Gothic Circus Cake is an eerie take on classic candy bar flavors!
I have no qualms about excessive Halloween posts.
There is never too much Halloween. The contrasts of Gothic and vibrant colors, the intended spookiness and macabre make for a fun holiday. Sure, the Halloween holiday we know and celebrate today is far from the Catholic holiday origins, but it doesn’t mean Halloween can’t be enjoyed.
I do mind when stores rub my face with Christmas, but I have no qualms about stores shoving Halloween at me in August. Unlike other holidays, Halloween doesn’t require a grandiose evening supper with multiple courses, piles of roasted meats, buttery starch, and inevitable food comas. Other holidays are heavy, intense, and loaded with way too much expectation. Halloween goals lay only on candy and a good evening weather.
Gross and gory are not what I want for my desserts. No maggots, body parts, and green slime here on this Gothic Circus Cake. I firmly believe that scary doesn’t have to be gross.One of my go-to movies for Halloween is The Moth Man. I don’t have to see the actual creature to be creeped out and needing to turn ALL of the lights on in the room!
The Gothic Circus Cake takes the Circus elephant’s favorite snack—the peanut—and uses the nut in the filling and frosting. The elephant is unique to the American Circus. An African elephant was a traveling curiosity in 19th century America. The idea of using the elephant was picked up by American circus circuit. After the elephant addition, a slue of exotic animals made their way into circus productions as an animal menagerie.
Like any moist chocolate cake, this chocolate cake uses boiled water. But the use of cake flour and butter makes for a delicate crumb. I didn’t add espresso to the cake batter. The chocolate cake has the flavors of the milk silky milk chocolate coating on Halloween candy bars. I know people love the chocolate coating on candy bars, but for me, the filling is front and center! Slightly salty and chewy make for a perfect reprieve against the sea of moist chocolate cake.
The layers of the Gothic Circus Cake have a dough-like filling that tastes like the inside of a peanut butter cup! Granular, nutty, and slightly savory, this inside peanut butter cup filling is for those who can’t get enough peanut butter cups. The savory earthy hint of the filling comes from the nutritional yeast. Contrasting the dough is a peanut butter caramel sauce, that mirrors the flavors of a payday or snickers candy bar. The peanut butter caramel acts as a glue for the cake and filling.
The frosting has the flavors of marshmallow and peanut butter. Dying the frosting makes for a Gothic atmosphere! I used this tutorial to create the buttercream stripes.
Enjoy your own three ring Halloween circus with this circus peanut Gothic Circus Cake!
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- For the Milk Chocolate Cake:
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 cup boiling water
- 3 cups cake flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon fine salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup sour cream
- For the Peanut Butter Caramel Sauce:
- ½ cup creamy peanut butter
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- For the Peanut Butter Cup Filling:
- 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon fine salt
- ½ cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¾ cup creamy peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 to 2 tablespoons milk
- For the Peanut Butter Marshmallow Frosting:
- 2 cups (4 sticks, 16 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 2 cups creamy peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 8 to 10 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 cups marshmallow fluff
- Purple and black food gel coloring
- For assembling the Gothic Circus Cake:
- Circus peanut candies
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup roasted salted peanut, roughly chopped
- Maldon sea salt
- Red sanding sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 3 8-inch cake pans with baking spray, set aside.
- Dissolve cocoa powder in boiling water, set aside to cool. In the meantime, sift the cake flour baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl down. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract.
- With the mixer on low add the dry ingredients in three addition and the sour cream in two additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.
- Add in the cocoa mixture. Use a rubber spatula and give the batter a few folds to ensure the batter is completely mixed.
- Divide the batter evenly between the pans and bake for 25 to 28 minutes, rotating halfway. A toothpick inserted should come out with a few moist crumbs. Do not over bake these cakes. Invert immediately onto a wire rack and cool completely.
- Combine all of the ingredients except for the vanilla into a medium heavy bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until it thickens and bubble rapidly. Pour into a heat safe bowl. Stir in the vanilla. Cool before using.
- Whisk the flour, nutritional yeast, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter on a medium speed until smooth and lump free, about 1 minute. Add the sugars and beat for another 1 minute. Beat in the peanut butter, mixing until incorporated. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl down.
- With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients. If the mixture is looking too dry add milk a tablespoon at a time. The filling should have the consistency of a moderately thick cookie dough, but not too thick).
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on a medium speed until smooth and lump free, about 3 minutes. Add the peanut butter and blend until incorporated. Mix in the vanilla and then scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl down.
- With the mixer on low, gradually add the powdered sugar and marshmallow fluff. Once added, raise the speed to medium high and beat until fluffy and slightly whipped, about 1 minutes.
- Divide the frosting and tint one batch purple and the other black. When adding the food gel coloring, do it gradually. As the frosting ‘rests’ the color will darken and deepen. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- If the cakes have domes, use a serrated knife to level each layer. Dollop a bit of frosting onto a cake boar and secure the first layer.
- Spread on the Caramel Sauce, sprinkle on the chopped roasted peanuts, and pipe on the Peanut Butter Cup Filling. Repeat this process with the second layer. Top with the final third layer.
- Give the cake a crumb coating of purple frosting. Chill. Decorate with buttercream stripes in accordance to the tutorial. Garnish with Circus peanuts, chopped peanuts, maldon salt, and red sanding sugar.
Other recipes your may enjoy:
Damaris Phillip’s Chocolate Cake