One of the things I was most craving when we returned from vacation was fresh produce. I got especially excited when I was going through the mail, discovered the ads and saw that both peaches and cherries were on sale this week. Two of my summer favorites! Both made it into my basket when I got to the store, along with some gorgeous limes and cherry tomatoes (which I roasted last night for a delicious side with my dinner). Originally, I intended to bake with the cherries, but they're so good I've been content to eat them as is for now. The peaches, on the other hand, were destined for this rustic peach cake. I wanted to make this cake last summer, but time got away from me and before I knew it, peach season was over. I was definitely not going to let the same thing happen this year.
The peaches at my store were a bit under-ripe, which actually worked out perfectly for this cake. You don't want to use overly ripe peaches here. While the dried fruit used in the recipe absorbs the juice from the peaches and prevents the cake from becoming soggy, overly ripe peaches exude too much juice. Try to select peaches that are barely ripe - they should give just slightly to the touch.
I loved the simplicity of this cake. Once you've prepped the peaches (as much as I love baking with peaches, I still hate peeling them), the rest is a cinch. The cake is baked in a springform pan so no worries about having to flip it out at the end, simply remove the sides and serve it. The dried fruit, having absorbed the excess juice from the peaches, softened and added a ton of flavor to the cake. I didn't even notice the dried fruit as a textural element. My peaches retained just a bit of texture; coated in a cinnamon-sugar mixture, they were definitely my favorite part of the cake. I enjoyed a slice for breakfast (totally justifiable with all that fruit) but I think with a scoop of ice cream this would be the perfect summer dessert too!
Rustic Peach Cake
from Cook's Illustrated American Classics
1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz) sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 medium peaches, peeled*, pitted and each cut into 8 wedges
1 cup (5 oz) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz) packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup dried peaches or apricots, finely chopped
*To peel the peaches: Make a shallow "x" in the end of each peach opposite the stem. Drop the peaches into a large pot of boiling water. Boil for 15-60 seconds, or until the skin just begins to wrinkle. The amount of time in the water depends on how ripe your peaches are (riper peaches = less time). Remove the peaches with a slotted spoon and transfer immediately to an ice bath. When cool, peel the skin from the peaches.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Measure and set aside 2 tablespoons of the mixture (for topping the cake later). Add the peach wedges to the remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture and toss to coat.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, sour cream and vanilla and beat to incorporate. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture a little at a time, until it is just combined.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread in an even layer. Scatter the dried fruit over the batter. Arrange the peach wedges in a circular pattern, using 13 for the outside and 3 for the center. Top the peaches with the reserved cinnamon-sugar mixture.
Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool for at least an hour before serving. The cake can be stored (well wrapped) at room temperature for 2 days.