Monday, August 1, 2011
Fresh Peach Cake
Whatever has kept me busy this summer, it sure hasn't been baking. I suppose it's not the ideal summer activity: working up a sticky sweat in a hot kitchen, feeling as though you yourself are baking, along with whatever is in the oven, which, once consumed, will most likely not motivate you to put on a bikini. You know what I have to say to that? Excuses, excuses - get back in that kitchen, girl!
There's plenty of time in the summer to frolic on the beach, swim in the waves and tan on the sand (all while scantily clad). During those down moments when you'd prefer to relax at home (and, let me tell you, San Francisco summers have their share of gray days), baking doesn't sound half bad. I woke up Saturday morning and figured I'd do just that. I needed to go to the farmer's market first, for inspiration.
The selection of summer squash looked refreshing, so I picked up one of each - but I was thinking lunches and dinners for those. I needed something sweet for my baking desires.
Stone fruit - now you're talking! Peaches, nectarines, pluots, and plums - probably my all-time favorite fruit of the entire year. They're only around for a short while longer, so I felt a sudden sense of urgency to get these babies into the kitchen.
I picked out one of each type of fruit, hoping that I had enough stoniness to bake at least something from one of my cookbooks. While flipping through the Barefoot Contessa's How Easy Is That?, it wasn't long before I found a recipe for Fresh Peach Cake. Sorry, let me say that again. Fresh. Peach. Cake. What stopped me from moving forward? Nothing.
I liked Ina Garten's description of the cake, as "delicious served with a scoop of ice cream, but...also good as coffee cake for a special breakfast." I love a dessert that can multi-task! Another enticing Ina plug was that, while baking, it makes the house smell like cinnamon and sugar. Who needs a Tuberose candle when there's a Fresh Peach Cake in the oven?
Down to Basics, or shall I say, Back to Basics: The recipe calls for 3 extra-large peaches, so I did have to stop by the store to pick those up (given I did not buy nearly enough peaches at the farmer's market). Once I had all of my ingredients, I was good to go. Everything was running smoothly, until...
To my utter dismay, as I began slicing my peaches in preparation to lay them on top of the batter, I discovered that two of them were rotten! So deeply rotten! They looked so beautiful and perfect on the outside, but then I remembered that saying: beauty is only skin deep. It applies to fruit, you know. With a perplexed heart, I glanced over at my one triumphant peach, feeling as though I'd never loved a SINGLE un-rotten pit so much:
I could have cried, quit, maybe slammed some pots and pans around - but, NO, I prevailed! I will make this cake if it's the LAST thing I do (well, besides eat it). Luckily, I had my extra goodies from the farmer's market (a nectarine and a pluot) which conveniently sneaked their way into my cake (shh, don't tell Ina).
Once the rotten pit incident was behind me, I was able to assemble the peaches (er, a various assortment of stone fruit) and sprinkle the bottom layer with the cinnamon and sugar mixture. Then, I assembled the top layer and topped the beautiful creation off with chopped pecans. I must say, it looked very rustic and quite charming.
So, for those of you out there who might want to tackle this cake recipe, let me tell you this: the cook time says 45-55 minutes. This cake took 1 hour and 20 minutes to bake. I KNOW! and I'm fully open to the idea that I did something wrong, however I was quite methodical and precise in the kitchen, so I can't imagine what that error was - but, yes, I'm sure it was me, NOT YOU. But, yes, bakers, keep the time in mind.
Oddly enough, the using-multiple-kinds-of-fruit-because-some-things-turned-out-rotten mishap was actually a happy accident. Look how the different varieties of stone fruit gave the cake this pretty color scheme - almost like a rainbow!
Voila! After what was just about the length of a Woody Allen movie, my cake was perfectly set and ready to cool. Topped off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, this dessert is the perfect summer treat. And I barely broke a sweat! (j/k)