Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Popcorn

Peanut Butter Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

Happy Weekend! First off, before we talk cake, I want to let you know that the crazy website problems I’ve been having the last few days should hopefully be officially better now, so you should no longer have any issues getting onto my site. My current website server has really let me down (I think a switcheroo is in order!), but it seems that things are back in action and working smoothly. If for some reason you ever do have trouble getting to the site, just know that you can always google “sweetapolita printables” + the recipe you’re looking for, and you should find the printable version (but fingers crossed that won’t be an issue ever again).

Now, onto cake! When I was pondering what type of creation would make the ultimate back-to-school cake for our cakelet Reese, I kept thinking about what ingredients make kids happiest–particularly my kids. My littlest cakelet, Neve, is turning three next week so she’s still home with me for another year, but Reese is starting Senior Kindergarten at a new school and she takes her most favourite snacks at home very seriously: peanut butter, mini pastel marshmallows, popcorn, chocolate and cake. I wanted to make her a back-to-school confection that was as comforting as it was playful, and then I remembered an incredibly inspirational book I received awhile back called Make, Bake & Celebrate! by Annie Rigg. This book boasts unique and delightful cakes, including Rose & Strawberry Cake with Crystallized Roses, Chocolate Dazzle Drop Cake, Chocolate Polka Dot Tower, and of course the cake I decided to make and that answers every child’s sweet dreams: Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Popcorn.

Peanut Butter Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

The cake was surprisingly quick to make, even with all of the different elements, and what I found hard to believe was that I had never thought to make a peanut butter layer cake before–with the simple addition of peanut butter to a fairly classic butter cake, it gives it a unique decadence and nutty twist. Paired with two types of rich frosting and the ultimate sweet & salty topper, it’s a wonder I didn’t give this one a make & bake the moment I received the book a few months ago.

I love this cake for many reasons, but most of all I love its irresistible call to childhood on all counts: peanut butter & chocolate chip layer cake, peanut butter & cream cheese frosting (with a hint of maple!), chocolate fudge frosting, and homemade caramel corn tossed with mini pastel marshmallows and peanuts (which, I might add, is an amazing little treat on its own).

My cakelets were able to help me with so many of the steps in making this cake: Reese made most of the chocolate fudge frosting herself, Neve helped me make the cake layers and peanut butter frosting, and they both helped me mix the popcorn. As Annie mentions in the book, this cake with all of its components tastes much like a Snickers chocolate bar and makes for the perfect celebration cake for kids. And what better reason to celebrate than the start of a new school year? Not only does the cake taste as decadent as it looks, but I find great joy in creating a dessert that has several elements all combined for one show-stopping finale–particularly when one of the components is as unexpected as it is tasty, as with this whimsical pile of caramel popcorn heaped atop the cake.

Peanut Butter Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

Imagine coming home from school to this? I made this prior to Reese’s first day, but I may have to make it again (or in cupcake form–wouldn’t that be fun?) next week while she’s at school for the first day. She’s been counting down the days until school starts, and not only starts school next week but ballet–she can barely stand the anticipation.

We went back to school shopping, and it was a Hello Kitty extravaganza (dresses, pants, ear muffs, lunch bag, school bag, hair clips, sweaters . . . ). Since Hello Kitty was one of my favourites as a child (incidentally, she made her first appearance in 1974, the year I was born), I can’t help but feel the same connection to it as Reese does–between little cakelet Neve, myself and Reese, we’re pretty much like kids in a candy shoppe when we walk into stores with Hello Kitty clothing and accessories. It’s really hard for me to believe that she’s 5 years old and already in her second year of school. At this point I find myself holding on a little tighter and little longer when I hug her, perhaps with hopes of making the time stand still. ♥

Here’s the recipe, shared with permission and as written in the book Make, Bake & Celebrate! by Annie Rigg (my notes below):

peanut butter & chocolate cake with salted caramel popcorn

350 g/2-2/3 cups plain/all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of/baking soda

