Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cake from Cleo Coyle (A Great Use for Halloween Treats)

The Reese's Peanut Butter Cup is the number one most popular candy in America. This delicious marriage of chocolate and peanut butter is also the number one favorite of this blog's followers. 

(To see the results of the poll you took last week, click here.)

To see the results of last week's
Top 10 Candies Poll, click here.
Many of you left fun comments about your favorite candies from past Halloweens. Some of you even shared brands that I'd forgotten about or were new to me, including: the Violet Crumble (made by an Australian candy company); the Triple Decker; and the ingenious Sky Bar

Among the comments was this one from ceblain, which mentioned a marriage of something more than chocolate and peanut butter. She wrote:

"...For our 50th wedding anniversary in November our daughter and son-in-law are taking us (and our three grandchildren) to PA and our first two day or three day stop is in Hershey....Should be fun and it will be wonderful to be with our daughter and her family as we celebrate a half century of being married."

Happy 50th Anniversary, ceblain! 
I would love to send you the Reese's Mug as an anniversary gift from me and my husband, Marc. We have a long way to go for 50 years, but we certainly hope we'll make it, too! Contact me via my public mail box and I'll get your address to send you the mug. My mail box is CoffeehouseMystery(at)gmail(dot)com.

BTW - The winner of last week's comment-to-win contest (via random number generator) was Wendy West

Congratulations, Wendy,
you won the Reese's Latte Mug!

Thanks to everyone who entered and left comments. Stay tuned for more giveaways as I count down the weeks to the release of my new Coffeehouse Mystery (Billionaire Blend).

As for my recipe this week, I was (obviously) inspired by America’s favorite candy choice (and yours). All you need is a few ingredients, including a handful of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. So go ahead and pinch a few from your kids' trick-or-treat bags. They won't mind, especially after they take one bit of this amazing cake. So let's start baking! 

~ Cleo

Cleo Coyle, who thinks
chocolate and peanut butter
make a good marriage, writes
The Coffeehouse Mysteries
with her husband.
Cleo Coyle's Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cake

This classic cake is out of this world. Truly. My husband, Marc, absolutely flipped for it. It's impressive to serve because it's full of flavor and (despite the candy on top) not overly sweet.

While this Devil's Food may appear sinful, the peanut butter actually brings protein and nutrition to the dessert. Sure, the candy scattered on top looks decadent, but in truth it's no more than 4 snack size peanut butter cups chopped finely (after freezing--one of my tips for keeping the candy intact during the chopping process). 

For those of you who don't bake much, you'll be happy to know that I used a cake mix starter for this recipe, which means you can bake this crowd-pleasing cake without one worry that it will fall or come out uneven; and, I promise you, my added ingredients will do wonders for the flavor. 

And speaking of flavor: I think it's the vanilla in the peanut butter icing that takes it over the top, evoking that delicious Reese's peanut butter filling. And away we go...

To download this recipe in a PDF document that you can print, save, or share, click here.

Makes one 9x13-inch sheet cake

Cake Ingredients:

1 standard box of Devil’s Food cake mix 

2 tablespoons natural, unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup low fat milk (1% or 2% is best) 

1/3 cup brewed and cooled coffee (*see my note)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter 

1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil 

3 large eggs, lightly beaten with fork

Ingredients to finish:

Peanut butter Icing (recipe included)

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, chopped into small pieces (In my photos, I used 4 "snack size" peanut butter cups; not regular size and not minis or miniatures) 

*Cleo’s Coffee Note: You will not taste the coffee in your cake. Coffee is a way to boost the chocolate flavor in any recipe. If you’d rather not use coffee, no worries; simply increase the milk to 1-1/3 cups.

Directions: First preheat your oven to 350° F. and put your peanut butter cups in the freezer (this will allow you to slice them without smushing them). 

Get out a 13 x 9-inch baking pan and lightly coat the bottom and sides with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside. 

Place the “Cake Ingredients” into a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer blend on low until ingredients are combined and then beat on high for 2 full minutes. (You are beating air into the batter, so don’t cut it short.) 

Pour the batter into your prepared pan. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes in an oven well-preheated to 350° F. Do not over-bake. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (with no batter clinging to it). Allow to cool, and then frost with my Peanut Butter Icing (recipe included). Garnish with chopped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (see my tips below). 

Cleo’s garnishing tips: Be sure to freeze the peanut butter cups before chopping them. Slice carefully, making sure to keep the pieces small but intact (do not smush them). Finally, when you place them on the cake, do it one piece at a time, turning the peanut butter side up and putting the ridge side down into the icing (as you see in my finished photos). This will give your cake a more pleasing appearance.

