favorite cake is (possibly my favorite dessert, even), I could tell you without hesitation: It’s my Grandma’s Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting. I’m so obsessed with it, in fact, that it’s been my birthday cake every year for as long as I can remember. When I was little, my Grandma made it for me, but as I got older I learned to bake it alongside her.

The secret ingredient — just like in Ina’s chocolate cake — is coffee, which enhances the chocolate flavor and lends a slight bitterness that balances out the cake’s sweetness. But what you really need to know is how moist this cake is. It’s fudgy, almost-melt-in-your-mouth soft, and if you chill it in the fridge for about 30 minutes before serving, you’ll be rewarded with a fudge brownie-like eating experience.

Last but not least, there’s the creamy peanut butter frosting, which really is the icing on the cake. I couldn’t imagine a better combination of flavors and textures.

Credit: Taylor Kocher

What Makes My Grandma’s Chocolate Cake So Special

This recipe is meant to be easy and low-stress. I like to say it’s perfectly “imperfect” (for some reason, it has a tendency to sink a bit in the middle as it bakes), but that’s all part of the fun! Once you slather it in the peanut butter frosting, no one will be the wiser.

There’s also plenty of room for customization. Play with the flavor of the batter by trying out different strengths and roasts of coffee. Use whatever milk you have on hand. And my ultimate tip: Double the frosting, especially if you’re serving it to frosting fanatics like my family.

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. Kitchn Love Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.

Grandma’s Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting Recipe

The combination of moist chocolate cake and creamy peanut butter frosting is truly a match made in heaven.

Prep time 30 minutes to 45 minutes

Serves 12 to 15

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • Cooking spray

  • 3/4 cup

    unsweetened natural cocoa powder, plus more for dusting

  • 2 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons

    baking soda

  • 2 teaspoons

    baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 2 cups

    granulated sugar

  • 1 cup

    milk, any fat percentage

  • 3/4 cup

    vegetable or canola oil

  • 2

    large eggs

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

  • 1 cup

    hot brewed coffee

For the frosting:

  • 1 cup

    smooth peanut butter, preferably Skippy or Jif

  • 8 tablespoons

    (1 stick) unsalted butter

  • 2 cups

    powdered sugar

  • 3 tablespoons

    milk, any fat percentage

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

Instructions

Make the cake:

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 9x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray and lightly dust with cocoa powder, tapping out the excess.

  2. Sift 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder into a medium bowl. Add 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and whisk to combine.

  3. Place 2 cups granulated sugar, eggs, 1 cup milk, 3/4 cup vegetable oil, 2 large eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Beat with the whisk attachment on medium speed until well-combined, 2 to 3 minutes.

  4. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until almost combined and a few streaks of flour are remaining. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add 1 cup hot brewed coffee and beat on low speed until combined and smooth. Give it a final whisk by hand if needed to fully mix in the coffee. Don’t overmix. The batter will look quite runny. Pour into the baking dish.

  5. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 30 to 45 minutes. Let the cake cool completely in the baking dish. Meanwhile, wash and dry the stand mixer bowl (or large bowl and electric hand mixer). Place 1 cup creamy peanut butter and 1 stick unsalted butter in the bowl and let sit at room temperature until softened.

Make the frosting:

  1. Add 2 cups powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract to the butter and peanut butter. Beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until smooth, light, and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes total. Do not overbeat. Spread the frosting onto the cooled cake.

Recipe Notes

Peanut butter: The smoother the peanut butter, the smoother the frosting. Brands like Skippy and Jif have an ultra-smooth texture.

Storage: Cover the cake and refrigerate for up to 5 days.