150 g/10 tablespoons butter, soft

100 g/1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter

350 g/1-3/4 cups (caster) sugar

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

250 ml/1 cup buttermilk, room temperature

125 g/3/4 cup chocolate chips

1/2 quantity Chocolate Fudge Frosting

peanut butter frosting

200 g/6-1/2 oz. cream cheese

50 g/3-1/2 tablespoons butter, soft

75 g/1/3 cup peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 tablespoons maple syrup

salted caramel popcorn

50 g/1/4 cup (caster) sugar

25 g/2 tablespoons butter

50 g/2 cups plain popcorn (popped weight)

50 g/1/3 cup roasted peanuts

50 g/1/3 cup chocolate chips

50 g/2/3 cup mini marshmallows

three 20-cm/8-inch round cake pans, greased and baselined with greased baking parchment

serves 12

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) Gas 4.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate/baking soda.

Cream the butter, peanut butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until really pale and light–at least 3-4 minutes. Gradually add the beaten eggs to the creamed butter in 4 or 5 additions, mixing well between each addition and scraping down the bowl from time to time with a rubber spatula. Add the vanilla and mix to incorporate.

Gradually add the sifted dry ingredients to the cake mixture alternately with the buttermilk. Mix until smooth, then fold in the chocolate chips. Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared cake pans, scraping the mixture from the bowl using a rubber spatula. Spread level with a palette knife and bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the  middle comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 3-4 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the peanut butter frosting, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the butter, peanut butter, vanilla and maple syrup and beat again until creamy.

To make the salted caramel popcorn, put the sugar and 1 tablespoon water in a small, heavy-based saucepan over low heat and dissolve the sugar without stirring. Once dissolved, increase the heat and continue to cook until the syrup turns into an amber-coloured caramel. Take the pan off the heat and add the butter, swirling to make a smooth butterscotch. Quickly pour the butterscotch over the popcorn and stir well so that it starts to stick together in clumps. Add the peanuts (chopped, if you prefer), chocolate chips and marshmallows.

Place one of the cake layers on a serving dish and spread half the peanut butter frosting over it. Carefully spread one-third of the Chocolate Fudge Frosting over that. Cover with a second cake layer. Repeat this process, finishing with the last cake layer and the remaining chocolate fudge frosting on top of that. Pile the salted caramel popcorn on top just before serving.

chocolate fudge frosting

350 g/12 oz. dark/semisweet chocolate, chopped

225 g/15 tablespoons butter, diced

175 ml/2/3 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

350 g/3 cups icing/confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over pan of barely simmering water. Do not let the base of the bowl touch the water. Stir until smooth and thoroughly combined. Removed from the heat and cool slightly.

In another bowl whisk together the milk, vanilla and sugar until smooth. Add the melted chocolate and butter and stir until smooth. Let thicken to the desired consistency before using.

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • Annie’s recipe calls for chocolate chips in the Salted Caramel Popcorn mixture, but I opted to omit them, mostly because I was assembling the popcorn and ready to photograph the cake while the caramel was still a little warm–this would have melted the chocolate chips into kind of a yucky mess. Next time if I was adding the chocolate chips, I would simply wait until the caramel corn was completely cool.
  • I used vanilla sugar (as I did here) when making the caramel for the popcorn–yum!
  • You can make the caramel popcorn ahead of time, but be sure to add it only before you are serving the cake, otherwise it will become a bit soggy.
  • I made the cake layers day 1, wrapped them tightly in plastic wrap and left them at room temperature, made the frosting, made the popcorn and assembled the cake all on day 2.

Good luck & enjoy!


Share the Sweetness!


  1. says

    Wow that indeed looks incredible! love the photos and the way you decorated the cake! Gorgeous! The peanut butter frosting looks the best part :-P I’d probably eat half of it before it made it onto the cake lol! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Janet says

    Looks good! I used to have a specific snack list when I was little! I think cupcakes of this would be amazing! Thanks for sharing!

  3. says

    Reese must have been so happy with this cake, hope you all have a great “back to school day”. I love the flavours of this cake and it fits the French weather perfectly (october like weather) !

