The almighty peach is in season, and I am seeing them everywhere in abundance. Whether a farmers market or simply Whole Foods, I love picking one up, putting it to my nose, and deeply inhaling that oh-so-subtl-ey sweet, perfum-ey aroma that only is synonymous with a perfectly ripe peach. So far this Summer, I have had the chance to enjoy them many a time grilled, to the point that you question how much juicier can they get? I love peaches simply by themselves, sliced or diced into salads, or with Greek yogurt and homemade granola in the morning to start my day.
But, my true favorite way to enjoy the bounty of sweet, Summer peaches? Make them even sweeter using them in my personal favorite dessert, Peach Upside Down Cake.
Yes, I was a pastry chef, but no, I do not like dessert or sweets - though, this cake for some reason, just hits all of the right spots. Years ago when I was still working at Sage Restaurant as their exec pastry chef, I was challenged to come up with a new dessert given the box of peaches my executive chef had given me from the farmers market. I didn't want to do anything out of the ordinary but rather give a new twist to something familiar.
At the time I was reading a lot of Alice Waters cookbooks, and came across a recipe for a plum upside down cake. I knew exactly then what I was going to do with the peaches.
This cake became one of the top sellers of the Summer. I think I was making 20 individual cakes every day. I served each with with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and some macerated berries with a peach liqueur. The restaurant patrons went nuts, and I was proud of my "creation".
I hadn't made this cake in a long time, and decided to bring out the recipe for a "cook" club dinner that I hosted last night. Needless to say, my girlfriends went crazy over this cake, to the point that one girlfriend asked if it was possible to marry the cake. I think that comment speaks for itself in how much of a crowd pleaser this is.
I have adapted her recipe and changed it slightly, only to add more of the ooey-gooeyness that makes an upside down cake the best: the butter and brown sugar "bottom".
Recipe and ingredients:
* 4 oz (1 stick) butter
* 1 1/2 C dark brown sugar
* 1-2 large ripe peaches, thinly sliced
* 4 oz (1 stick) butter
* 1 C sugar
* 1 tsp vanilla extract
* 2 eggs, whites and yolk separated
* 1 1/2 C AP flour
* 2 tsp baking powder
* 1/4 tsp salt
* 1/2 C whole milk
* 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
** this recipe doubles beautifully, and, as you will see below I made two cakes
** you can use a 9" round cake pan, individual ramekins, or as I have done, I used 8" round large ramekins
Preheat the oven to 350F.
First, get the "bottom" cooking. Melt the butter and brown sugar together until completely combined and smooth.
Once fully melted, pour into ramekins (or other baking vessel).
Allow to set up/cool a bit before putting the peaches on top.
Meanwhile, slice the peach flesh away from the core, and then slice the peach into sections, not too thick and not too thin. Probably about 1/4" thick.
Then, begin arranging the peaches on top of the brown sugar "bottom". There is no rocket science in how to arrange it, you could just throw them in there, but I like to attempt to make it "pretty".
Up next, the cake. Using a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the 2 egg yolks and vanilla and continue to cream together.
Meanwhile "sift" the flour, baking powder, and salt. And by "sift" I refer to just using a whisk to aerate the dry ingredients. When a recipe calls for sifting, try this simpler (and easier to clean up) approach.
Next step, alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk. Start with about a 1/3rd of the flour, mix completely, and then add some milk, mix completely, and repeat until everything is mixed together.
Now, the "workout" part. In another bowl, add the egg whites and cream of tartar and hand whisk until soft peaks form or at least the egg whites hold a small shape. I say "workout" b/c if you aren't used to whisking egg whites, your arm is in for a bit of toning.
Add the egg whites in 1/3rds to the batter, folding it in. By folding, I mean gently mixing in, making sure to scrape around the side of the bowl and lightly incorporating the whites. You don't want to deflate them as this helps to create a lightness in the cake and gives it body.
Then pour the batter on top of the peach/brown sugar "bottom".
Place on a foil-lined sheet pan as the brown sugar will most likely boil over during the baking process.
Pop the cake in the oven, and cook for about 35-45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. The cake may be a little gooey, but that's ok. It still will cook a little bit once removed from the oven.
Pure unadulterated goodness. Honestly, the aroma of this cake baking is practically sinful.
Let the cakes stand for at least 20-30 minutes before inverting. To remove cake, run knife around side of ramekin to loosen the cake from the sides. Then, place a plate on top of the cake securely, and flip so that the ramekin is now on top of the plate. Slowly and carefully bring the ramekin up, leaving the cake behind on the plate.
(2 notes: this cake is great warm and room temperature. Also, you can completely cool the cake in the ramekin, refrigerate it, and then when you are ready to serve it, throw it back in a 350F degree oven to warm it through for about 10 minutes and proceed as written above.)
For Cook Club, I served with some freshly whipped cream (vanilla and sugar only) and some fresh raspberries.
The cake is so light and moist and the peaches simply caramelize during the baking process with the brown sugar/butter mixture. It does take a little bit of time to make, but the end product is sure worth the effort, plus it's worth all of the happy (and satisfied) faces I have made it for. Restaurant patrons and friends alike, I think they all would agree that this is a match made in heaven paying sweet homage to the lovely peach. Cheers and enjoy!