Ride – {Heaven and Hell Cake}

Exhausted and nauseous, I wobble on weak ankles as D, C and I walk along the stables to D’s car. The paved surface below my feet is a refreshing change from that of the rest of the fairgrounds. The smoothness is, admittedly, a little disorienting; after being thrown and flipped for the better part of the day, I can’t help but anticipate some hazard looming on the horizon. So, I’m anxious. Each foot is placed with heightened uncertainty as I feel increasingly more sure that the ground will suddenly fall from beneath my feet. I’m scared because I don’t know what to expect next – I just can’t be positive – and even more frightening is the thought of slipping into the passenger seat of D’s blue sedan. He’s already a scary driver, so who knows how watching the figure-8 race will affect his tendencies?

If I even make it the parking lot, anyway.

Ah, the 4-H fair. What strange wonders it holds… Such a curiosity it is… Simple newspaper ads shout reminders and inspire promises as parents begrudgingly set dates on their calendars and pray that their children forget. But alas, mid-July, small rectangular signs are erected along road sides to announce the fair’s advancement.

There will be no forgetting now.

I remember those days well. Those days when I would reduce myself to tears just to try to make my parents give in to my desires. Surely just one more ride would be acceptable. Or perhaps one more game?

But now, as I stand in line for another ridiculous ride with a once-coveted wristband adorning my arm, I question and chide my childhood self. Why would one subject themselves to such pain for such a high price? After flipping and spinning on my so-called favorite rides for a just matter of minutes, I’m ready to be done. Wandering down the fairway, a harsh mix of gravel and dirty sand bubbling up into my sandals, I swallow my stomach and escape the crowd to seek salvation within the horse barn with my cousin, N.

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I appreciate the animals on show here now more than anything, and unlike the rides, there’s no fee to see them (well, except the $10 parking pass). Sure, sometimes they stink, but each animal at the fair was raised by someone under the age of 20. And we’re talking some pretty substantial animals; pigs, cows, goats, chickens, horses… Animals that took a lot of time and hard work to bring up. To me, that’s way more interesting than a line of whining kids at the Zipper.

Which is another thing I like; the kids in the barns are often too young to ride the rides, and it’s incredibly cute to see them react to how big cows, pigs and horses really are. They’re amazed and completely in awe.

Better than sickened and completely green, right?

It’s just funny to me. I know it’s a common theme to my posts, but things are changing. I don’t have children of my own (and I’m certainly not in a rush to have any!), but I’m starting to see what my parents went through while they were raising me and it makes me really, really, really appreciate them. Yeah, they denied me tickets and cash at the fair. Yeah, I was disappointed and pouted the whole way home. But you know what? That was good for me. I needed that. It’s got to be difficult to say no to your kid (and I’m sure that my parents lost lots of sleep over it. Haha), but I understand why it needs to be done. Sometimes “no” hurts, but it’s the right answer in the long run. Some things just have to be denied so all things are not expected.

That said, we all need limitations and restraints if we are expected to become civilized adults.

They keep us back in our seats, face-to-face with reality, and safe at all times.

Heaven and Hell Cake originally from Stephan Pyles, adapted recipe via Food o’ del Mundo
This cake is very rich, but sooooooo good. I know it’s swimsuit season. Please forgive me!
Printable Recipe

1 3/4 lbs (795 g) milk chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1 1/3 c (315 ml) heavy cream

Place the chocolate in a medium-sized bowl and set aside.

Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan and when it begins to bubble up, pour over the chocolate and let sit for 5 minutes. Gently stir, starting in the middle and working your way outward, until the cream and chocolate are completely mixed. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

Angel Food Cake
1 1/2 c (235 g) confectioners’ sugar
1 c minus 2 Tbls (120 g) flour
2 Tbls cornstarch
1 1/2 c (355 ml) egg whites
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp salt
1 c (200 g) sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 325F (160C) and line the bottom of a 10″ round cake pan with ungreased parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, sift together confectioners’ sugar, flour and cornstarch. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt until frothy. Increase speed to medium-high and gradually sprinkle in sugar, then extracts, beating until stiff peaks form.

Sift half of the flour mixture over egg whites and fold until just combined. Sift over the remaining half of the flour mixture and gently fold until no streaks remain.

Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake until top of cake springs back when touched, 45–50 minutes. Transfer cake to a rack and let cool.

