Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cake of the Week: Cherry Peach Honey Cake

Thanks to the modern wonders of food transportation and agriculture in South America, we can get pretty much anything any time of the year. You could eat peaches in December, but something about that just seems wrong. It’s not worth it - a peach out of season is crunchy and bland. Or even worse, mealy. Gross.

But NOTHING beats peaches and cherries when they’re local and fresh and de-freaking-licious. The window is short - before you know it you’ll blink and cherry season is over. Blink twice, and the peaches have been replaced with fall apples (also delicious, but that’s a story for another post). 

At home in Caliornia, we used to buy flats of cherries on the side of the road. A local farmer would put up a table underneath a big umbrella, and paint a big sign proclaiming “Fresh Cherries!” On the way back from the beach or a hot summer long run, who can resist that? 

Peaches came to my home kitchen via the Petaluma Farmer’s Market on Wednesday afternoons. On the way back from the public Swim Center (where we spent almost every day in the summer) my mama would make us stop off at Walnut Park so she could pick up some produce (while my sisters and I waited impatiently in the car.) Sometimes we walked around the market with her, and if we asked nicely (or badgered her into compliance), she might get us flavored honey sticks to suck on. Which leads me to this week’s Cherry Peach Honey Cake.

So carpe diem in the summer fruit sense. 

Get to a farmer’s market, or even a regular grocery store and take advantage of these luscious short-lived fruits. I definitely did. They cherries looked up at me, deep dark red and ready for eating, just begging for a place in my basket. And the peaches, oh the peaches, I just can’t resist their fuzzy-skinned peachy-pink goodness.

I wanted to make something a little different than a pie or cobbler, so I got to photograzing, and found inspiration. The original recipe calls for nectarines, peaches’ bald cousin. But of course peaches are an easy substitute. And again, those adorable cherries batted their long lashes at me from inside the fridge, just begging to be included. Why not? Pit a handful and toss them in!

This cake is quite yummy (how could it not be with such star-powered fruit?). But I didn’t have whole wheat pastry flour, so I used regular whole wheat flour. Probably because of this, it took much longer to cook than the original recipe says. It’s definitely not bad with the whole wheat flour (and I believe the whole wheat qualifies it as a breakfast cake, am I right?), but if you’re looking for something cakier and lighter, get more motivated than I was and venture out to find pastry flour. 

Cherry Peach Honey Cake (adapted from So Good & Tasty)
serves 8
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (like I said, I used regular whole wheat flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup raw honey
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 nectarines, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (or 2 peaches and about ¾ cup pitted and halved cherries)
1/2 tablespoon demerara sugar (nope – didn’t do this)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (didn’t do this either)
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Lightly butter a 9' springform pan or 9" tart pan with removable bottom. (I used a 9-inch cake pan)
In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a large bowl beat the butter and honey until pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the extracts. Add in the flour mixture and stir just until combined.
Spread the batter in the pan evenly, than scatter the nectarines (peaches and cherries) over the top. Stir together the demerara sugar and nutmeg and sprinkle over the top.
Bake until the cake is golden brown and the top is firm but tender when lightly touched, about 30-35 minutes. (Mine took more like 50 minutes.) Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool to room temperature.