Caramelized Peanut Coffee Cake

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
Print Recipe
8 to 10 servings
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.
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
1. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9-inch (23cm) springform pan very well. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
2. 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.
3. In a small bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
4. 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.)
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.

A wonderful cake with a nutty, crispy, caramelized peanut topping!

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29 comments

  • Karinelle
    November 22, 2019 5:13pm

    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? Reply

    • Jean
      November 22, 2019 11:21pm

      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. Reply

    • November 24, 2019 3:33pm
      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. Reply

    • Xena Ferrario
      December 4, 2019 7:47am

      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! Reply

  • M
    November 22, 2019 5:19pm

    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 Reply

  • November 22, 2019 5:40pm
    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! Reply

  • Marsha
    November 22, 2019 6:30pm

    Oh my goodness, making this tonight! Reply

  • Just Jan
    November 22, 2019 6:40pm

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

  • becky
    November 22, 2019 7:00pm

    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! Reply

  • Linda Chapter
    November 22, 2019 7:18pm

    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! Reply

  • Sandy
    November 22, 2019 8:13pm

    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. Reply

    • November 23, 2019 2:25pm
      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. Reply

      • Ca
        November 24, 2019 11:32am

        But where is the coffee? Reply

  • Rachele
    November 23, 2019 3:18am

    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. Reply

    • November 23, 2019 2:29pm
      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…

      Reply

  • November 24, 2019 1:35am

    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… Reply

  • Kirsten
    November 25, 2019 6:20am

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

  • Seth
    November 25, 2019 7:17am

    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. Reply

  • Helene Glass
    November 26, 2019 10:06am

    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. Reply

    • November 26, 2019 12:59pm
      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! Reply

  • Gavrielle
    November 26, 2019 11:57am

    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. Reply

    • November 26, 2019 12:55pm
      David Lebovitz

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

  • Janine
    November 30, 2019 11:33am

    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. Reply

    • November 30, 2019 1:13pm
      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 : ) Reply

      • Janine
        November 30, 2019 4:26pm

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

        • November 30, 2019 7:37pm
          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! Reply

  • susan wing
    November 30, 2019 4:16pm

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

  • Nancy E.
    November 30, 2019 6:26pm

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

  • Virginia
    November 30, 2019 11:03pm

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

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