This peanut butter cake is the perfect recipe for true peanut butter lovers! With layers of moist and tender cake that’s infused with peanut butter and creamy peanut butter frosting – it’s surprisingly not too sweet and has the most delicious peanut butter flavor.
The Best Peanut Butter Cake Recipe
I’ve been working on the perfect peanut butter cake recipe for years – and I can finally say that the recipe is perfected. It’s extremely moist and tender with cake crumb that’s soft and slightly dense, without being heavy. The flavor packs a serious peanut butter punch because the cake is made with peanut butter in the batter and it’s topped with peanut butter frosting. To ensure that it didn’t end up too sweet, the frosting has just a touch of cream cheese to cut the sweetness and add a delicious hint of tanginess. The frosting is creamy and peanut buttery, and is the perfect topping for true peanut butter lovers.
After testing and retesting, I found that peanut butter can really dry out the cake and make it too dense – since peanut butter is very heavy. To ensure that the cake is moist and tender, but still with enough of a peanut butter flavor, there’s 3 important components to this recipe:
- We’re using oil instead of butter. Since oil is liquid and room temperature (instead of butter, which is solid) it ensures that the cake isn’t too dense. It also adds more moisture. You won’t taste the oil at all, since the peanut butter covers it up.
- We’re using both milk and sour cream for moisture.
- Mix in the dry ingredients and wet ingredients by hand with a wire whisk. Over mixing will make the batter tough.
Making the Cake – Step by Step Photos
To ensure success – I recommend reading through the details and explanation of each step below. If you’ve made this cake multiple times, then feel free to skip straight down below to the recipe.
- First you’ll whisk together the dry ingredients. I almost always do this first when making a cake because it ensures that the leaveners (baking soda and baking powder) are evenly distributed so that the cake has an even rise.
- Then in a separate large bowl you’ll beat together the oil, light brown sugar and peanut butter until smooth. This can easily be done by hand too if you want to avoid your electric mixer altogether. If you don’t have light brown sugar you can also substitute with a combination of dark brown sugar and granulated sugar. I’ve included the details in the recipe notes below.
- Mix in the eggs and vanilla extract. The eggs add tenderness and also help the cake to rise.
- Then whisk in the sour cream. At this point, you’ll mix everything into the batter by hand to avoid over mixing. This is very important!
- Carefully, whisk in about ½ of the flour mixture. Again – do this by hand. If you notice lumps of flour, I recommend sifting the dry ingredients into the batter.
- Then whisk in the milk. You’ll notice that we’re alternating between additions of the dry ingredients and flour mixture. This ensures that the batter mixes together evenly without over mixing.
- Finally, whisk in the rest of the dry ingredients. Stop mixing as soon as the flour is incorporated. You may see some little air bubbles in the cake. If you see a few small lumps, that’s ok.
- Divide the batter evenly between 2 prepared cake pans, and then they’ll go in the oven to bake.
Pan Sizes: I used two 8-inch round pans with 2 inch sides ( 20-cm round with 5-cm sides). They baked for about 30 minutes at 350F (180C or 160C fan-forced). If you only have sandwich tins with low sides (about 1.5 inches) – then use three 8-inch round pans. They’ll need about 22-26 minutes. Alternatively, you could use two 9-inch (23-cm) pans. They’ll need about 22-26 minutes to bake.
Frosting & Assembling the Cake
The frosting for this peanut butter layer cake is a creamy peanut butter frosting with just a hint of cream cheese. There isn’t enough cream cheese for that super tangy flavor. But it’s enough to cut the sweetness. If you want to skip the cream cheese, feel free to substitute with more butter.
To assemble the cake, always wait for the cake layers to cool fully. If the top of your cake layers are domed, gently saw off the rounded top using a serrated knife (again, only do this after they’ve cooled). This ensures that your cake layers site evenly on top of each other.
Place the first layer bottom side up on the plate or cake stand that yo plan to serve it on. I place strips of baking paper around the edges of the plate to keep it clean. You’ll frost the top with about ⅓ of the frosting. Then place the second cake layer, bottom side up, on top. I do a thin layer of frosting around the edges to seal in any crumbs then pop the cake in the fridge for about 20 minutes for the frosting to firm up and fully “seal” those crumbs in.
Then frost the sides and top with swirls of creamy frosting. This cake stands tall, tastes incredible and makes the perfect birthday cake for anyone who loves peanut butter. I topped mine with chopped peanut butter cups – but Reese’s pieces would be equally delicious.
