August 16, 2012

I’ve been baking a lot.  I didn’t bake for the entire month we were in France – I never even turned on the oven – so I think I am compensating.  Also, summer fruit always makes me want to bake.  I love eating it all out of hand but berries and stone fruit sure do make amazing desserts.

The only fruit better than a peach, in my book, is a nectarine.  I prefer to bake with peaches and eat nectarines over the sink.  I’ve made two peach cakes in the past couple of weeks and I’m going to share them both with you.  They are very different.  That top one comes from Cook’s Illustrated and features roasted peaches in the cake and raw peaches on top.  It is one of those “fruit held together by a bit of cake batter” cakes.  I thought it was going to be extraordinary (roasted peaches!) but it fell a little short of my expectations.  I recognize that many of you just want to bake something yummy, that you don’t need to have your socks blown off by dessert, which is why I’m sharing.  It is a great way to use delicious fruit and it looks pretty too.

The second one comes from Bon Appétit and it is not technically a peach cake.  It is Sour Cream Pound Cake with Lavender Peaches.  The looks to taste ratio for pound cakes is very out of whack, if you ask me.  This is especially true with this cake.  It is flatter than most and a very uninspiring shade of tan.  But what looks like a whole lot of nothing has the most amazing texture and buttery rich taste.  The not completely indecent amount of butter and sour cream give you terrific richness and mouth-feel, and the whole vanilla bean boosts the flavor beyond the ordinary (which is not at all ordinary) pound cake.  It would, of course, be amazing with any fresh berries but the lavender peaches are pretty spectacular.  The whipped cream flavored with lavender syrup takes it over the top.  I have lavender growing in my yard so I used fresh but you can buy culinary lavender at places like Amazon.

Two Years Ago:  Lavender and Honey Tea Cakes, Polenta Baked with Corn, Tomatoes, and Basil
Three Years Ago:  Cold Melon Soup with Cucumber Chile Ice (fantastic on a hot day), Heirloom Tomato Salad with Burrata (ditto)
Four Years Ago:  Farro with Green Beans and Corn

Sour Cream Pound Cake wtih Lavender Peaches
Bon Appétit
Serves 8

¾ plus 1 tbsp. all purpose flour
¼ cup cornstarch
¾ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. fine sea salt
¾ cup sugar
10 tbsp. (1¼ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 large egg
1 large egg white
2 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup sour cream

Lavender syrup and peaches
1½ cups sugar
3 tbsp. dried lavender blossoms
4 medium firm but ripe peaches, pitted, cut into ¾-inch wedges
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Make the cake:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325ºF.  Butter 8½x4½x2¾-inch metal loaf pan.  Dust pan with flour; tap out excess.  Sift ¾ cup plus 1 tbsp. flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl. Combine sugar and butter in large bowl; scrape in seeds from vanilla bean (reserve bean for lavender syrup).  Using electric mixer, beat sugar mixture until fluffy.  Add egg, egg white, and vanilla extract; beat until mixture is pale and thick, about 2 minutes.  Beat in sour cream.  Add flour mixture; beat just until blended.  Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.  Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes clean, 56 to 58 minutes.  Turn cake out, then turn top side up.  Cool completely.  (Can be made up to 1 day ahead.  Wrap in foil and store at room temperature.)

Make lavender syrup and peaches:
Combine 2¼ cups water, sugar, lavender, and reserved vanilla bean in saucepan.  Boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat; cover and let steep 10 minutes.  Strain syrup into medium bowl; discard lavender.  Pour 2 tbsp. lavender syrup into small bowl; reserve for whipped cream.  Cover and chill.  Return remaining syrup to same saucepan; add peaches and lemon juice and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer, about 5 minutes.  Transfer peaches to bow.  Boil syrup in pan until reduced to 1 cup, 12 to 14 minutes.  Pour over peaches.  Chill uncovered 2 hours.

Beat cream and 2 tbsp. reserved syrup in medium bowl to soft peaks.  Slice cake.  Serve with peaches, syrup, and cream.

Summer Peach Cake
Cook’s Illustrated
Serves 8-10

2½ pounds peaches, pitted and cut into ½-inch thick wedges
5 tbsp. peach schnapps
4 tsp. lemon juice
6 tbsp. plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1¼ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
½ cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
¼ cup sour cream
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. plus 1/8 tsp. almond extract
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs, crushed fine

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425ºF.  Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with vegetable oil spray.  Gently toss 24 peach wedges with 2 tbsp. peach schnapps, 2 tsp. lemon juice, and 1 tbsp. granulated sugar in  bowl; set aside.

Cut remaining peach wedges crosswise into thirds.  Gently toss chunks with remaining 3 tbsp. schnapps, remaining 2 tsp. lemon juice, and 2 tbsp. granulated sugar in bowl.  Spread peach chunks in single layer on prepared sheet and bake until exuded juices begin to thicken and caramelize at edges of sheet, 20 to 25 minutes.  Transfer sheet to wire rack and let peaches cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350ºF.

Spray 9-inch springform pan with vegetable oil spray.  Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in bowl.  Whisk brown sugar, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, and eggs together in second bowl until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds.  Slowly whisk i butter until combined.  Add sour cream, vanilla, and ¼ tsp. almond extract; whisk until combined.  Add flour mixture and whisk until just combined.

Transfer half of batter to prepared pan; using offset spatula, spread batter evenly to pan edges and smooth surfgace.  Sprinkle crust bread crumbs evenly over cooled peach chunks and gently toss to coat.  Arrange peach chunks on batter in evenly layer, gently pressing peaches into batter.  Gently spread remaining batter over peach chunks and smooth top.  Arrange reserved peach wedges, slightly overlapped, in ring over surface of cake, placing smaller wedges in center.  Stir together remaining 3 tbsp. granulated sugar and remaining 1/8 tsp. almond extract in small bowl until sugar is moistened.  Sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over top of cake.

Bake until center of cake is set and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes.  Transfer pan to wire rack; cool 5 minutes.  Run paring knife around sides of cake to loosen.  Remove cake from pan and let cool completely, 2 to 3 hours.  Cut into wedges and serve.


  1. You have been baking a lot since returning from France! The cilantro scallion bread looks amazing too. I’ve been using the very last of our Texas peaches lately and loving them. I’ve never paired peaches with lavender though. I need to try this!

    Comment by lisaiscooking — August 17, 2012 @ 8:33 pm

  2. I can’t imagine going a month without baking…my fingers start to itch if I go more than a week without it! I much prefer nectarines for eating and peaches for baking as well…I love the more tart flavor of nectarines but peaches taste better baked and caramelized. Thanks for these two awesome recipes!

    Comment by Joanne — August 18, 2012 @ 6:46 pm

  3. Great recipes, i have a loooots of peaches and now i know what to make ;-)

    Comment by Foodie — August 19, 2012 @ 1:29 pm

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