Upside Down Peach Cake

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!

Grilled Corn Salad with Zucchini, Cherry Tomatoes, Spring Onions and Lemon-Parsley Vinaigrette

There is nothing more appealing than using fresh, farm-to-market ingredients, especially when corn is in season. I love this time of Summer when fresh corn is popping up everywhere - especially on my neighbor's outdoor grill. That nutty-yet-sweet aroma coming from the corn wafting into my windows as it caramelizes on the grill is oh-so distinct, and oh-so delicious. I had to get my hands on some and satiate a craving.

And it was fitting that this week a best friend of mine called and asked if I had any good "side salads" in my repertoire that I wouldn't mind sharing with her. I asked if she liked the idea of a grilled corn salad, to which she said, absolutely.

So, the idea for this simple-yet-delicious Summer corn side "salad" was born. Inspired by some great ingredients I picked up at the Farmers Market, I set forth to create this dish. And, as I don't have an outdoor grill, I did everything on an indoor grill pan.

Ingredients: (easily doubled, tripled, etc.)
  • 1 ear fresh corn, husked and silk removed
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • handful fresh cherry tomatoes, seeded and quartered
  • 1 spring onion (or red onion) small dice
  • 1/2 fresh lemon, juiced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • fresh chives, chopped
  • fresh parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper
(Note: this dish can be totally changed to fit your tastebuds - substitute ingredients or add more things, such as grilled asparagus, avocado, fresh torn basil, cheese, etc.)
As the grill pan heats up, slice the zucchini length-wise into about 1/2" pieces.

Then, use the extra virgin olive oil to coat the zucchini and corn before hitting the pan. Season with salt and pepper.

Next, get the veggies on the grill - the corn will take a lot longer than the zucchini, but that will allow time to cut up the rest of the veggies, and make the "dressing". Slice the zucchini into strips and then dice into 1/4"-1/2" size chunks.

As for the dressing, add the lemon juice, parsley, and chives in a bowl; pour in about 1/4C of the extra virgin olive oil, or less, to taste. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Once the corn is done, as in charred all over, remove the kernels straight into the bowl with the dressing. I prefer to do it this way, or into another bowl, as standing the ear of corn upright in a bowl as you slice the kernels off helps to keep the ear stable, plus the kernels won't fly everywhere.

Add the chopped zucchini, tomatoes, and onion to the corn and mix together, and make sure to season with salt and pepper.

And, that's about it! The grilled corn (perfectly caramelized on the outside yet still crunchy, sweet, and nutty to the taste) with the zucchini and tomatoes was perfectly balanced in texture, and the lemon juice, olive oil, and herbs heightened the beautiful flavors of such simple and perfect ingredients. I could not stop eating this.

I paired it up with my Tequila Lime Salmon from the other night, and it was fantastic.

Served warm or room temperature, this is a must for anyone while corn is in season!

I called my friend and told her the salad I had created, and her response was simply, "done and done". I can't wait to hear how it turns out for her, even adding some other items to make it all her own. This is a great way to utilize the fresh corn and other bountiful produce available this Summer, and I can't wait until the next time my neighbor lights up his grill, throws some corn down, and that aroma wafts yet again through my window as I will be prompted to make this again, and again, and again.

Cilantro-Tequila-Lime Sauce (fish, chicken, etc)...and yes, I am Actually Cooking with Cilantro.

Oh, cilantro. How everyone close to me knows how I love to loathe you - yet I tolerate you in small doses, depending on the dish. You soapy tasting, goose-bump-sending herb that I hate to ever use...except I had way too much of you in my fridge, so I had to find a way to "use" you. Or, should I say, "get rid" of you.

I may be of the smaller group that, quite frankly, DETESTS cilantro. And, if there was an elected president for the Club of Anti-Cilantro, I would probably occupy the seat. Yet, I find with making salsas from scratch and other Summer marinades, there seems to always be some in my fridge.

So, I acquiesce. When I have it leftover, like any other herb, I try to use it.

With a lot of limes, cilantro, and, of course tequila, leftover from this past weekends shenanigans (hey, it WAS my birthday), I decided to experiment with a tequila-lime-cilantro sauce. I used it for salmon, but it would be great with sea bass, halibut, chicken, shrimp, or any other seafood.

And, I have to say I was happily impressed with the outcome.


* 2 tbsp shallot, finely chopped
* 1 clove garlic, minced
* 2 tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped
* 1/2 lime, juiced
* 1/3 C tequila
* 1/4C heavy cream
* 2 tbsp butter
* salt and pepper

This will make enough for two servings!

First, get the shallots, garlic, cilantro all chopped with the lime

Heat a sauce pan and add the tequila, lime juice, cilantro, shallot and garlic, and reduce to half.

Add cream and butter to pan (honestly, it is WORTH IT.)

Reduce on medium-high to thicken and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, with my salmon, I season with salt and pepper and olive oil. I chose to use my "indoor" grill pan, got it super hot, and grilled the salmon with some asparagus.

...and, when it's not sticking, FLIP!

...and once the salmon is done (or whatever else you are cooking) go to plate:

The sauce is rich from the cream and the butter, but it isn't too heavy, I promise. The essence of the tequila and lime juice is lively and tart and is really reminiscent of Summer. Plus, the cilantro mellows out during the cooking process, definitely "marrying" with the shallots and garlic in the sauce. You could easily substitute Italian parsley for the cilantro if you really don't like cilantro.

So, cilantro, for "once" you have done it. You have managed to balance out a sauce that I was surprised to like you in, and will for sure make again. Perhaps, cilantro, you may be making more appearances in future dishes of mine..., yeah, I will not get ahead of myself with that one, but at least this sauce is a keeper.

Cheers and enjoy!