Make Ahead

Peanut Butter Sheet Cake with Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting

March 13, 2018
16 Ratings
Photo by Luzena Adams
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 35 minutes
  • Serves a crowd
Author Notes

Bake this peanut butter sheet cake for birthday parties, celebrations, or just because. It's so easy to assemble, feeds a crowd, and will put a smile on everyone's face. This sheet cake gets a good rise from whisking the eggs and sugar until they're fully aerated (a technique I learned from Stella Parks’ Gingerbread Sheet Cake), and a moist, tender crumb from a full cup of buttermilk. And it’s so full of peanut butter flavor. I opted for a rich, swooshy chocolate cream cheese frosting with lots of sprinkles, because peanut butter and chocolate belong together, and sprinkles make everything better.

Note: This cake can be easily transformed into a delicious buttermilk cake (same frosting), good for when nut allergies are a concern: omit the peanut butter, use all granulated sugar (1 1/4 cups or 250 grams), and add 2 teaspoons of vanilla along with the buttermilk.


What You'll Need
  • For the sheet cake
  • 3/4 cup (170 grams) unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) vegetable or other neutral-flavored oil
  • 2/3 cup (170 grams) creamy peanut butter, either all-natural (well-stirred) or conventional (like Jif or Skippy)
  • 3/4 cup (160 grams) light brown sugar (packed)
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs, straight from the fridge
  • 2 cups (240 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (225 grams) buttermilk
  • 1 handful sprinkles (optional)
  • For the frosting
  • 1 cup (8 ounces; 226 grams) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (57 grams; 1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (43 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 cups (340 grams) powdered sugar
  1. Place oven rack in middle position and heat oven to 350°F. Line a 9- by 13-inch cake pan (or quarter sheet pan) with parchment, then lightly grease with vegetable oil or butter.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Take off the heat, and immediately whisk in peanut butter and vegetable oil until evenly integrated. Transfer the peanut butter mixture to a liquid measuring cup (for faster cooling and easier drizzling in Step 4).
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and eggs. Mix on low speed until just moistened, then increase speed to high and beat until thick and fluffy and pale, about 8 minutes (could be longer if using a hand mixer).
  4. Reduce speed to low, and drizzle in peanut butter mixture; mix until evenly incorporated. Add flour; mix until just incorporated, then add buttermilk. Use a rubber spatula to fold the batter a few times (scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl), then transfer the batter into the prepared pan and evenly distribute it. The batter will be thick and creamy, almost fudgy.
  5. Bake until puffed and firm, about 28 to 32 minutes (or 210° F in the middle). A tester inserted into the middle of the cake should come out clean. Cool completely in pan before frosting.
  6. To make the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and butter on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until smooth and creamy, scraping the bowl once or twice. In a separate bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and powdered sugar until evenly integrated and no lumps remain. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the cocoa/powdered sugar and mix until well blended, then increase speed to high and beat until fluffy and creamy, about 15 seconds longer.
  7. To frost, spread the frosting evenly over the cake with a knife. Top with sprinkles, if using. Tightly covered, the cake will keep well for several days.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Megan Hower Pope
    Megan Hower Pope
  • Kate Brown
    Kate Brown
  • Lori Dehm Schilling
    Lori Dehm Schilling
  • EmilyC
  • Vyvyan Hansen Ross
    Vyvyan Hansen Ross

Recipe by: EmilyC

I'm a home cook. I love salads. Two things you'll always find in my refrigerator are lemons and butter, and in my pantry good quality chocolate and the makings for chocolate chip cookies.

50 Reviews

Deborah March 5, 2022
I didn’t have enough smooth peanut butter, so I used chunky peanut butter to get the full required amount.. The little bits of peanuts really added good texture. This is a very tasty recipe. Sifting the powdered sugar for the frosting is a must, made it very smooth.
food99 October 15, 2021
I love recipes involving peanut butter. I have been on a baking spree since I bought an oven last Sunday. I just tried a simple sponge cake recipe

Now I am going to try this. It is huge step up from my last baking but hopeful for excellent results. Thank you EmilyC for the recipe.
Violet August 22, 2020
Just finished baking this - it smells divine.