  4. says

    What a fun cake! I love howmch you and your daughter love Hello Kitty. When I was little I was obsessed. Spotty dotty was my favorite. To this day I think it plays an impact on my dessert creations.

  5. Bunny says

    Hi Rosie,
    First time commenter here, all the way from Israel, and I have to say that your site is amazing, and your family is gorgeous!
    Thanks for all the recipes and guides you have posted- I have yet to make something though this PB cake is a serious contender for my END of school year[my last final is this Thursday], and the added metric weights and measurements are awesome.

    Have a great one!

  6. says

    I saw the title and wanted to leave a comment about how bleepin good this bleepin cake looked! And then I scrolled down to see your beautiful daughter holding the cake and thought maybe I should tone it down a bit. ;-)

    Love everything about this! It’s magic. Pure delicious magic.

  7. says

    Oh this brings back memories. My kids are now 23 and 26 and how I remember shopping for school accessories and clothes . I loved it and miss that.

    I haven’t heard of this book but will check it out. The cake is definitely a show stopper and your children are beautiful!

  8. says

    I was starting to worry a little when I kept seeing that “temporarily unavailable” error message for your site. Good to see/hear things are back in order!! I am not a big lover of popcorn, but on cake, I could be swayed. :) The photos of Reese absolutely lovely. Best to her as she enters SK!!

  9. says

    You’re my favorite cake artist,everything and anything you bake really inspires me and you have a certain elegance in all things cake only a few can achieve. Please do more lovely combinations of cake flavors,or maybe cupcakes,just anything cake-like,because I know it will be amazingly stunning and delicious! She’s adorable! :) xoxo

  10. says

    The pic of her holding an almost life-sized cake is priceless! And that cake, whoa. Just awesome, awesome! My 10 year old is a kettle corn fanatic and he doesn’t like tons of frosting so you have given me an idea for his birthday cake. Thank you so much!!

  11. says

    I have been anxiously anticipating this post ever since I saw the first instagram pics of the layers of cake batter. I cannot WAIT to have a reason to make this cake! Too bad my son’s school is nut free, otherwise I would totally make it and bring it to his first day of grade 1!

  12. says

    This cake looks wonderful, and I enjoyed reading the post, too. I really love the way this cake looks. It sounds incredible, but I like how you can see all the layers of cake and frosting with a little pile of caramel popcorn on top. Also, this cake in cupcake form would be adorable! :)

  13. Bonnie says

    Love the post and am planning to make on the weekend!
    Quick question re: popcorn, did you find that it ‘fizzled/wilted’ when you poured on the warm/hot syrup?
    I have read elsewhere that you can put in over after mixing to crisp back up. Would you recommend this?

    • says

      Thanks, Bonnie! To be honest, I didn’t find it wilted too badly, but I stirred it pretty quickly and I think it cooled rather fast. That being said, crisping it up in the oven with a close eye’s watch wouldn’t hurt either. If you do it this way, will you pop back and let me know how that went? Best of luck! xo

  14. says

    I am not usually a fan of this blogging lark, so I am suprised to find myself enjoying your pages soooo much! Thanks for your interesting up-dates and fabulous photos! Truely inspirational yp all us home bakers.
    You are still the only blogger I find worth following.

    Thank you!

    Kirsty x

  15. says

    Your daughters are so pretty (as their mom I guess)! Grear recipe, I need more time to bake everything yummy I see on these blogs… even though I shouldn’t after the big Oh-who-cares-If-I-eat-this-No-One-is-watching-and-summer-is-almost-over -attitude.

  16. annie rigg says

    Wow Rosie! Many thanks for featuring my recipe and book – I totally love your pictures and hope that your daughter had fun making (and eating) the cake!

    Best wishes and happy baking

    Annie x

  17. Alison says

    Hi, I had to make this cake yesterday.(It was one of those I need cake day’s) Very good yesterday but even better today! I loved the popcorn all soft!!! Very yummy!