Alternatively, topping this recipe with chocolate frosting is equally delicious.
For more layer cakes, be sure to check out:
- Classic Birthday Cake – this is a moist yellow cake with creamy chocolate frosting
- Chocolate Layer Cake
- Strawberry Cake
- Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting
The Best Peanut Butter Cake
- Two 8-inch round cake pans (with high sides)*
Peanut Butter Cake
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (250 grams)
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup vegetable oil (180 ml) canola oil works too
- 1 ½ cups light brown sugar (300 grams) or ¾ cup dark brown sugar and ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ¾ cup smooth peanut butter (180 grams)
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ⅓ cup sour cream (80 ml) room temperature
- ¾ cup milk (180 ml) room temperature
Peanut Butter Frosting
- ¾ cup unsalted butter (170 grams) softened but still slightly firm to the touch
- 2 ounces cream cheese (56 grams) full-fat, brick style
- ¾ cup peanut butter (180 grams)
- 3 ½ -4 ½ cups powdered sugar (420 - 540 grams)
- 1-2 tablespoons heavy cream (15-30 ml) if needed
Peanut Butter Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350F (180C or 160C fan-forced).
- Line the bottom of two 8-inch round cake pans with baking paper. Lightly grease and flour the sides. Be sure that the sides of the pans are at least 2 inches (5 cm). See recipe notes for pan size options.
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
- Beat together the oil, light brown sugar and peanut butter in a very large bowl.
- Mix in the eggs and vanilla extract. Stop mixing once you no longer see pieces of egg.
- Using a hand-held metal whisk, whisk in the sour cream.
- Whisk in about ½ of the flour mixture (again, whisking by hand).
- Carefully whisk in the milk.
- Whisk in the rest of the flour mixture until combined. Stop mixing once combined.
- Divide the batter evenly between the 2 prepared pan. Bake both on the middle rack of the oven for about 28-33 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean and you see the edges starting to pull away from the pan.
- Cool the cakes fully.
Peanut Butter Frosting
- In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter until smooth.
- Mix in the cream cheese, followed by the peanut butter.
- Starting with the mixer on a low speed, beat in about 2 cups of powdered sugar.
- Mix in the rest of the powdered sugar about ½ cup at a time until the desired sweetness is reached. If the frosting seems too thick, beat in 1-2 tablespoons of cream, 1 tablespoon at a time.
Assembling the Cake
- Ensure the cake layers are fully cooled before assembling the cake.
- If the tops of your cakes are domed, use a serrated knife to gently saw off the rounded tops.
- Place 1 cake layer bottom side up on the plate or cake stand that you plan to serve it on.
- Frost the top with about ⅓ of the frosting.
- Place the second cake layer on top, with the bottom facing up.
- Frost a thin layer of frosting around the sides to seal in any crumbs. Optionally, place the cake in the fridge for 20-30 minutes for the frosting to firm up.
- Frost the sides and top with swirls of peanut butter frosting. Optionally, top the cake with peanut butter cups.
- Pan Sizes: If you do not have 8-inch (20 cm) round pans with 2 inch (5 cm) sides, you can alternatively use:
- two 9-inch (23 cm) round pans - bake time 22-25 minutes at 350F
- three 8-inch (20 cm) round pans with 1.5 inch sides - bake time 22-25 minutes at 350F
- Light Brown Sugar: Feel free to substitute with ¾ cup dark brown sugar and ¾ cup granulated sugar. Do not use entirely granulated sugar - it won't provide the moisture and flavor that's needed.
- Peanut Butter: Be sure to use smooth, commercially prepared peanut butter in the cake batter and frosting. Natural or homemade peanut butter can separate and will not provide the proper consistency.
- Cream Cheese: The cream cheese can be substituted with an additional ¼ cup butter (for a total of 1 cup). The frosting will be slightly sweeter.
- Storage: Store leftovers covered at room temperature for up to 3 days, or in the fridge for up to 4 days. If your kitchen is warm, then I recommend storing in the fridge and letting the cake sit on the counter for about 30 minutes to come to room temperature before enjoyig.
- Make Ahead Tips: Cake layers can be baked the day before. Cool fully, then wrap in plastic and store in an airtight container. Make the frosting and assemble the cake the day you plan to serve.
- Nutrition: Details provided are an estimate only and based on 1 slice of cake with frosting, assuming all the frosting is used and the cake is sliced into 10 equal pieces.