Peanut Butter Icing 

Frosts the top of one 9x13-inch sheet cake


1/2 cup creamy peanut butter 

4 Tablespoons butter (1/2 stick), softened (room temperature) 

4-1/2 teaspoons milk 

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 

1 cup powdered sugar

Directions: Using an electric mixer, cream the peanut butter and softened butter until fluffy. Add the milk and vanilla. Blend on low speed until smooth. Finally, add the powdered sugar and beat on high until you have a light and fluffy frosting. (If your climate is dry, and the frosting is still too stiff, add 1 to 2 more teaspoons of milk and beat again.)

Did you know the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup was invented by a former dairy farmer named H.P. Reese who worked for Milton Hershey as a shipping foreman?

Inspired by Mr. Hershey, Reese started his own candy company in the basement of his home, using Hershey’s chocolate to make the peanut butter cup. After the death or Mr. Reese, his six sons merged their company with Hershey’s—not unlike their culinary product. 

And speaking of culinary products:

I certainly hope this cake is one you will... 

Eat with (Halloween) joy!
~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
Friend me on facebook here.
Follow me on twitter here
Visit my online coffeehouse here.

To view the
Coffeehouse Mystery
book trailer, click here.

A Coffeehouse Mystery

Countdown to Release:
December 3rd

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village coffeehouse, and each of the
12 titles includes the added bonus of recipes. 

The Ghost and
Mrs. McClure

Book #1 of 

The Haunted Bookshop
, which Cleo writes
under the name
Alice Kimberly

To learn more, click here.


  1. That cake looks decadent and delicious. I think I will wait and make it for a party or potluck dinner -- otherwise I might just polish off the whole thing!

    I recently tried a new-to-me candy bar called a GooGoo Cluster, which is apparently a tradition here in the South, but since I didn't grow up here I had never had one before. It was actually quite good, and reminded me a bit of another favorite, the Bun Candy Bar. Emboldened by this pleasant surprise, I may just be able to work up the courage to try a Cherry Mash, although it is tough to look beyond the Pepto-Bismol pink filling!

    1. Cee Pluse - Interesting! Marc and I grew up with Bun Candy Bars, and we both love them. I never had a GooGoo Cluster (although I've heard of them), and I say go for it. Not so sure about the Cherry Mash, that one is new to me. (Let's hope the filling doesn't *taste* like Pepto, eh? :))

      Thanks for dropping by; I hope you enjoy the recipe *and* have a very tasty Halloween!

      ~ Cleo
      Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  2. That's a beauty Cleo! I will definitely try the peanut butter frosting--that would go with any chocolate cake I bet. Happy Halloween to you and Marc!

    1. Lucy/Roberta - Yes, yes! The frosting is truly delicious and will go well with any chocolate cake. Happy Halloween to my fellow crime-writing cook...

      ~ Cleo
      Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  3. Another winner!
    I tried for years (several moons ago) to find someone who could bake the equivalent of a Reese's Cup in cake form. No one could figure it out. I think this cake with this icing may be the answer. All it needs is a ganache drizzle to finish it!

    1. Libby - You and I are surfing the same culinary wave. I too considered a drizzle of chocolate ganache, but I ultimately decided on the chopped peanut butter cups instead. For me, it's an "either or" situation and here's why: The great thing about this cake (IMO) is that it's not cloyingly sweet. Despite the kids' candy on top, it’s very much an adult dessert with multiple levels of flavor. So if you do add the ganache, do so with a light touch, and you should be good to go (for your fork)!

      Thanks for dropping by today, Libby, it’s always a pleasure to see you in the Kitchen...

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

    2. What a perfect way to use America's favorite candy! I can't think of too many people who wouldn't happily settle in with a hunk of this. I plan to test it on my family soon. And hey - who says that's a kids' candy topping?

  4. Love your recipes. I still make your butterscotch cheese cake for my sister-in-law's birthday every year. If anyone hasn't tried it, do. You won't be disappointed.

  5. This has my husband's name on it! He LOVES peanut butter cups. Would I be contributing to the delinquency of a type 2 diabetic if I made it?

  6. Oh, yum! This looks too good. I'm trick-or-treating at your house this year!


  7. I know some kids who are going to be very happy campers with this recipe. Husbands, too. :)


    Daryl / Avery

  8. Oh boy, Cleo! I too will have to wait to make this as otherwise I would lock myself away with it and eat it until it was gone. Reese's peanut butter cups are my drug of choice.

    But I have a couple of occasions coming up where it will be a huge hit - it goes way beyond Halloween, although it's perfect for that too!

  9. I made the cake with Roma (found at Whole Foods) & mini peanut butter cups (what I could find on sale). Very Tasty! In the recipe book it goes :D