  18. Melissa says

    I just found your blog last week. I absolutely love it! I’m so inspired to bake. I made this cake for my husband’s birthday this weekend. I did omit the pastel mini marshmallows. He loved it! How could he not? It combines some of his favorites peanut butter, chocolate and caramel corn. Mine did not look at nice as your, but it tasted great. Thanks for the post!

  19. Molly says

    Oh Rosie, as if I didn’t have a big enough cake crush on you, you go and post something like this. *sigh* Making tomorrow!

  20. Benita Stentiford says


    I love your recipes! I have made several and want to try this one next. Would it be okay to omit the chocolate chips from the cake batter-will the cake turn out okay?
    Thank you!!


  21. Nagina Anwar says

    I made this in cupcake form last week, but I replaced the popcorn with peanut m&m’s purely out of lack of energy. And I filled the centre with the peanut butter cream cheese. It Tasted delicious! You’re a baking genius :)

  22. CL says

    I made this, and it came out beautifully.

    Only changes – my chocolate frosting didn’t look as neat as yours, so I ended up frosting it all the way around. I also did my popcorn with peanut M&Ms and some chocolate chips as it was almost cooled.

    It was insanely delicious – a very whimsical cake. It didn’t cut very pretty with the popcorn and the chocolate chips, but that’s okay. Taste definitely made up for it!

    I think I’ll be adapting this to cupcake form. Highly recommended, thank you so much for the recipe!

  23. says

    I made this cake into cupcakes this saturdag for my friends birthdayparty, today at work she is still talking and dreaming about the :)

    So a complete success I would call it.

    Thank you ever so much for this blog and for including the metric system, so that s poor norwegian can make your cakes too ;)

    Have a wonderful day and week!!!

    Love Lene

  24. Kristall says

    I plan on making this for my husband’s birthday and I’m quite intimidated by the idea of making caramel! I’m terrified of burning the sugar (or myself, to be honest). Do you have any tips?

    • Cheryl says

      Hi. After attempting this recipe’s instructions on making caramel a couple of times, I ended up using’s Microwave Caramel Popcorn recipe and then adding the rest of the ingredients for the topping of this cake to that. I cut their recipe from 16 to 2 servings so the microwave times had to be adjusted down also. Instead of a large brown paper bag, I used the microwave popcorn bag. Make sure unpopped kernels are removed. This was so easy and it turned out great!

  25. Kristall says

    I made this cake for my husband’s birthday and while completely and utterly delicious found it too big. This cake is massive! I should have gone with my gut and cut the recipe in half. Otherwise, it turned out wonderfully flavourful and fun. I ommitted the chocolate chips and peanuts from the popcorn and just did marshmallows, rainbow sprinkles, and cracked pink sea salt. I think this would be better as cupcakes because the cake was impossible to cut and serve gracefully.

  26. Emily says

    Hello! I have sugar questions: I have ‘granulated’ sugar that I usually use for baking… Can that be used for the cake recipe and/or the chocolate frosting recipe, instead of the ‘caster’ sugar or ‘confectioner’s’ sugar?

  27. Kamryn says

    I made this cake today and it was amazing! I love it soooooooo much. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe I think it is going to be one that I make for a long time

  28. Bakes a Bunch says

    If I were to do them as cupcakes, would there be a peanut butter layer, then chocolate, then popcorn? That’s what I was thinking, so it wold still have all of the flavors in a bite….I really don’t think that I could go wrong with all of the fantastic flavors!

  29. Nicole says

    Hi Rosie, I absolutely adore your website and have tried many of your cakes. :)
    Made this one this weekend and had a question…mine was a bit dry, could you give me some ideas why? Or thoughts on what I may have done?
    Thanks very much! :)
    PS– it was fun to make!

  30. Cheryl says

    Would you please tell me why the last ingredient for the cake is “1/2 quantity Chocolate Fudge Frosting”? This ingredient is not included in the instructions for making the cake. Thank you in advance.

  31. DT says

    Made this cake and while it was not dry the crumbs were rather coarse. The pb taste was too mild in the cak for me…


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