This three-layer chocolate peanut butter cake features moist chocolate cake, peanut butter frosting, and silky chocolate ganache. If you love chocolate peanut butter desserts, you’re going to adore this cake! 

A chocolate peanut butter cake on a wooden cake stand, with chocolate chunks and peanut butter in small dishes in the foreground.

This decadent layer cake isn’t short on chocolate-peanut butter flavor! 

The chocolate cake layers remain ultra moist thanks to the combination of oil and buttermilk in the batter. Instant espresso powder amps up the chocolate flavor without making it taste like coffee.

The peanut butter buttercream frosting is a simple mixture of creamy peanut butter, butter, powdered sugar, and heavy cream. It’s incredibly fluffy and pipes like a dream! 

I couldn’t resist drizzling chocolate ganache over the top of the cake. I used a 1:1 ratio of chocolate and heavy cream to create a smooth, spreadable ganache that drips perfectly over the edges of the cake. 

This really is the best chocolate peanut butter cake that’s a perfect “anytime” dessert to have on hand. Birthdays, parties, family gatherings — chocolate and peanut butter are always a good idea!

An overhead view of the ingredients needed to make a chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting.

Ingredients for This Recipe 

This cake has three components: the chocolate cake layers, the peanut butter frosting, and the optional chocolate ganache topping. I won’t go over the full list of ingredients right now, but I did want to touch on a few of them.  

  • Buttermilk: Buttermilk is more acidic than regular milk, which creates a tender crumb. If you don’t keep buttermilk on hand, you can make a buttermilk substitute in about five minutes. 
  • Oil: You’ll want to use a neutral-flavored oil, like canola or vegetable oil. You may also use melted coconut oil, but make sure all of your other ingredients are at room temperature so that it doesn’t solidify when you mix everything together.
  • Espresso Powder: This is completely optional and won’t make the cake taste like coffee. Espresso powder just makes the cake taste more chocolatey. You can replace it with instant coffee or omit it from the recipe. 
  • Peanut Butter: I recommend using a creamy, no-stir peanut butter for the frosting like Jif or Skippy. You want to avoid one where the oil separates from the peanut butter.

How to Make Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

This chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting requires some additional assembly, but it’s a straightforward recipe that’s easy to prepare. 

  1. Prepare your cake pans: Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with non-stick cooking spray. I also like to line the bottoms with parchment paper to keep the cake layers from sticking.
  2. Sift together the dry ingredients: This includes the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. This ensures that there are no lumps in the batter. Then, whisk in the granulated sugar and brown sugar.
  3. Add the wet ingredients: Stir the oil, eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk into the dry ingredients. 
  4. Add the instant espresso powder: Stir it into a cup of boiling water to dissolve it first, then add it to the cake batter. If you’re not using the espresso powder, you’ll still need to use boiling water for this recipe. 
  5. Bake the cake layers: Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans, then bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

An overhead view of chocolate cake batter in a glass mixing bowl.

Once the cake layers are finished baking, let them cool in their pans for 30 minutes before inverting them onto a wire rack to finish cooling. Once the cake layers are cool, you can make the peanut butter buttercream frosting. 

  1. Beat the butter until smooth: I like to use a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment for this step. 
  2. Add the peanut butter: You’ll need to stop and scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl as needed. The peanut butter tends to stick to the sides at first. 
  3. Add the powdered sugar: I recommend adding the sugar in two separate batches to make it easier to mix in.
  4. Add the heavy cream and vanilla: I thought 1/3 cup of heavy cream was perfect, but you may want to add a little more if the frosting is too thick.

An overhead view of peanut butter buttercream frosting in a glass mixing bowl.

Next, you’re ready to assemble the chocolate peanut butter cake. I’ve given detailed instructions on how to assemble a layer cake in the recipe card below, but here’s an overview of the process. 

  1. Level the tops of each cake: Be sure to save the scrap cake pieces for cake pops or snacking later! 
  2. Stack the cake: Place a dollop of frosting in the middle of a cake stand. This helps the first layer stick to the cake stand. Then, scoop roughly 3/4 cup of frosting onto the first layer and spread it out evenly. Place the second cake layer on top. You need to place this layer upside-down. Top the second layer with another scoop of frosting and place the last layer upside-down on top of that.
  3. Frost the cake: Use the remaining peanut butter frosting to frost the rest of the cake.
  4. Top with ganache: This step is optional, but it makes for a stunning presentation! 

An overhead view of a chocolate and peanut butter cake, topped with chocolate ganache. Three slices have been cut but not yet served.

Can This Cake Be Made in a Different Pan? 

Yes! I made this chocolate peanut butter layer cake with three 8-inch cake pans, but you may also use a 9×13-inch pan or two 9-inch cake pans. 