To save time and dishes, I melted the butter in a 4 cup glass measuring cup in the microwave, then added the PB and oil.

I had also never heard of adding leaveners to the egg/sugar mixture, so I sifted the baking powder, baking soda, and salt in with the flour and added them then - worked fine. I also alternated adding the flour and the buttermilk as in a conventional creamed cake recipe.

Everything worked well -- the only problem is waiting for the thing to cool enough to frost and eat!!!
JamieATL August 18, 2019
I made this yesterday so easy and delicious. A real crowd pleaser. Will definitely make this again. Wholeheartedly endorse.
Nan June 19, 2019
Hi - need to make this without the peanut butter due to allergies. Can you explain why the sub is to use only white sugar and vanilla? Have you tried it with brown sugar and much less than 1 1/4 cups? Sounds super sweet. Thanks
csemsack April 3, 2020
Then why don’t you just make a chocolate sheet cake? There are plenty of recipes for that. Why are you perusing a recipe that has peanut butter in the title? Most cake recipes call for more than 1 cup of sugar.
Megan H. April 24, 2019
Used this recipe last week to make a birthday cake for my peanut butter loving sister. I used two 8" round pans to make a layer cake. I didn't make any extra frosting so I was afraid I wouldn't have enough but it was just right. Amazing flavor! I've made chocolate cakes with peanut butter frosting, but this was so much more unusual and had fantastic rich flavor! The birthday girl loved it...this recipe is definitely a keeper!
EmilyC April 25, 2019
Yay, so glad this was a hit, Megan! Thanks for trying it and circling back—appreciate it!
Julia April 10, 2024
I was looking for this comment! Going to make this recipe in a layer cake for tonight :)
Abby K. December 31, 2018
I made this for our New Year's Eve party tonight, except I made it into a 6 inch layer cake. It looks stunning and that cake is amazing! I measured 2 cups of batter per pan and made a mixed berry jam to fill the split layers. This peanut butter cake will be a staple in my dessert making!
EmilyC January 1, 2019
So glad you liked this, Abby!! I love your spin on it, too! Thanks for sharing!!
LG November 13, 2018
I am planning to make this cake for a work potluck but I’m wondering how far in advance I can make it? Was planning on making in 2d before and refrigerating it. Also wanted to maybe make the cake 2d before then frost it the next day, but I read I may have problems with moisture in the cake if I do it that way. Any suggestions?
EmilyC November 14, 2018
Hi LG! Your best bet (according to advice I read from Stella Parks) is to make the unfrosted cake and wrap the whole thing (top, bottom, and sides) in plastic wrap and leave it at room temperature on the kitchen counter. (It’ll keep well that way for several days without drying out.) Then apply the frosting the day you plan to serve it! Hope this helps!! Let me know how it works out! : )
EmilyC November 14, 2018
p.s., no need to take the cake out of the pan, just wrap it tightly! And feel free to frost the cake the day before you serve it. This is a very forgiving cake!
LG November 14, 2018
Awesome thanks so much! Looking forward to it, I’ll report back!
cayt July 1, 2018
This is so delicious. Have made it twice: for a potluck, and also dinner at the beach with a big family group. Both times it was a huge hit. I like it with whipped chocolate ganache as well! But sprinkles are non-negotiable. Thanks for this awesome recipe!
babylaurel June 11, 2018
Hi! I made this not long ago as a sheet cake and it slayed. It was so popular it’s been requested again but I want to make it a little fancier for the occasion... as written the recipe looks like enough to make two 8” layers? Does that seem about right? And thanks for giving us such a tasty recipe that’s also weight based :)
EmilyC June 12, 2018
So glad the cake was a hit! : ) I’ve never made the cake in layers but it should work well. The volume of a 13x9x2 inch pan is 15 cups which is equivalent to two 9-inch round cake pans. Please report back with results!
babylaurel June 18, 2018
