08 March 2010

Peach-cranberry upside down cake

The dregs of winter.

Neither cold nor warm. More wet than dry. Icy when I leave for work, muddy when I return.

Lazy winter weekends where I clatter pans, meander through books and generally potter about the house no longer satisfy.

I fantasize about plantings for my wee front garden—in my mind it is the Hanging Gardens of Babylon of the north, but in reality it is a plot not quite as wide as I am tall, and about the length of my car, recessed into shade and the home to a colony of miner bees.

My mind fidgets like a Chihuahua on amphetamines. One moment I’m sketching out a book, and then I’m sketching a bowl of fruit. I research yoga and Pilates classes then wonder if I can attend the next presentation in the international governance lecture series.

Winter vegetables and the hearty stews no longer hold my attention and lighter fare leaves me wanting. I fixate on flavours that won’t be palatable for months. I want sweet and yielding fruit, but all I can find are bland rock-hard fruits with more customs stamps than my last three passports combined.

Travelled peaches don’t satisfy, with their bred for travelling distance crunchy flesh. I like leaners—syrupy juices that dribble down my chin, leaving me needing to change my T-shirt. I pick up a peach at the mediumscarymegamart and sniff it. I can’t tell if it’s a fruit or a softball.

That said, my dregs of winter craving is for peaches. Preserved peaches would do, but neither My Dear Little Cardamummy nor I put any up this summer. I’m not considering shop-bought canned peaches. So I’m left sniffing fuzzy softballs, hoping for a sign they retain some hope of the fruit they are desperately trying to convince me.

I don’t know how many peaches I sniffed to find four almost passable specimens. Passable, but not exemplary. If they were eating peaches, I’d be more disheartened than I am. But four peaches aren’t enough for more than a couple of servings of my favourite honey-roasted peach dessert: roasting masques their off-seasonness, and brings out their fruity tastes and scents.

An upside down cake was my solution. The peaches, sliced and prettily layered at the bottom of a cake pan, would have their natural fruitiness revived with the help of a toffee sauce. Strewn with cranberries, any residual sourness would be excused.

I was very happy with the resulting dessert. Unmolded from its springform (although it can be made with a regular round baking tin), the peaches were golden, with warm toffee oozing to the cake plate below. Thanks to lemoned buttermilk, the cake was tangy and tender; its snowy crumb incredibly light.

It may not be summer yet, but with this cake, I’m not too bothered about it.

Peach Cranberry Upside Down Cake
1 20cm (8”) cake

3 peaches, sliced into 1cm (0.5") wedges
a handful or two of dried cranberries
100g (0.5c) sugar
grated rind and juice of half a lemon
150ml (0.66c) buttermilk
0.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
95g (7 Tbsp) butter, divided
75g (0.3c) brown sugar
145g (1c + 4tsp) cake flour
1tsp baking powder
70g (5 Tbsp) butter
1 egg

Preheat oven to 170F/350F.

Butter an 8” (20cm) round springform cake tin and place a parchment round on the bottom. Layer the peach wedges on the parchment and scatter the dried cranberries over top, letting them settle into whichever nooks and crannies they find.

Rub the lemon rind into the sugar and set aside.

Mix the buttermilk, lemon juice and bicarb together. It will fizz as you get put together the rest of the cake.

Sift flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt together. And again, set that aside.

Make a toffee by melting 25g (2 Tbsp) butter with the brown sugar and a pinch of salt in a heavy-bottomed pan, until it is smooth and liquid. Pour over the layered fruit.

Cream the remaining 70g (5 Tbsp) butter with the lemon-infused sugar, until light. Beat in the egg. Lightly mix in the flour and buttermilk in the usual alternating fashion (dry-wet-dry-wet-dry). Pour over the prepared fruit.

Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the sides pull away from the pan and an inserted skewer comes out clean.
Note: Obviously, the number of peaches you'll need is entirely dependent upon the size of peaches you have. I used three for this recipe, but you may need more or fewer.


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Joanne said...

I think I'm going to institute a new policy whereby I refuse to eat anything that has more international stamps than my passport. I think that's a good rule to live by.

This cake looks so delicious! I've been craving summer fruits as well. With the cranberries, it is almost like a fusion of the two seasons.

NKP said...

Peaches! Truly the taste of sunshine.
Delicious cake. I can't wait til we can start eating Niagara fruit out of hand.
New neighbour is into gardening so I hope she teaches me a thing or two.