  • To make a 9×13 cake: Pour the batter into a greased 9×13 pan and bake for 35 to 45 minutes. I recommend cutting the frosting recipe in half.
  • To make a 9-inch cake: Divide the batter evenly between two 9-inch round cake pans and bake for 28 to 33 minutes. You will likely have some frosting leftover, but you can use it to either decorate the cake or freeze it for later.

Two slices of chocolate peanut butter cake on white dessert plates.

Does the Cake Need to Be Refrigerated? 

You may store this cake for 1 to 2 days at room temperature, but I prefer to refrigerate it so it stays fresh longer. I recommend storing it in an airtight container to prevent the cake from drying out. If stored properly, it will last up to four days in the fridge. 

Make-Ahead Instructions 

Want to make this cake in advance, but don’t have enough storage space in your fridge to do so? No problem! 

The chocolate cake layers can be baked up to 24 hours in advance. Cover them tightly and keep them at room temperature or in the fridge in the meantime. 

The peanut butter frosting can also be made up to 24 hours in advance. Transfer it to an airtight container and store it in the fridge. Let the frosting soften to room temperature before frosting the cake.

A slice of chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting. A bite is missing.

Baking Tips 

  • You’ll need to use a traditional, no-stir peanut butter for the frosting. A brand like Jif or Skippy works great! 
  • I created the drip for this cake using my chocolate ganache recipe. I suggest using the 1:1 ratio, just be sure to let it cool for about 30 minutes so that it’s thicker and easier to pipe. 
  • If you’re adding the chocolate drip onto the cake, a squeeze bottle works great! You can also use a piping bag or spoon to add the drips, then spread the rest of the ganache on top of the cake.

More Chocolate Peanut Butter Desserts to Try! 

Recipe Video

A chocolate peanut butter cake on a wooden cake stand. The cake is topped with a chocolate ganache drip and swirls of peanut butter frosting.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

5 from 1 rating
Prep Time: 1 hr 15 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins
Cooling Time: 2 hrs
Total Time: 3 hrs 45 mins
This three-layer chocolate peanut butter cake features moist chocolate cake, peanut butter frosting, and silky chocolate ganache. If you love chocolate peanut butter desserts, you're going to adore this cake! 

Ingredients

Servings: 8 slices

For the chocolate cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour spooned & leveled (250 grams)
  • ¾ cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (65 grams)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (200 grams)
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar (200 grams)
  • ½ cup canola or vegetable oil (120 ml)
  • 1 cup buttermilk (240 ml)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water (240 ml)
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder optional but recommended

For the peanut butter frosting:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter softened (230 grams)
  • 2 cups creamy peanut butter like Jif or Skippy (500 grams)
  • 4 cups powdered sugar (480 grams)
  • cup heavy whipping cream (80 ml)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Chocolate ganache optional (I use the 1:1 ratio)

Instructions
 

  • To make the chocolate cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray, line the bottom of each pan with a parchment paper circle, and set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together. Whisk in the granulated sugar and brown sugar until well combined.
  • Add the oil, buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla extract and mix until just combined, the batter should be thick at this point.
  • Add the instant espresso powder to the cup of boiling water and mix until fully dissolved. Add to the mixing bowl and mix until just combined, the batter will be very thin.
  • Pour the batter evenly between the three prepared cake pans.
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean and the tops spring back when lightly touched.
  • Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool in the pans for 30 minutes. Run a knife around the outside of each cake layer in the pan, then carefully remove the cakes from the pans and place on the wire rack to cool completely.
  • To make the peanut butter frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes or until smooth.
  • Add the peanut butter and mix until fully combined, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  • Mix in half of the powdered sugar until well combined, then mix in the remaining half of the powdered sugar. The mixture will be very thick at this point.
  • Add the heavy whipping cream and vanilla extract and mix on low to medium speed for about 1 more minute until the mixture is thick and creamy, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  • To assemble the cake: Level the tops of each cake layer with a knife or cake leveler.
  • Add a tablespoon of buttercream to the center of a cardboard cake round or a cake stand to help the cake stick to the surface and not move around.
  • Place the first layer of cake onto your work surface. Scoop ¾ cup to 1 cup of frosting onto the first layer of cake and spread it around into one even layer.
  • Place the second cake layer upside down on top of the frosted cake layer. Spread another ¾ cup to 1 cup of frosting on top and spread it around into one even layer.
  • Place the third cake layer upside down on top of the frosted cake layer. Use the remaining frosting to frost the top and sides of the cake. If piping some decorations on top, reserve 1 to 1 ½ cups of frosting for later.
  • If using the chocolate ganache, allow it to cool for 20 to 30 minutes before adding it on top of the cake.

Notes

Storage Instructions: Cake may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Freezing Instructions: Cake and frosting will freeze well for up to 3 months. Thaw the frosting to room temperature and mix well before assembling the cake.
Cuisine: American
Course: Dessert
Author: Danielle
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