I recently went down a Jane Austen rabbit hole, all in thanks to peanut butter frosting. Yes, peanut butter frosting. Stay with me, I’ll explain.
Whilst making peanut butter frosting for some cupcakes for a friend of a friend, my spice grinder overheated and broke. (I make my own powdered sugar which is very easy to make at home, if you have the proper equipment, that is.) I did not have enough powdered sugar to create the consistency I needed for the frosting and made several attempts to “fix” the frosting I had, to no avail. In COVID-19 times, a “quick trip” to the market for new equipment or a box of powdered sugar was out of the question for me.
When I finally threw in the towel, my kitchen resembled that of one Bridget Jones during the famous birthday dinner scene in Bridget Jones’s Diary where her kitchen is turned completely upside-down thanks to blue soup, omelet with caper berry gravy and a dessert that tastes like orange marmalade. I couldn’t help but feel like poor Bridge—so helpless and so quick to reach for the bottle of booze. Her surprising visit from Mark Darcy (ding dong!) to help save the day (and win her heart!) was a dreamy rom-com narrative, but this story doesn’t quite end like that, sadly. Though I’ve spent many a times thinking about it. As well as that scene where Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy emerges from a pastoral lake after a swim in Pride & Prejudice. (Ding fucking dong!)
I hate throwing away food. Instead, I saved the remnants of the unstructured (yet quite delicious) frosting and put it in the fridge for a later time. Then I continued thinking about Jane Austen, as one does when you’ve been dissecting her work since you were a teenager. I had long wished to watch the TV series adaptation of her final and unfinished work in Sanditon (Available for streaming on PBS with a subscription or via Amazon.) but never had the time to. And oh, well that is no longer an excuse, is it?
I signed up for the week-long free trial subscription with the goal of watching as much content as I can within that time. I binge-watched Sanditon, finishing in a day and a half, and then that turned into watching Northanger Abbey followed by Love & Friendship. In the middle of this Austen-adaptation marathon, I decided to use the leftover frosting and make something to snack on while I binged on the couch. (The bottle of wine needs pairing company, you know.) And then the idea came upon me—the answer is Mr. Darcy. What goes better with peanut butter aside from jelly? Chocolate! And what pairs well with chocolate? Wine! It’s a win-win.
(Side note: This isn’t my first foray in deconstructing Austen’s adaptations work in this blog. Check out this post for more Bridget Jones’s Diary fun.)
I altered the chocolate cupcake recipe I had originally used to make a Ding Dong. The peanut butter frosting doesn’t have the same marshmallow-like consistency of the original Hostess treat, but what this cake snack lacks in that filling texture well makes up for in flavor. Trust me when I tell you these “Ding Dong”-like treats are the belle to any Regency ball.
As with all of my more recent recipes, this is vegan and gluten-free. You most certainly can make this with gluten by subbing the GF flour with pastry flour.
Peanut Butter Ding Dong Cakes
Yields about 6 cakes (with leftover scrap pieces for even more snacking!)
Complete Recipe by A Streetcar Named Devour
Cake recipe slightly adapted from Minimalist Baker
FOR THE CAKES
2 flaxseed eggs (2T flaxseed + 5T hot water combined)
1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I used soy in this with wonderful results)
3/4t apple cider vinegar
1.5t baking soda
1/3 cup coconut sugar
1/3 cup blackstrap molasses
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 cup applesauce
1/2t pure vanilla extract
1/4t Kosher salt
1/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 cup GF oat flour
1 cup GF blend flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch non-stick square pan like this and a 9″x5″ loaf pan like this one with oil and dust with some GF flour. (If you have a pan large enough that fits 6 cakes, go for it!)
Combine the flaxseed egg ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Combine the milk and vinegar in a separate large bowl and allow to sit for a few minutes while you gather the rest of your ingredients. (This will give your milk time to curdle.) Then add the baking soda to the milk-vinegar mixture.
Add the flax eggs, sugar and molasses to the milk-vinegar mixture. Mix to combine. Add the applesauce, coconut oil, vanilla and salt to the mix, stir. Sift in the cocoa powder. And then mix in the flours. You should get a nice thick batter.
Distribute the batter to both pans evenly. Bake for about 30-35 mins or until the cake is done. Once done baking, set aside to cool.
FOR THE FROSTING
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup vegan butter (I like Miyoko’s or Earth Balance)
1/2t pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/8 cup soy milk
In a hand-held or stand mixer, cream the peanut butter and vegan butter together till light and fluffy. Slowly add in the vanilla extract and mix till combined. In 1/4 cup increments, add in the powdered sugar, alternating with a bit of the soy milk every time. Set aside.
FOR THE CHOCOLATE COATING
1 cup vegan dark chocolate
1T coconut oil
In a double-boiler (a heatproof glass bowl over a pot of boiling water) melt the chocolate. Turn off the heat and then add in the coconut oil. Stir to combine.
Once the cakes are cooled down, use a circular cookie cutter to punch out six cakes. I have (and love!) this one. Carefully remove the scraps and set aside for a later project or in-between snacking.
With a piping bag and 1M star tip, flip the cake over and pipe a bit of the frosting. Repeat with the rest of the cakes.
Set up a cooling rack with a baking sheet underneath and take your melted chocolate bowl and place a cake (one at a time) in the melty chocolate. Flip it over to fully coat each side. Carefully remove the cake and set on the cooling rack top side up. Repeat till all cakes are nicely coated. Take the cooling rack/sheet tray to the refrigerator to set the chocolate, about 30 mins to an hour.
The cakes are ready to eat once the chocolate has completely dried and no longer leaves a thumbprint when you touch the chocolate.
Enjoy with a bottle of wine and your favorite Jane Austen book or film!