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Whenever I’m looking through a new cookbook, what never fails to make me bookmark a recipe is when I come across something that has caramelized nuts on it, or in it. Whether it be Honey-Almond Squares or Swedish Almond Cake, you can be sure you’ll find me in my kitchen within the next 24 hours, and baking it. This Caramelized Peanut Cake that takes very little effort to make, but yields big rewards. Big, crunchy, peanutty ones, with a bonus of moist, buttery cake underneath, holding it all together.

The good thing about this cake (aside from it being covered with a generous pile of caramelized salted peanuts, as if it can get any better than that) is that you likely have most of the ingredients already on hand. That was my case, so I was able to make it right away. The only ‘technique’ you need to master is boiling butter, honey, cream and sugar, then stirring in the roasted peanuts. The topping couldn’t be easier.

This recipe is adapted from The Joys of Baking, an unabashedly sweet ode to baking by Samantha Seneviratne that riffs off stories and situations in her life, ones that inspired the recipes. Gingered Cashew Nut Brittle showered with sesame seeds, a Roasted Plum Cloud Cake topped with swirls of snowy meringue, bittersweet Amaro Stracciatella Ice Cream, and Salted Chocolate-Covered Chocolate Caramels are the kinds of things that I’d agree are a joy to bake, and to eat.

So how could I resist cake topped with SALTED CARAMELIZED PEANUTS? Sorry for shouting, but this cake is something to shout about. I mean, just look at it…

The only difficulty you might encounter is getting the cake neatly out of the pan. Mine got a little dark around the edges (why, oh why, wasn’t I born a food stylist, to make mine as neat as the one in the photo in the book?) I found that letting the cake rest for about 5 to 10 minutes after it comes out to the oven, then using a sharp paring or utility knife that’s either sprayed with a bit of non-stick spray, or lightly greased, to separate the sides from the cake pan while it’s still warm, is your best bet for easy (or easier) removal of the ring of the springform pan. Any pieces that fall off can be reaffixed to the cake.

Or let them cool…and eat them yourself.

Which is what I did with the missing chunk in the photo, above. (Why, oh why, wasn’t I born with photo editing skills?) But honesty is the best policy, and I hope you’ll trust me when I say this cake is as good as it looks. And if a few pieces go missing, here and there, well – you only have yourself to blame. But unlike me, you don’t have to tell anyone about it.

Caramelized Peanut Coffee Cake

Adapted from The Joys of Baking: Recipes and Stories for a Sweet Life by Samantha Seneviratne One tip: If you have low-fat milk on hand, you don't need to go out and buy whole milk just to make this cake. Since the topping only calls for 1/4 cup (60ml) of cream, you'll likely have some leftover cream if you've gone out and bought a carton or bottle. So you can mix some of that cream in 50:50 proportions with low-fat milk to approximate whole milk. Another tip from a reader, who used a silicone cake mold (which I don't own) and said the cake slipped out of the mold easily and the sides didn't get too dark.
Servings 8 servings

For the peanut topping

  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces, 85g) unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/3 cup (65g) sugar
  • 3 tablespoons (60g) honey
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups (7 ounces, 195g) roasted, salted peanuts

For the cake

  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces, 85g) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
  • 2 cups (280g) flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder, preferably aluminum-free
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1 cup (200g) sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) whole milk, at room temperature
  • Butter the sides and bottom of a 9-inch (23cm) springform pan very well. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
  • To make the peanut topping, warm the unsalted butter, sugar, honey, and heavy cream in a small saucepan, stirring occasionally until the butter is melted. Bring the mixture to a boil and let it cook at a low, but steady boil, for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the peanuts. Set aside, stirring every once in a while to cool it down, while you make the cake batter.
  • In a small bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl mixing by hand with a spatula or wooden spoon, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the egg and vanilla extract, stirring to combine. (You may want to stop the mixer during the step, and scrape down the sides if using a stand mixer, to make sure all the ingredients are well incorporated.)
  • Stir half of the flour mixture into creamed butter (with the stand mixer set on low speed), then add the milk, then mix in the rest of the dry ingredients.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Spoon the peanut mixture over the top of the cake. It will have thickened up but do your best to make sure it's relatively even, and avoid pushing it right up to the sides of the pan, as it'll stick to the pan and make it a little difficult to release later.
  • Bake the cake for 50 to 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Do not touch the top of the cake to check for doneness as the caramel is hot and sticky, and it can burn. (Trust me...) Let the cake stand 5 to 10 minutes, then lightly grease a paring or utility knife and run it around the outside of the cake to release it from the sides of the pan. Then remove the outside ring of the springform pan. If any bits of caramelized peanuts stick or come off when removing the outside ring, either reunite them with the cake, or let them cool and eat them yourself.


