A chocolate cake topped with pretzels
Photography, Ben Dearnley

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Sour cream elevates this cake like a "cheat's salted caramel".

Alice Zaslavsky has an impressive and delicious recipe for every meal of the day, from breakfast (try her Oladi Pancakes With Sour Cherries) to dessert (Marmalade Sandwich Cookies). This cake definitely falls into the latter category. She writes, “The weirdest thing happens to sour cream when you add it to sweets…it’s like a cheat’s salted caramel! I love how it elevates a simple chocolate cake to something far more interesting, and the way it cuts through the richness of chocolate and peanut butter to prevent them from becoming cloying. It’s always handy having a go-to chocolate cake in your wheelhouse, and you’ll find yourself wheeling this one out for birthdays and parties by request.”

Zaslavsky also offers the following riffs for this recipe:

  • For the quickest salted caramel flavored topping, drizzle honey over sour cream and smoosh it together, then smear over the cooled cake.
  • Sprinkle freeze-dried raspberry powder across the top of the ganache, or dot with fresh or dried banana.
  • Bake the batter in cupcake pans and decorate with ganache and pretzels.
A chocolate cake topped with pretzels

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Alice Zavlavsky's recipe for a rich chocolate peanut butter cake made with sour cream.
Course Dessert
Servings 10


  • butter for greasing
  • 1 cup just-boiling water
  • 1 cup crunchy peanut butter see note

Wet mix

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • scant ½ cup butter melted and cooled

Dry mix

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda


  • 7 oz dark couverture chocolate
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup half and half cream

To Decorate

  • plain pretzels optional
  • chocolate-dipped pretzels optional
  • chopped toasted peanuts optional


  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the sides of a 8 inch (20 cm) springform cake pan, lining the base with parchment paper.
  • For the wet mix, whisk the sour cream in a bowl with the eggs and vanilla until smooth. Add the cooled melted butter and mix well.
  • Sift the dry mix ingredients together into a separate bowl, then add the wet ingredients, stirring with a flexible spatula while slowly adding the just-boiling water. Mix until smooth. Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the top springs back.
  • Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cake rack and leave to cool completely. Trim the top using a serrated knife, or skip this step if you don’t mind a mound.
  • Spread the peanut butter all over the top and sides of the cake, being generous with how you heap it on, so it’s less likely to drag into the cake crumb. Place in the fridge to chill.
  • To make the ganache, chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a heatproof bowl. Heat the sour cream and cream until just about boiling, then pour it over the chocolate and leave to sit for a minute. When the chocolate is melting, stir with a flexible spatula until glossy. Leave to cool a little.
  • Put a lined tray or board under the cake rack, to catch the ganache. Pour the ganache over the cake, smoothing with a flexible spatula. You can also wait until the ganache has firmed up, then spread it across the cake as more of a frosting, though this results in a thicker layer. If using pretzels and peanuts, press them into the ganache while still warm and leave to set. This cake will keep for 4 to 5 days in a cool spot in an airtight container.


My favourite peanut butter for toast – and for cake – is always crunchy … smooth just feels like something’s missing. You’re welcome to use straight-up crushed roasted peanuts, or any other nut or nut butter, for that matter.

A book cover in a light tan frame

Excerpted from Better Cooking by Alice Zaslavsky. Copyright © 2024 Alice Zaslavsky. Photographs by Ben Dearnley. Published by Appetite an imprint of Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.


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