In my opinion penuche is an under rated element of any good bakers arsenal. The sweet, fudge-y, chicly tan frosting is the perfect foil to a homey apple cake, a banana muffin or a chocolate layer cake. And yet you never hear as much about it as you do about say, butter cream, ganache or lemon curd. Why is that?
I'll tell you why. It's fudge-y nature tends to coalesce immediately, making it a bit of a bear when it comes to decorating. In fact, in the interest of full disclosure, it took every last bit of my patience, not to mention my decorating skills, to get this to picture perfectness and the rosettes are a different frosting all together.
Nevertheless, if you bring your finesse and are prepared to improvise, there isn't any reason why you can't make penuche a regular part of your baking line up. It's flavor is unique, kind of like a poor girl's caramel. And the texture, so reminiscent of boardwalk fudge, really is outstanding. I particularity love it paired with this chocolate cake as the dense, darkly sweet penuche plays off so nicely against the moist, cocoa rich layers.
chocolate penuche cake
1 & 1/4 cup unbleached AP flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white sugar
6 tablespoons brown sugar
6 tablespoons cocoa
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 6" cake pans.
In the bowl of a stand mixer whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, white sugar, brown sugar and cocoa. In a medium bowl whisk together milk, oil, egg and vanilla extract.
Add wet ingredients to dry and mix on low to combine, scraping down the bowl and beater as necessary. Mix on medium-high for one minute. Divide batter equally between pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
Cool pans on wire rack until cool enough to handle. Turn out cakes and cool completely before frosting. Makes two six inch cakes. Trim tops and cut each cake in half before filling and stacking.
penuche filling (found here)
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup milk (or as needed)
2 cups confectioners' sugar (or as needed)
Melt butter in heavy bottomed pot. Whisk in brown sugar and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and continue boiling for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add milk and bring back to a boil, stirring constantly. Take off the heat and cool to lukewarm. Transfer to a stand mixer. Gradually stir in sifted confectioners' sugar. Beat on high until thick. Add more warm milk or confectioners' sugar as necessary to get it to a workable consistency. (For rosettes whisk together 1/4 cup soft butter, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon molasses and 1/2-3/4 cup confectioner's sugar.)