One of my wife’s great treats in life is that good old American staple, the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Like many people who are easily confused, I spent years oblivious to the fact that the jelly in question wasn’t the wobbly kind that we have in the UK, but was just our overseas cousins’ term for jam!
When her birthday came around this year, I determined to perfect this marriage made in heaven in cake form! I tried this recipe with a number of different jams and a number of different peanut butters, so the one here is that which my unsophisticated palate determined was the best. When my wife makes the sandwich, she always goes for strawberry jam but I just felt this worked better with the raspberry and went for the seeded because (as I often mention) I enjoy that rustic feel that the bite of a seed gives you! It just feels so home made! But, if you don’t like it, then go for seedless! Similarly, each try necessitated a different peanut butter and the variety I found which worked best was Skippy, for the perfect balance of sweet saltiness.
This really is an amazing cake and the first words out of my wife’s mouth on enjoying it on her birthday was “Oh, my God, that’s amazing, it tastes just like the sandwich, but in cake form!” Which, as far as I’m concerned, is an all out win!
- 3 eggs
- 8¾ fluid ounces / 250ml buttermilk
- 8½ ounces / 245g raspberry jam
- 3¾ ounces / 110g, unsalted butter, softened
- 13½ / 380g caster sugar
- 11¼ ounces / 320g plain flour
- 2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 7 ounces / 200g Skippy smooth peanut butter
- 13¾ ounces / 450g Philadelphia cream cheese
- ½ tablespoon of vanilla extract
- 1 lb and 1½ ounces / 500g icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 170°C (150°C fan) / 338°F (302°F fan).
Line three 8 inch / 20 cm loose bottom sandwich cake tins with greaseproof paper.
Combine the eggs, buttermilk and 2½ ounces / 75g of the jam in a jug.
In a freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder to form a fine breadcrumb.
Slowly add the egg mixture to the flour mix on a medium speed until you have a smooth batter.
Divide the batter evenly between the three tins and bake for 30-40 minutes until they are a deep golden colour and the sponge is springy to the touch.
Cool the sponges in the tins for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the frosting, beat the peanut butter in a bowl until it is light and fluffy (see Tips below).
Add the Philadelphia, vanilla extract and a generous pinch of salt and combine until mixed and smooth.
Slowly add the icing sugar in batches, mixing carefully until just incorporated.
Put 3 ounces / 85g of jam onto one of the sponges and spread to cover the top, followed by 3 generous tablespoons of the icing and do the same, to make one layer of your filling. Do the same with another of the sponges and place these two on top of each other.
Take your third sponge and put it on top of the other two. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake and smooth.
It’s best to complete all of the icing stages by hand as it’s very easy for the cream cheese to split and go runny, making it impossible to decorate your cake. However, you can do all of these stages in a freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment, but you need to keep the speed on low and stop the moment the mixture appears to be getting too runny.
This is a posher version of a peanut butter and jam (or jelly) sandwich which has been a popular combination for over a century. In fact, the first reference to combining the two appeared in a 1901 edition of the Boston Cooking-School Magazine of Culinary Science and Domestic Economics with a recipe by Julia Davis Chandler. At first a bit of a luxury, as the price of peanut butter dropped in the early 1900s, so the combination spread in popularity into more humble homes. It became popular with children and during the Second World War was reputedly on the US soldiers’ military ration list.