Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Even if you didn’t eat them growing up, they make you think of childhood and school lunches. When I was in grade school, there were 2 brands of peanut butter and you could get smooth or crunchy. You also had your choice of pretty much only grape or strawberry and jelly or jam in those flavors. There was orange marmalade but that definitely did not belong on a PB & J. Now the possibilities are endless for peanut butter: honey roasted, sugar-free, sodium free, high fructose corn syrup free, natural, organic, reduced fat, already-swirled-with-jelly. I could go on and on. Gone are the days when you go to pick up peanut butter and you decide between Skippy and Jif and whether this month you want some peanut crunch in those sandwiches or not. Now picking out peanut butter is at least a five minute detour. Then you move on to the jelly aisle! Every fruit imaginable graces the shelves as a jelly, jam, fruit spread, marmalade, and fruit butter in flavors like guava, quince, pomegranate, crabapple, plum (5+ varieties of plum!), and more.
Despite my penchant for the unusual and twists on originals, I went classic for my PB & J. My GIANT PB & J… cake!
MMG, the contractor who is responsible for recruiting patients for our studies, is full of people who love food: cooking it, sharing it, getting creative with it. Every month they have a potluck lunch with a theme. The themes are always fun and allow me to get creative and wacky sometimes. As soon as I found out about these, I got on their email list and started infiltrating. Surprised? Yeah, me neither. This month’s theme was Back-to-School and the second I read that email I knew what I was going to make. It was the perfect excuse to buy this pan I discovered a month ago but didn’t have good reason to buy.
There is a recipe on the box for the sandwich bread cake but it didn’t excite me. I decided I wanted to make pound cake but wasn’t excited about any of the other recipes I was finding. So, I crossed my fingers and made one up! It had to be pretty white in color (not a lot of eggs/yolks) and have uniform bubbles so when I cut it still looked like bread. I am happy to report the pound-cake-recipe-on-the-fly was a success. AND I wrote my recipe down, which I sometimes forget to do.
Below you’ll find the recipe for the pound cake, peanut butter buttercream, and a quick strawberry jam. If you don’t want to make jam, just use your favorite flavored jam instead. You need to make the PB butter cream though; regular PB won’t hold up. I recommend making the cake the night before or very early in the morning on the day you plan to serve it. This gives the cake time to cool fully. You do NOT want to attempt this with a warm cake; everything will melt and make a mess. I baked my cake the night before, made the buttercream and jam, and then cut the cake and assembled it in about 20 minutes before work. Piece of cake!
White Sandwich “Bread” AKA Pound Cake
1 ¼ cups sugar
¾ cup butter
2 tsp vanilla
½ tsp lemon extract
½ cup plain yogurt
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour the bread-shaped cake pan (or a loaf pan if you just want a regular pound cake). Add the butter and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat together on high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Mix in (on medium) the extracts and yogurt until just combined. Add in the flour and sprinkle the salt, baking powder, and baking soda evenly over the top of the flour. Turn the mixer on low to stir in the dry ingredients until just combined. Do not over mix.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly to the edges. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 30 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
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Peanut Butter Buttercream
1 cup smooth peanut butter
4 tbl butter, softened but not warm
1 tbl light corn syrup (optional)
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tbl milk, more if needed
Beat together the peanut butter and butter until smooth. Beat in the corn syrup if using (it will make the frosting a little shiny like peanut butter) then the powdered sugar. With the mixer running, add in milk 1 tablespoon at a time until you get the consistency of a thick frosting. If you inadvertently make the frosting too thin, add in more powdered sugar. The buttercream should be spreadable and not runny so it stays put on the cake.
. . .
Quick Strawberry Jam
½ lb strawberries, hulled and chopped small
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
Juice of half a lemon
Combine all ingredients in a medium size pot. Cook on medium high, stirring frequently until the berries release some liquid. Let simmer for about 20 minutes. Mixture should be thick and coat the back of a spoon. Cool to room temperature then place in the fridge until completely cold. After refrigerating, the jam should be thick and spreadable. If it seems a little thin, strain briefly through a sieve.
To assemble the cake:
1) Cut the domed portion of the cake off level with the corners of the cake. This should leave you with something that looks just like a giant loaf of bread.
2) Next, cut the cake in half lengthwise using a long serrated bread knife. Remove the top layer and flip over; set aside.
3) Spread the peanut butter buttercream over the bottom layer of the cake, spreading all the way to the edges of the cake. You should have about a ½” layer of peanut butter when you get done (more if you want!) and may have some leftover buttercream. I suggest spreading in on the dome of the cake you cut off in the first step and having a cook’s treat!
4) Spread the jam over the top of the peanut butter buttercream. Spread it almost all the way to the edges; leave a little less than ½”. When you put the top on the jam will spread out to the edges.
5) Carefully place the top slice of bread on top. Stand back and behold your giant PB & J sandwich. I was as giddy as a school girl – pun possibly intended – once I saw the finished product. It looked so cute!
You can cut it diagonally like you would a sandwich or just leave it whole. If serving this for a regular party, I would put it on a big plate with some baby carrots & potato chips and a big glass of milk next to it. Since I was bringing it to work, I assembled it on my cake carrier that morning and off I went. The reaction to the cake was worth at least 3 times the price of that cake pan. It was such a hit! Plus, it tasted awesome – just like a big fat peanut butter and jelly.
I am so excited about this cake pan. I have already envisioned allll kinds of cake sandwiches: fluffernutter, BLT with “mayo,” a Reuben, French toast, turkey club sandwich. Just need some fondant and food coloring and you’re on your way to a plethora of options. You know what I really can’t wait to make? Giant fake fondant olives so I can cut the “sandwich” in half and stick the olives on top with toothpicks. Fun!