Perfect Peach Cake
July 17, 2011
It is hard to beat a fresh summer peach. At their peak, taking a bite of a perfectly ripe juicy peach is a transcendent experience. I find that farmers’ markets are the best place to buy peaches. The smaller farmers are much more likely to have a sense of the true maturity of the fruit they grow and allow it to fully develop. They also often give samples so you can judge for yourself the quality of the fruit. It was with these magical fruits in mind that I set out to make Perfect Peach Cake.
This recipe is slightly adapted from one in the last issue of Cook’s Illustrated. Once I saw it, I could not get it out of my mind. I began searching for a reason to make it, which luckily was not too difficult. The recipe involves some unusual steps such as roasting half of the peaches before adding them to the batter and sprinkling them with panko to absorb the excess juices that threaten to make a soggy cake.
Unable to find my panko at the last minute, I skipped that step and it still turned out beautifully. My peaches were ripe, but not super juicy. My guess is if there is a lot of juice coming off them when you pull them from the oven, the panko would be a good idea. I also omitted the peach schnapps that was called for in the original recipe. That taste is not one I enjoy. I found the final cake to be plenty peachy without the addition of the liqueur.
As I pulled the cake out of the oven, the smell was incredible. The real test was the taste of course, and it is excellent on all accounts. The peaches were flavorful and not too juicy. The cake had a pleasant tanginess from the addition of the sour cream. The ratio of cake to peach is perfect. Most of us sharing dessert that night went back for a second piece. This cake is well worth the effort and I will definitely make it again.
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated July and August 2011
makes one 9-inch cake
2 1/2 pounds peaches
4 teaspoons lemon juice
6 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs, crushed fine (optional- see note)
1 cup creme fraiche (optional)
preparing the peaches
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking pan with a baking mat or foil and spray with oil.
Slice all peaches into 1/2 inch wedges. Place 24 peach wedges in a bowl and toss with 2 teaspoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon sugar. Set aside.
With the remaining peaches, cut crosswise into thirds, place in a bowl, and toss with 2 teaspoons lemon juice and 2 tablespoons sugar. Spread peach chunks on the prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes until peaches begin to caramelize and their juices thicken. Remove and cool to room temperature. (If your peaches are super juicy, toss them with the panko. If they are not, you can skip that step.)
making the cake
Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Grease a 9-inch springform pan.
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl; whisk. Whisk brown sugar, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, and eggs in another bowl until fully combined. Whisk in melted butter. Add sour cream, vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract; whisk until combined. Add dry flour mixture to wet mixture and stir until just combined.
Spread half the batter over the bottom of the prepared springform pan. It will be a very thin layer. Spread the roasted peaches evenly over the batter. Spread the remaining batter over the top of the peaches. Be careful not to disrupt the peach layer. Smooth the top with a spatula. Arrange peach slices on the batter. Gently press them down into the batter. Stir together remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar with 1/8 teaspoon almond extract. Sprinkle infused sugar over the top of the cake.
Bake cake for 50-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cake on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Loosen cake from sides of pan by sliding a knife around the edge of the cake. Remove pan sides and allow to cool completely.
Cut into wedges and serve with a dollop of creme fraiche.
Here is a printer friendly version of the recipe: Perfect Peach Cake
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