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Cake:

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for pans

3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder, plus more for pans

1/2 cup boiling water

2 1/4 cups sugar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

3 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

 

 

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange two racks in center of oven. Butter three 8-by-2-inch round cake pans; line bottoms with parchment. Dust bottoms and sides of pans with cocoa powder; tap out any excess. Sift cocoa into a medium bowl, and whisk in boiling water. Set aside to cool.

 

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on low speed until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down sides twice. Beat in vanilla. Drizzle in eggs, a little at a time, beating between each addition until the batter is no longer slick, scraping down the sides twice.

 

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk milk into reserved cocoa mixture. With mixer on low speed, alternately add flour and cocoa mixtures to the batter, a little of each at a time, starting and ending with flour mixture.

 

 Divide batter evenly among the three prepared pans. Bake until a cake tester inserted into center of each layer comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes, rotating the pans for even baking. Transfer layers to wire racks; let cool, 15 minutes. Turn out cakes, and return to racks, tops up, until completely cool.

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Remove parchment from bottoms of cakes. Reserve the prettiest layer for the top.

Place one cake layer on a serving platter; spread 1 1/2 cups peanut butter buttercream frosting over the top.  Add chopped mini peanut butter cups. Add the second cake layer, and spread with another 1 1/2 cups frosting.  Add chopped mini peanut butter cups. Top with third cake layer. Cover outside of cake with the remaining 3 cups frosting. Pour chocolate ganache over top and let drizzel down the sides.  Garnish with mini chocolate peanut butter cups.  Serve.

Frosting:

3 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup peanut butter

Stir together powdered sugar, vanilla and milk. Stir in peanut butter. Beat until smooth and spreadable.

Ganache:

8 oz good quality semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup heavy cream

Cook the chocolate chips and heavy cream in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally.

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