A Southern Grace: going old school

February 5, 2019

going old school


Old-fashioned peanut butter cake. I'm sure cafeteria meals have changed a lot since I was in school, but if there's one thing that I hope they haven't taken away, it's the peanut butter cake.

Did you experience this delight? This thin, moist peanut butter cake topped with a sweet icing was something I looked forward to eating every time it was on the menu. Considering allergy concerns these days, it's probably long gone, and while that's a shame, the good news is that you can make it for yourself at home!

This is such a good recipe. It's probably different from every cake recipe you've ever seen, but it yields the most tender, delicious peanut butter cake I've ever eaten. The icing is unique too, and I could probably eat a bowl of it (though my teeth would hate me for it).

The recipe I used was intended for a 13x9-inch pan, which would probably give a thinner cake, but I halved the recipe and didn't mind the thickness produced by the 8x8-inch pan; your mileage may vary. I loved everything about this cake, from its tender crumb to its dominant peanut butter flavor (pregnancy cravings!), and especially its buttery, sweet, creamy icing. It was even better after the first day--the cake got even more moist and everything just seemed to gel!

Was the peanut butter cake of my elementary school cafeteria days as good as this? Nostalgia deems it so!

Old-School School Lunch Cake
(printable recipe)
Adapted from this recipe
Makes 1 8x8-inch cake
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (not natural)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons buttermilk, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Spray an 8x8-inch pan with nonstick spray.
Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
Heat the butter and water in a small saucepan until it comes to a boil. Take off the heat and whisk in the peanut butter and oil until smooth.
Let cool for a few minutes, then whisk in the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla until well blended.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and whisk until just combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set the cake on a cooling rack while you make the frosting.
To make the icing, put the butter, peanut butter, and buttermilk in a saucepan and bring to a full boil (it may separate; that's okay).
Take off the heat and beat in the vanilla and powdered sugar, adding a cup at a time, until the icing is smooth. Add more buttermilk as needed.
Pour the hot icing over the warm cake, working quickly because the icing sets up immediately. Spread evenly over cake.


Pam said...

DROOLING! I totally remember this cake and haven't had it in years. YUM. Bookmarked.

Angie's Recipes said...

I don't think I have ever had this cake before...and since we are huge fans of peanut butter, this is definitely a must-bake for me! It looks seriously yummy and addictive.

Adina said...

I have never had such a cake, it looks so moist and delicious, I can just imagine the taste!

Marjie said...

It looks wonderful, but I'll bet that it's been banned from schools due to allergies. Sad for everyone else, no doubt about that.

Velva said...

I have not had the pleasure of enjoying peanut butter cake... I can tell you I would love it. With a tall glass of whole milk, perfection.


Inger @ Art of Natural Living said...

This is certainly a peanut butter lover's delight! Eating locally last year, I didn't get any peanut butter, and am so happy to have it back again! (And pretty sure yours is better than the school cafeteria, as good as that might have been :) )

Georgie Eats said...

You know I have never had a peanut butter cake!! I am such a fan of peanut butter and I can't believe I haven't... I must try this! xx

Gloria Baker said...

what delicious cake Grace!!

lisa is cooking said...

I'm sitting here with a cup of tea that desperately needs a piece of this cake to go with it! I don't think I've ever had peanut butter cake, and I need to change that.

Marcelle said...

Wow, this looks incredible! I have a recipe posted for a peanut butter sheet cake that my family loves and I know they'll love your version made with buttermilk...yum! Honestly, I don't remember if they served a delicious cake like this in my school cafeteria, but I imagine it would be hard to forget if they did. Honestly, I'd eat a big piece for breakfast right now! :)

Emma @ Bake Then Eat said...

Yum! We had similar cake's in the UK schools but they tended to be vanilla sponges with jam on top, peanut butter wasn't very popular in the UK when I was in school. But I know I want a slice of this one it looks so good.

Food Gal said...

That definitely brings back memories. I don't think I've had a peanut butter cake like this since I was a kid. It definitely makes me want to bake one -- pronto!

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

I missed out on this cake as my mother always packed my lunch for me to take to school. It really sounds like a good cake.

sandy said...

That looks so good, I love peanut butter! There's a restaurant that makes a mean peanut butter pie that I am always craving, but I've never had peanut butter cake! It sounds wonderful.

The Underground Restaurant Chef said...

This looks absolutely delicious.

Gerlinde@Sunnycovechef said...

This cakes looks so good, I know my husband would love it. He is a real peanut butter fan.

All That I'm Eating said...

Oh this sounds great! I love peanut butter but I have never tried making a cake like this...yet!

The Underground Restaurant Chef said...

OK.....OK I made this and alI can say is I am ruined for cake. I think it's my new favorite thing!!! 4 stars!!

Shristi Patni said...

This looks wonderful! I can't wait to serve it at my next party!