What is the purpose of cream cheese in a cake recipe

Just tried a new recipe, a chocolate cake with peanut butter mixture inside. The peanut butter mixture was made of peanut butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, egg, and whole milk. The original ingredient amounts seemed off as it had the consistency of buttercream frosting. The recipe video showed a much thicker batter. The baked end product has a very dense, very moist center with less peanut butter flavor that expected. Trying to determine the purpose of the cream cheese and how to tweak the recipe for future baking. Cake is good, but could be better.

Teresa Coffman


Shuna L. March 31, 2016
Hi Teresa,

The description of the kind of ingredients sounds like a dense cake indeed. If I were the author of that recipe it would appear as though I was avoiding any excess water. Recipes with a high proportion of fat, especially dense fats, are optimal cakes that keep a while and travel well, aka shelf-life stable. If you want a cake that is quite redolent of peanuts I might suggest using a "yellow" cake recipe & adding ground toasted peanuts to the batter.

Peanut butter is a tricky ingredients to incorporate into batter because the author of the recipe can't be sure what kind of peanut butter the baker will purchase. Fat and oil contents in various peanut butters vary wildly.

In a creaming method cake, I always add the peanut butter with the butter/sugar stage. If I want a nut based cake to be lighter, I add more eggs, or even a few extra egg whites - making sure that those eggs are absolutely room temperature.

I hope this helps! Do let us know if you have further questions or thoughts on the matter. Happy baking, tweaking and eating!

Teresa C. April 1, 2016
Thank you, Shuna. I have much more experience with baking cookies and I tend to use reduced fat peanut butter. Regular seems to yield cookies that are way too greasy. I wondered about changing this mixture to use half the cream cheese, increasing the peanut butter and powdered sugar. Adding additional egg, and maybe even flour, might be what I need to help with the binding agent. I will have to do some more experiment in the future. Thanks again!
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