Serving: Serve the cake just as it is, or with lightly whipped cream or a favorite flavor of ice cream.
Storage: The cake is best the day it's made but can be kept at room temperature for up to three days either well-wrapped or under a cake dome.


    • Karinelle

    Hi David,

    Love your recipes….and have made quite a few. Yummy! Not a giant peanut lover, however. Just wondering if you think pecans or walnuts would be just as good…would I need to ‘tweak’ anything if I substitute?

      • Jean

      I made this with salted macadamia nuts my niece brought from Hawaii because I did not have salted peanuts and it was delicious . I am not sure I would use unsalted nuts but you can probably sprinkle some flakey salt.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Someone told me they made it with macadamia nuts and it was terrific. Assume they coarsely chopped them first, but that’s a possibility.

      • Xena Ferrario

      I enjoy reading your recipes! I will be making this treat. Honestly, I like the darker edges. My daughter has been wanting a peanut butter pie. I am sure she will enjoy. Thank you!

    • M

    Do you think it would work with pine nuts as a sweet variation? I once had a delicious yet very rich one in Porto which is why I come up with this question

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Karinelle and M: I haven’t tried it with another nut, and while I think they might work, I can’t say for sure since I haven’t tried it. (I have a hunch pine nuts might burn since they are smaller.) But if you do try another nut, let us know your results!

    • Marsha

    Oh my goodness, making this tonight!

    • Just Jan

    This recipe is “PayDay” for me :)
    I will be making this crunchy rich delight. Thank you!

    • becky

    I LOVE that you left “in” the missing chunk. Now I know when (you notice, I said “when” and not “if”) I make this cake, I won’t be so disappointed in my lack of Insta-Perfection, and can just get down to the important task of enjoying “my” (via David Lebovitz) creation! Thank-you!

    • Linda Chapter

    Another amazing recipe that I will try to veganize by swapping in plant milk, coconut cream, and good quality vegan margarine. I like to bake but am frustrated by lack of excellent vegan options. I follow your blog, but i started by buying The Perfect Scoop when i bought my ice cream maker. Yes, I still make dairy ice cream, don’t much like sorbets. I do like vegan ice cream, need to research how to make them. Thanks, I love your FB posts!

    • Sandy

    Wondering if you have ever tried the Wilton baking strips? They reduce the heat on the edges of the pan thereby lessening chance of darkened edges and also better leveled cakes. Just read about them in NYTCC but have not tried personally.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I haven’t used them, but for a cake like this, they’d probably be a good idea to use if you have them. Rose Berenbaum has a silicone cake pan strip that seems to do something similar.

        • Ca

        But where is the coffee?

          • CBrecht

          Coffee cake is usually a cake that you eat with coffee.

    • Rachele

    While making my first flan (and also melting sugar for the first time) it looked so delicious and I wanted a taste to make sure I didnt overcook it. So I dipped my finger in the sugar on my wooden spoon and learned a very valuable lesson about sticky, hot sugar. Namely…it sticks while it burns. I slept with my hand in a dish of cold water, while my dear, loving husband laughed at my naivety and told me I learned “first hand” about napalm. Good times, terrible puns

    I won’t touch the top of the cake.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      When I baked in restaurants, savory cooks used to think it was “funny” to reach into a bowl we were using and grab a few nuts (or chocolate, or whatever) out of it, to gleefully put into their mouths. It was their way of showing they were somehow superior to the pastry cooks. (If we had done the opposite, it would have been an international incident. But we were too polite to do that…)

      Anyway, one cook came over when I was dipping fruit in caramel and stuck his finger in the pot, thinking he was being so audacious sneaking a taste of something from me. I didn’t say anything when I saw him reaching his finger in the caramel. But needless to say, he didn’t do it again…

    • Jerry

    Made this..had no problem removing cake. I heavily buttered a spring form pan then fitted into the form bake paper, lightly sprayed with non stick. I cut of excess paper before baking…

    • Kirsten

    Just curious–why does the butter need to be cubed?

    • Seth

    Have you had any issues with the topping sinking into the batter? When I’ve made bee sting cake in the past that was an issue and this seems similar.

    • Helene Glass

    DL –
    Wondering whether there is a substitute here in Paris for quick cooking farina. I often use it as a soup thickener – it adds an interesting texture and flavor. Any suggestions?