Devil’s Food Cake
3/4 c (155 g) shortening
1 1/2 c minus 3 Tbls (185 g) flour
3 Tbls cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 c (355 ml) coffee
3/4 c (70 g) cocoa powder, sifted
2 c (400 g) sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs, room temp

Preheat oven to 350F (175C). Grease a 10″ round cake pan with shortening and dust with flour to coat. Shake out excess flour and set pan aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

In another medium bowl, whisk the coffee and cocoa powder until smooth. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the shortening, sugar, vanilla, and eggs with a handheld mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, 2 minutes. Alternately add the flour mixture and the coffee mixture to the bowl in 3 stages, beating to combine after each addition.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean, 30–35 minutes; transfer to a rack and let cool completely.

Peanut Butter Mousse
1 lb (455 g) (2 8oz packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
3 c (710 ml) smooth peanut butter, at room temperature
2 c (315 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 c (235 ml) heavy cream

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, peanut butter, and confectioners’ sugar on medium speed until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Put cream into a large bowl and beat on high speed until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, fold 1/3 of the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining 2/3rds. Cover and chill until ready to use.


Using a serrated-blade knife, slice each cake horizontally into 2 layers. Place 1 layer of the devil’s food cake on a cake stand and spread 1/3 of the peanut butter mousse over the top. Top mousse with a layer of the angel food cake and spread with half of the remaining mousse. Repeat with the remaining devil’s food cake, mousse, and angel food cake. Wrap cake in plastic wrap and freeze for 2 hours.

Stir ganache (heat it in the microwave, if necessary, at 10 second intervals. Be sure to stir well) until smooth and pour over the top and sides of the cake, smoothing with a palette spreader if necessary. Refrigerate the cake for 2 hours before slicing.


  1. says

    Now, this cake is breathtaking. But not as breahtaking as the Zipper. Is there anything more terrifying? Yikes. Our fair was (and still is) in mid-August, and it&#39;s still hotter than blue blazes. Parking is free, too. :) <br /><br />Great post, as always!

  2. says

    What a well-written post. You took me right back to those days at local fairs and carnivals. And reminded me of how great my mom is for having put up with us all! : )<br /><br />This cake looks stunning and positively delicious. Glad you&#39;ve shared the recipe!

  3. says

    Your story is wonderful – as is your cake!<br />So glad you liked it. I just made this one again last month at the request of two sisters who are 7 &amp; 9! It&#39;s a lot of work, but well worth the look on their faces.<br />All of your cakes are absolutely gorgeous!<br />~ Mary

  4. says

    My 5 year old and I just watched your Martha post of the rainbow layer cake. He loved the colors and we will definitely be making this together. I love that you knew exactly what you were talking about when Martha asked you questions. I could tell she was very impressed. (Which I don&#39;t think happens that often. lol) I&#39;m a new blogger and I am so happy to have stumbled upon your site

  5. says

    What a wonderful post this is. As a mom, I can completely relate to your story; even though you are not (yet!) a parent you seem to have a pretty good grasp of what it&#39;s like to be one! The whole idea of hoping that the kids forget the date of the fair is hilarious and oh-so realistic. And to say nothing of that unbelievably gorgeous cake you made! Holy mackeral. It&#39;s a beauty! <br />

  6. Whiskkidsmom says

    Mmmmmmm. Breakfast today is a piece of this absolutely delicious cake and some wonderful coffee made by my lovely Whiskkid daughter. It has peanut butter in it, so that makes it healthy right? 😉 Yummy cake Sweetie.

  7. Anonymous says

    This cake looks amazing…I&#39;m drooling over the key board as I type…do you think it would be to much chocolate if I replaced the peanut butter filling with a choc. mousse, we have peanut allergies in our house :( Or do you have another suggestion for a filling that would taste delicious?

  8. Colleen , Haverhill Ma says

    OMG! This cake looks amazing! I love your photos ,you always know how to place the flowers just right on the dessert. Do you have any suggestions for an alternative to the peanut butter mousse? the friends I am thinking of making this for as peanut allergies :O(

  9. Anonymous says

    wow what an awesome cake!<br /><br />makes me wonder if you did eat it after taking that photo haha XD

  10. says

    Wow! Cake looks GREAT! It made me think you used peanut butter AND jelly. Now, that&#39;s a good idea, too!<br /><br />Thinking I might purchase an angel food cake, make the devil&#39;s food cake and then do layers of the angel cake, devil&#39;s food cake, peanut butter mousse and put some jelly in there!<br /><br />thanks for the inspiration!

  11. says

    Lovely writing. Your post reminds me of one of my favorite essays by David Foster Wallace. It was published in Harper&#39;s under the name &quot;Ticket to the Fair.&quot; It resonates really well with what you&#39;re talking about…something that&#39;s supposed to be fun, but isn&#39;t. <br /><br />You have a wonderful blog, here. Keep it up!

