Friday, July 20, 2012

Brown Sugar Cake with Peaches & Cream

We've approached that time of year to celebrate a new crop of beautiful juicy peaches. It's the season for shortcakes, peaches with sabayon, peach cream puffs and peaches simply roasted and served with ice cream.

This time around, I've put them together with the irresistible winning combo of cake and whipped cream. The cake's flavor is provided by a higher ratio of brown sugar, which brings out a nice caramel quality that pairs well with peaches. It's a plain cake with a fairly dense soft crumb. I bake it in a thin layer to keep the proportions of fruit and cream in the game.

As much as I love all the stone fruits of the season and seeing the markets alive with the sensation of vivid color, for me, fresh peaches are the grand signal that summer has indeed arrived. Enjoy them while they last!

Bench notes:
- Let peaches ripen at room temperature. You should be able to smell their fragrance.
- Having the butter, egg and milk at room temperature means the cake batter will emulsify properly and produce the right structure and texture. The egg in shell can be placed in a bowl of hot water to hasten the process.
- As an alternative to the honey syrup used for the peach slices, simply toss them in 3 - 4 tablespoons of brown sugar and a spritz of lemon and set aside to macerate. Add a pinch of cinnamon for a bite of spice.
- Add a couple of teaspoons of rum or brandy to the whipped cream for some variation.
- Enjoy this dessert with a glass of Viognier, a white wine with crisp citrus overtones and a slight hint of honey.
- One of the requests I often get is for information about the tools I consider essential for baking. Very high at the top of my list is parchment paper. A box of 1000 super large sheets is one of the first things I bought when I finished pastry school! I use it to roll out doughs, wrap cookie dough logs and roulades, line pans and baking sheets (I also use silpats).

Brown Sugar Cake with Peaches & Cream
Serves 6

1 C flour
1/4 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
generous 1/4 t salt
1/4 t cinnamon
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
3 oz (6 T) butter @ room temperature
1/2 C dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 C granulated sugar
1 egg @ room temperature
1/3 C milk @ room temperature
1 1/2 t vanilla extract

1/4 C honey
3 T water
2 t fresh lemon juice
3 large or 4 medium fresh ripe peaches

3/4 C heavy cream
1 T sugar
1/2 t vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8" square pan. Line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang of a couple of inches on two sides.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Cream the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until lightened, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl, add the egg and mix until completely blended. Combine the milk and vanilla. Alternately add a third of the flour mixture and half the milk, beginning and ending with flour. Beat until it's just about completely blended. Finish the mixing by hand using a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom of the bowl.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and spread it out evenly. Bake for 23 - 25 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges and gently lift out of the pan using the parchment to assist. Cool completely.

Place the honey, water and lemon juice in a saucepan and bring to a simmer to dissolve. Take off the heat and set aside to cool.

Wash the peaches and cut into thin slices. Toss with the honey syrup to coat.

Whip the heavy cream with sugar and vanilla to a very soft peak.

To assemble, gently peel the parchment off the cake and place on a serving platter. Dollop the whipped cream on top and spread evenly. Garnish with peach slices. Serve cake slices with any extra peaches and cream.


Victoria said...

My farmstand in upstate New York says they have local donut peaches.

Do I dare trust them?

But I am having some people over on Sunday for a friend's birthday, and this does sound like it would be perfect to serve, so I might have to be brave enough - once again - to get some New York State stone fruit.

I won't even think about those last horrid apricots.

Kate said...

Just when I am still dreaming of that beautiful Almond Dacquoise with Nectarines & Cream you hit me with this! Both beautiful uses of summer fruit and cream.... but I think the intrigue of the dacquoise wins!
Thank you for the great photos, again!

Courtney @educatedderelicts said...

This looks beautiful. I wish it were summer here - I miss stone fruit so much!

Elly McCausland said...

I love the sound of brown sugar cake all on its own...but the peaches sound delicious too! I don't really like cream, but i bet this cake with some vanilla ice cream and roasted peaches would be divine. You've made me want to go out and raid the market for peaches now!

pastry studio said...

Greetings, peach aficionados!

Victoria, I hope you locate some delicious peaches. Kate, the dacquoise adds a layer of texture that's really delicious, so your choice is a good one!
Courtney, we wait all year for the stone fruit, it comes all at once and it's kind of overwhelming. In a good way.
Elly, vanilla ice cream and roasting the peaches sounds like perfection!

Marcellina said...

Those peaches sure look good!

Victoria said...

I did locate WONDERFUL peaches. The lady at the farm stand told me which ones to get and what stage of ripeness to choose so they would be perfect the next day. And they were.

I made this for my friend's birthday lunch on Saturday. There were six of us, and not one scrap of dessert was left over. Everyone loved it. I did do the peaches in the honey syrup - delish. I also had an unopened bottle of Mathilde Liqueur Peches (peach liqueur), which I used when to flavor the cream, We also little one-ounce portions with the dessert.


If I wanted to make it in a round pan, could I do that, and would I use a 9-inch or an 8-inch round?

pastry studio said...

Victoria, thank you so much. Of course, I just love comments like this! I'm excited that you have such lovely peaches to celebrate. And lovely idea with the liqueur. Happy Birthday to your friend!

I think I'd go with the 9" pan if you want the same thickness and roughly same baking time.

And this is a good time to share this handy site that talks about the volume of different size pans:

This helps to determine how to interchange when necessary.

Thanks again for your feedback. Here's to more lovely fruit in your future!

Treesap-Covered Lady, the Humanist said...

I made this for a party on Saturday and everyone loved it. Should have made two.

pastry studio said...

Thank you, Treesap-Covered Lady!! Very honored to hear back from my generous readers. Hope you have a chance to enjoy it again before peaches make their exit, although I think it would also pair well with other fruit, like sauteed apples or figs.

Jessica said...

Mmmm. That cake looks divine and very much perfect for summer. I've got to give it a try soon. And your photographs are so beautiful, so I've nominated you for the beautiful blogger award. You can see it here:

pastry studio said...

Thanks very much, Jessica! That's incredibly kind of you. Wonderful to be in such great company.

Tiena said...

I made this cake earlier this week to go with some fresh peaches. The cake by itself is delicious. Definitely a recipe to keep and make again. Thanks for the great recipes!

pastry studio said...

Tiena, it's such a joy for me to hear your feedback. Thank you!