    PS Many thanks for all of your hard work. We enjoy your comments about France/Paris and look forward to your newsletter.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I’m not quite sure what that is (is it like Cream of wheat?) If so, Middle Eastern markets sell a variety of semolina (semoule) in various grinds, from coarse to very fine. It’s often used to make gâteau de semoule, so perhaps asking for that one will help. There are a lot of shops in Belleville and elsewhere. Sabah is a favorite. Glad you like the newsletter!

    • Gavrielle

    Looks good, but in the candied peanut department, I’m not sure I need to go any further than your Banana Cake with Mocha Frosting and Salted Candied Peanuts from Ready for Dessert. I’m no great shakes as a cake decorator, and I love the way this cake is easy to decorate but also makes me look like an expert. Plus it tastes divine.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Happy you like that cake as well! Anything with candied peanuts on it makes my day…

    • Janine

    Made this cake, and it was a total hit. Thank you!

    I stopped by to say I thought I was convinced by you, David, to invest in a silicone springform glass-bottomed pan (for making cheesecake, maybe?) Using it for this recipe, I had no issues getting the cake out of the pan, and the edges were not too dark.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Happy you liked it! I’m not a huge fan of silicone bakeware, but glad that it’s helpful to getting the cake out of the pan – thanks for your feedback : )

        • Janine

        So funny! I must have misremembered. In any case, thanks for all the wonderful recipes.

          • David
          David Lebovitz

          I think I mentioned it because it was a tip from another reader, so I passed it on. Either way – glad you like candied peanuts as much as I do!

    • susan wing

    Congratulations on Blog of the Decade from Saveur! You have been my go to blog for all things delicious for ages. Kudos

    • Nancy E.

    Congrats, David!!! Saveur ‘Blog of the Decade’ …well earned (or maybe it’s for the longevity) ox

    • Virginia

    Here to say congrats for Blog of the Decade as well. Deserving as heck. Love you and your recipes.

    • Agnès Powers

    Hello David,
    I was wondering if instead of a tooth pick to verify the baking status of a cake you check the inner temperature like we do for meat. It seems to me that it would be more accurate. Do you know of a book which uses this technique? Thank you.

      • Fifi Tumewu

      Hi David,

      Just wondering why there is no coffee in the ingedients?

        • David
        David Lebovitz

        Coffee Cake” is a style of cake, often with a crumb topping, typically enjoyed with a cup of coffee. Apparently their roots are in Austria, but they’re popular in the U.S., too.

        • GuyB

        Coffee cake is cake served with coffee or at coffee time like tea cakes are served at tea time.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I don’t know for sure but you may want to check one of the books (like The Cake Bible) by Rose Levy Berenbaum or Professional Baking by Wayne Gisslen. That information may be in one of those books but I don’t know. I’m not aware of any bakers that use internal temperature to check for doneness in cakes.

    • Maxine

    Hi David,
    I’m planning to make 2 of these cakes for a potluck. Does the caramel stay creamy? Will I be able to slice it neatly and put it on a platter? My husband suggested baking the cake separately and using the peanut caramel as a sauce. Your thoughts? Thanks in advance for your advice!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I don’t know how the topping would work on its own. I’d suggest making a salted caramel sauce and stirring peanuts into that for a sauce.

    • GuyB

    For the stickiness, I’d line the tin with parchment paper, a round on the bottom and strips along the sides. To reduce waste, I have re-usable nonstick cake tin liners.

      • GuyB

      BTW, silicone cupcake molds have never worked for me. Impossible to clean oils from it and the cupcakes always stuck worse than using a regular tin.

    • Eva

    Wow! Just made the cake today with local macadamias and a robust local honey (I’m in Australia). Really beautiful! Thank you for the recipe.
    As it was a dinner party dessert, also served it with a macadamia gelato.

      • Eva

      I should add the hardest part of making this simple cake was not dipping again and again into the caramel nut mixture while the cake was being prepared!

    • Katy Clark

    Looks great

    • Jerry H

    Why did a lot of the peanut mixture seemed like it sunk through batter?

    • Katherine

    i only have unsalted peanuts, would you recommend adding salt to the peanut mixture?

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Which peanut mixture are you referring to? If it’s the peanut butter dough, there’s already salt in it. But you can add a sprinkle of finishing salt, such as fleur de sel or Maldon, over the top of the brownie layer before baking if you wish.

    • Susan Kelley

    Oh dear, I am not a peanut fan and would probably skip this recipe altogether. Peanuts do have place in certain Asian entrees but other than that I am not a fan. Not to worry however as David will come through with many wonderful recipes in the days and weeks to come.


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