  12. says

    You&#39;re amazing…love your writings. But also love your Mom&#39;s comment about how healthy this Heaven and Hell cake is. I agree. Yes, as one very smart writer said, &quot;we all need limitations and restraints if we are expected to become civilized adults&quot; but not when it comes to this cake. Must have, so must make.

  13. says

    Now that&#39;s a killer combination- Just light enough to know be cloying, but decadent and rich all at once. I can&#39;t imagine anyone being able to turn down such a temptation! All of those layers together are just stunning.

  14. Anonymous says

    I fell in love with your cake the instant I saw it. I tried looking for other recipes, but that&#39;s definitely the cake I&#39;m making for my boyfriend&#39;s birthday. Thank you!

  15. Colleen, Haverhill Ma says

    I am making this cake this week! Although I will have to save the peanut butter mousse for another day …Boo to peanut allergies my poor friends don&#39;t know hwat they are missing out on. :O) I will have to substitute cheesecake mousse filling instead I guess.

  16. Anonymous says

    Made this cake yesterday except replaced the peanut butter with nutella. Best cake I&#39;ve ever had. Only problem was that the angel&#39;s food cake fell apart under the weight of everything on top of it. Soooooo rich and good.

  17. says

    I could never go on the zipper, I hate rides that spin. I&#39;m really not one for rides at the amusement park anyways, can&#39;t stand feeling nauseous. <br /><br />Anyways, the cake looks delicious! The idea of a peanut butter mousse sounds intriguing.

  18. says

    Sometime&#39;s I come to your blog to look at all of the &quot;pretty pictures&quot;. This is my current favorite. I&#39;m drooling. I also feel like I&#39;ve gained 10 lbs. just dreaming of this baby. I&#39;m making this A.S.A.P!

  19. says

    Ok, I just made this cake and I must say – HOLY CRAP! One issue I have with the recipe is good luck finding a 10&quot; pan. I used an aluminum roast pan that was 9-3/4&quot;, but since it fans out at the top my layers were two different sizes. I would just use two 9&quot; round pans. I had to bake the cake a lot longer and it became very dense. I substituted hot chocolate instead of the coffee, I

  20. Anonymous says

    Looks great. <br />Unfortunately, the Angel Food Cake recipe didn&#39;t work out for me at all. Had to throw it out and serve the Devil&#39;s Food Cake with the Peanut Butter Mousse.<br /><br />Will give it another try… with a different recipe for the Angel Food Cake. I guess.

  21. says

    Anonymous, I&#39;m sorry to hear that the angel food cake didn&#39;t work out. I wonder what went wrong…? Hopefully you&#39;ll have better luck in the future!

  22. Anonymous says

    Could you make these into cupcakes? I&#39;m trying to figure out how I would layer it and cover it in chocolate without getting too messy.

  23. Anonymous says

    I just made this cake without the angel food cake. It&#39;s ah-may-zing!! I have an un-natural hatred of angel food cake, so I skipped that part and made 3- 6 inch devils food cakes and layered as specified. It tastes great and looks great too. <br /><br />The only thing, is I have a ton of peanut butter filling and ganache left over. I think I could have quartered the recipes.

  24. says

    I can&#39;t wait to try this recipe! <br />Think I&#39;m going to make it for our church fundraiser… LOL!!<br /><br />I just had a question and I didn&#39;t see it over on the &quot;Tips&quot; section. I have (2) 8&quot; pans. How can I adjust the ingredients for my pans. Is there a ingredients Calculator you use? Also, How high do you fill your pans? Same as Cupcakes.. 2/3 full?

    • says

      I love that you&#39;re making it for church! Too funny.<br /><br />In your situation, I would avoid sketchy math + the potential for partial eggs and other strange measurements and just make the recipe as provided. Fill the tins, yes, about 2/3 full (Maybe a bit less for Angel Food) and use the rest of the batter for cupcakes. Happy baking!

  25. Anjanette says

    This cake looks insanely delicious! I will be making it for a party this weekend with just a minor tweak. Instead of all the filling layers being peanut butter mousse, I’m going to use fig preserves for 1 or 2 layers along with the peanut butter mousse. As a kid, one of my favorite things in life was a sandwich made of grandma’s fig preserves mixed with peanut butter. I can’t wait to have that first (and second!) slice!

  26. says

    I love the story in your post! The fair is almost here my town! Can’t believe it’s that time of year again already! And this cake looks absolutely to DIE for! Can’t wait to try it! Thanks for sharing! :)

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