With Zane’s second birthday quickly approaching, I’ve been dabbling in a bit of party planning. While I get overwhelmed by all the advanced crafting that shows up when I search Pinterest for party ideas, I find my comfort zone in creating a menu for the event and am especially looking forward to making the cake.
As part of my “research” I experimented with making a chocolate version of my DIY healthy smash cake. I am so excited to share the resulting recipe: still free of refined sugars, made with whole grain flour, and yet satisfyingly fudgy. I switched up the frosting this time, too, by adding peanut butter and trying out cream cheese in lieu of Greek yogurt. The flavors here – chocolate, banana, and peanut butter – are a winning combination worthy of a celebration.
Since this was a recipe testing venture, I opted against a smash cake photo shoot with my almost-2-year-old, although I have to admit I wondered how he would react at this stage in the game if I placed an entire cake in front of him. I’m guessing he would request a fork (accompanied by a look on his face that would read: “what kind of animal do you think I am?”). Or, hey, maybe he’d just dig right in with his hands, same as his 1-year-old self. As usual I did use him and my husband as my recipe testers, and both gave this healthy chocolate cake a thumbs up.
The cream cheese-based frosting, flavored with all-natural peanut butter and lightly sweetened with honey, is rich and a lovely partner to the moist chocolate-banana cake. I can see the merits of using this variation or the Greek yogurt frosting in the original healthy banana cake, depending on mood and preference. The cream cheese frosting is less expensive, doesn’t require straining, and has a more in-your-face flavor; the Greek yogurt version is lighter, tangier, and a bit softer. The good thing is you can’t go wrong with either one!
Healthy Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from DIY Healthy Smash Cake
For the cake:
1 1/4 c whole spelt flour (or whole wheat flour, or all-purpose flour)
1/2 c cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3 ripe bananas (plus more for garnish and layering, if desired)
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/4 c maple syrup or honey
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
For the frosting*:
2 – 8 oz packages cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 c creamy peanut butter
1/3 c honey
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
2. In a separate medium bowl, mash the bananas well. Stir in the melted butter until smooth. Add the maple syrup, egg, and vanilla and stir to combine. Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined.
3. Divide the batter evenly between three buttered, 5-inch** cake pans. (I actually have only one 5-inch pan, so I baked one at a time.) Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Turn cakes out onto a cooling rack until cooled completely.
4. While the cakes cool, make the frosting. Add the cream cheese to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and beat on high until light and fluffy. (Alternately, add to a large bowl and beat with a handheld mixer.) Add the peanut butter and honey and beat until smooth.
5. Place the first cake layer on your serving plate with a heaping 1/4 c of frosting, spreading it in an even layer all the way past the edges (you can use a knife for this, but an offset spatula is best), so some frosting hangs off the sides of the cake. Add a second layer of cake and repeat with the frosting. Top with the final cake layer and add about half of the remaining frosting. Spread the frosting evenly on the top of the cake, allowing some of it to hang or even fall a little down the sides. Using this frosting overhang, as well as the excess frosting from the middle layers, evenly coat the sides of the cake – this is the “crumb coat.” Move to the refrigerator for 30 minutes before applying the remaining frosting evenly to the cake. (Optional: add banana slices between the layers and garnish with banana slices just before serving.)
*You could also make this a peanut butter Greek yogurt frosting. Substitute 2 1/2 c Greek yogurt for the cream cheese. Strain the Greek yogurt overnight in the fridge in a sieve lined with a double layer of cheesecloth, with a bowl underneath to catch the liquid before proceeding with the recipe so the frosting is piping consistency.
**The cake recipe also makes 1 8-inch cake layer. Triple the recipe for a beautiful layer cake for a crowd.