It starts to get dark before dinner time; the outdoor pools are officially closed; the local ice cream parlour is readying its “See You Next Year!” sign. These are the annual harbingers that make us want to close our eyes, stick our fingers in our ears and go “la la la la la…I can’t heaaar you”. But, as we know, resistance is futile; whether we like it or not, we just have to suck it up, accept that summer’s days are numbered and put away the tan shorts.
Instead of hyperventilating at the prospect of losing the days of warm sunshine, late sunsets and Bo-bec’s mint chocolate chip, I’ve decided to focus on the last few gems of summer. After working my way through many pints of tiny, sweet blueberries and strawberries from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been putting in some time with Ontario peaches, which are not only still available, but also still fragrant and lusciously sweet.
Last weekend, after an afternoon of prepping food for a family barbecue, I noticed that there were a few peaches hanging out in the fruit bowl, verging on overripeness. Figuring that a family barbecue would be a good occasion for cake, I pulled one together with the help of Ina Garten (not the person, but the recipe), with the sole purpose of using up the peaches slowly expiring on my countertop. What emerged was something that far surpassed my expectations – a tender, fluffy upside down cake, crowned with a layer of syrupy peaches. It was delectable. So much much so, that it had my grandmother, brother, and sister-in-law were raving about it for days later. (which, let’s be honest, is supremely gratifying to the home baker.)
Happy end of summer, lovely readers. Be sure to make it a sweet one.
Peach Upside Down Cake – adapted from Ina Garten
- 3/4 stick unsalted butter, room temperature (plus extra for greasing the dish)
- 5-6 ripe peaches cut in half, pitted and sliced
- 1 cup granulated sugar (for the caramel)
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar (for the cake)
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Confectioners’ sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 9-inch glass or ceramic pie dish and arrange the peach slices in a circular pattern at the bottom of the dish.
Combine 1 cup of the granulated sugar and 1/3 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until it turns a warm amber colour, about 360 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Swirl the pan but don’t stir. Pour evenly over the peaches. (Be careful not to burn the sugar – or yourself – while doing this. Caramel tends to quick more quickly near the end, so keep a close eye on things.). As it sets, the caramel will stiffen, like candy – don’t worry, it will become syrupy again as the cake bakes in the oven.
Meanwhile, cream the 6 tablespoons of butter and the remaining 3/4 cup of granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy. Lower the speed and beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the sour cream, zest, and vanilla and mix until combined. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and, with the mixer on low speed, add it to the butter mixture. Mix only until combined. Pour the cake batter evenly over the peaches.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes, then invert the cake onto a flat plate. If a peach clings to the baking dish, ease it out and place it back in its spot on the top of the cake. Serve warm or at room temperature, dusted with confectioners’ sugar.