It worked out fantastic! Some of the fam was skeptical of peanut butter cake (I literally don’t know why) but they were converted. I made 1.5X frosting and it was a good call. Thanks again :)
isabel H. June 1, 2018
This is a really good recipe! I normally don't sub ingredients the first time around, trusting that the recipe has been proven with the given directions, but I realized I had only "super chunk" peanut butter and didn't want that texture in the cake, so I subbed almond butter and added 1/2 tsp of almond extract into the cake batter, as well as adding that amount into the frosting. Nice and moist, with a really delicious flavor.
EmilyC June 1, 2018
Oh the almond butter sub is great to know about! Thanks for your note and glad you liked the cake!!
Lil C. May 20, 2018
Just made this cake today for my sister's. It is delicious! I too thought it might be a heavy cake due to the thick batter, but it was light. It wasn't super sweet. I think it will taste better tomorrow.
Llewellyn_s April 21, 2018
just made this cake for my birthday dinner. it was lovely and my guests enjoyed it. thanks
EmilyC April 23, 2018
Wonderful (and happy birthday)!! Thanks so much for your note.
Cecilia L. April 18, 2018
Is it possible to make this cake if you don’t have a stand mixer? Any tips of mixing by hand?
EmilyC April 23, 2018
Hi Cecilia: sorry for my late reply! If you have a hand mixer, it'll work well! In step 3, use the visual cues I've given more than time because beating with a hand mixer will take longer than a stand mixer.
Joan April 17, 2018
Is it possible to use a good quality gluten free flour?
EmilyC April 17, 2018
Hi Joan: I've never tried it so I can't say for sure, but maybe someone else will weigh in!
Liz P. April 17, 2018
Hi Emily! I'm thinking of making this for a BIG crowd, a school fair, so I was going to double it and bake it in the pan I use for Texas sheet cake, which is in the 18"x13" zone. It's not an actual sheet pan, so the sides should be high enough. But I'm wondering if sheet cake batters are designed to cook thin so they can bake through despite the expanded dimensions. Ill-advised, or okay?
EmilyC April 17, 2018
Hi Liz! You should be fine! I tested the recipe in a quarter sheet pan so twice the batter in a half sheet pan should work well. Let me know how it turns out!
Pinky April 14, 2018
Made this as instructed. Thought the cake might be heavy but it was moist and light, FANTASTIC! Everyone loved it. Thank you Emily.
EmilyC April 14, 2018
Yay!! Thank you for trying it and reporting back! I appreciate your note.
Kate B. April 6, 2018
I like buttermilk in cakes but I’m not familiar with buttermilk flakes. Can you use regular buttermilk?
EmilyC April 6, 2018
Hi Kate: Yes, regular buttermilk is what I use! (Curious, do you see buttermilk flakes somewhere in the recipe? I didn't specify or mention them since I've never used them.)
Misfitwife April 6, 2018
I don't see it anywhere. This sounds daughter's favorite combination! Thanks!
EmilyC April 6, 2018
Thanks! Hope you and your daughter enjoy the cake if you try it! : )
Vyvyan H. April 10, 2018
I have been using powered buttermilk for 25 years, in the baking isle, mine is called, Cultured Buttermilk blend , for cooking and baking. Just add water, like powered milk When you doen't have the real thing, this is amazing!
Joan April 5, 2018
Will using chunky peanut butter work or add crunch?
EmilyC April 6, 2018
Yes, it'll work just fine!
Vyvyan H. April 10, 2018
Can I use this cake for cupcakes? My church gals will love it
Joan April 17, 2018
Thanks for getting back
Lori D. April 5, 2018
At the top of the recipe, it says "serves a crowd"? How is that possible? It makes ONE regular sized 9x13 cake. That's just a normal sized cake in my book. The recipe itself looks delicious, and I will try it.
EmilyC April 6, 2018
Hi Lori -- it serves 12 if serving generous 3-inch squares, and many more if cutting the squares smaller, which I typically do because it's a rich cake. I just made it for my daughter's birthday and cut it into 24 squares. That's why I said it serves a crowd! : ) I hope you try and like the cake!!