Baking & Dessert

By Lindsay Hunt | December 13, 2010

Photo: Lindsay Hunt

At this time of year, my proclivity towards baked goods spikes, and I am increasingly drawn to the sweeter side of the kitchen.  Whether I am baking Spice Cake with Almond Filling, or concocting a batch of Peppermint Caramels, the holiday season brings out the busy baker in me.

This week, I decided to make Marcus’ recipe for Peanut Cake from Soul of a New Cuisine.  It promised a new baked good for my repertoire as well as fodder for my baking compulsion.  The prospect of a cake with ground peanuts and peanut oil called to the little kid in me.  Like many Americans, peanut butter was a childhood staple.  I smeared it on bread, apples, graham crackers and baked it into cookies.  I also confess to constructing many peanut butter, banana, potato chip, and honey sandwiches.  Never had I baked a peanut-inflected cake, however, and this recipe appeared delicious.

I had never used cornstarch in a cake before, so I consulted the most knowledgeable baker I know: the Internet.  I found out that the cornstarch is responsible for the moist and tender crumb structure of this cake.  Cornstarch doesn’t contain gluten, which may contribute to the light and airy structure.  Water activates gluten in grains that contain the protein, which can result in a tight structure.  (Many bakers experience this from over-working pie dough after adding water.)  Additionally, I discovered that starch interferes with the forming of gluten in baked goods, which would further enhance the tender crumb.

After baking and cooling the cake, I eagerly sliced into the loaf.  As I ate a piece slathered with raspberry jam, I felt nostalgic for the slapdash sandwiches of my youth, but felt grateful that I’ve developed the skills to create an elegant PB&J.

Photo: Lindsay Hunt

Delicious Peanut Cake Recipe

Servings: 7-8

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup unsalted peanuts
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan. Set aside.

2.Whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small bowl. Set aside.

3. Finely grind the peanuts with the salt in a food processor. Transfer to a medium bowl, add the oil, milk, and sugar, and stir until well combined. Add the dry ingredients and stir until well combined.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert the cake onto the rack and let cool for another 10 minutes.

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