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!
- 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.
- More simple pleasures of summer: Rhubarb Compote with Strawberries & Cream, Cherry Crisp with Buttermilk Ice Cream or Plum Handkerchiefs.
- 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
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.